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Japan-based local Award Winning Author Holly Thompson to Pay a Visit

When writer Holly Thompson comes to town this month it's not just to sign copies of her acclaimed novel Orchards. She will also share insights into Japanese culture, life as an ex-patriot and the ins and outs of writing in prose and verse.

It’s long been thought that to write, especially to write successfully, one needs to sit still. But Wenham native and award winning novelist Holly Thompson pokes a hole in this notion with the ease of a finger through a soap bubble.

A glance at the events calendar posted on her website indicates that Thompson nearly never sits still. And when she does, she is often buckled into an airplane seat commuting from Japan to foreign destinations far and wide. But somehow,  she writes, which is much to the pleasure and benefit of her readers. Those wondering at Thompson’s trick will have an opportunity to have it revealed.

On Thursday July 12, Thompson is the featured guest of a ‘Meet The Author’ event at the

Thompson grew up in Wenham and in her words, “went to the regional,” then to Mount Holyoke, then to NYU. But as in all good novels, her story is found in the details. At Mount Holyoke she studied biology, at graduate school she studied writing. In Japan she found her home and inspiration for her novels.

On July 12, Thompson will give a presentation and slide show focusing on her book "Orchards." Published last February, Orchards this year won the APALA Asian/​Pacific American Award in Literature in the Young Adult Literature category. The Young Adult Library Association (YALSA) also included the book in its 2012 list of Best Fiction for Young Adults. Hamilton-Wenham’s Young Adult Librarian Kim Claire confirms that Orchards is a popular book- and notably- that it is written in verse.

“It has evocative images and the story is great. It reads well (the writing) is very smooth,” said Claire. “We’ve had the book since 2011 (and currently) both our copies are leant out."

After being introduced to Japan while in her twenties by her eventual husband, Thompson took little time in adopting the country. While seeking out untouristed regions of Japan’s archipelago when not conducting classes to students of English as a Second Language, Thompson quickly forged a writing career. In observing culture, both Japan’s and her own, and what occurs when the two meet Thompson found her calling. "Ash," her first novel was published in 2001.

Currently back in the States for a six-weeks of speaking engagements and writing workshops, Thompson took time recently to speak about her work.

“I don’t always write in verse,” Thompson said when asked about Orchards though she acknowledges that her latest book "The Language Inside" due in May 2013 is also in verse.

“(In writing Orchards) I didn’t know what I was doing at first. I was experimenting with structure. But (I found) for the subject it needed a distilled voice.

In her books Thompson is bold and unflinching even when writing for young adults. That Orchards is about teenage suicide and its effect on those it touches is clear in the first lines of the first page.

“(I’ve been asked) why are you putting all this in a book for 13-16 year olds? It can be a young age to get this,” said Thompson.

“We write what we don’t know, what we’re frightened of,” Thompson offered as explanation.

“(These days) there are a frighteningly large number of adolescents who are depressed. (Orchards) ended up raising questions. Teachers are using it to generate discussions. It’s been very interesting.”

Orchards’ verse format does put some people off- adults mostly the author acknowledges.

“But it works for kids,” Thompson said.

“They’re used to Tweets, Facebook and song lyrics.”

Holly Thompson will lead a two part creative writing workshop on writing stories in verse at the Hamilton-Wenham Library on Tuesday, July 10 from 6:30-8:00 PM. The workshop is open to teens (ages 12-19) and adults. The second session is Thursday, July 19, 6:30 - 8:00 PM. Registration is required.
Visit the Hamilton-Wenham Library's Informed Teens summer programs
to find out more!

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