FEATURE BOOK OF THE WEEK
BY SUZANNE MORGAN WILLIAMS
Cam O'Mara, grandson and younger brother of bull- riding champions, is not interested in partaking in the family sport. Cam is a skateboarder, and perfecting his tricks — frontside flips, 360s — means everything until his older brother, Ben, comes home from Iraq, paralyzed from a brain injury.
What would make a skateboarder take a different kind of ride? And what would get him on a monstrosity of a bull named Ugly? If Cam can stay on for the requisite eight seconds, will the $15,000 prize bring hope and a future for his big brother? (Publisher's summary from Goodreads)
AUTHOR GUEST POST
I want to thank Suzanne for taking the time to be a part of this year's Feature Book of the Week and writing a guest post especially for all who will be competing this years.
Today I was at a high school and one of the students asked me “Why do you write your books?” My answer? – so people will read them. Yes, most writers love language and play with it the same way a star basketball player may practice six ways to do a layup shot. Yes, most professional writers hope to make money and almost everyone likes to be told they are special and their work is good. That just feels great. But the reason I spend a couple of years writing a book is because somewhere in that process I found the story’s heart, the thing that I’ve struggled with in my own mind, the question that I want to think about, and maybe a little bit of my answer that I want to share with readers.
When I started writing Bull Rider it was a story about a kid who wanted to be a bull rider and his mom wouldn’t let him do it. It was simple and the book had nothing to do with the story it became – the story of a family dealing with the aftermath of war. But one of the smaller characters in that first (unpublished) manuscript was Cam O’Mara’s older brother Ben. As I designed the O’Mara family, I needed Ben to be doing something, and being from a small ranching town, I figured he’d join the service as so many young men and women do. And I was writing the book during the height of the fighting in Iraq, and I had a hard time ignoring that if this brother was in the service, he’d probably be in the Middle East fighting a war. That was a really different story from the light one I’d started out to write. But that was the one that grabbed my heart. What if that brother came home injured and fundamentally changed? How would Cam handle that? So I found the heart of Bull Rider and the passion of writing this story for you.
Please know that every author of every book in your library wrote those books to be read. An unread book is like a text message that you don’t pick up or a conversation that you pretend to listen to but really blow off while you play a video game. A book that sits on a shelf doesn’t matter. But when you read a book you connect with the author. You become part of a conversation with someone you may never meet, but whose words may touch you. That’s the possibility, the promise, every time you pick up a book.
I just love knowing that you guys are reading Bull Rider. The things you think about and care about will be the basis for what happens in all of our futures. This is the absolute truth. School isn’t really about getting good grades and doing assignments – although that’s how you get through and on toward what you want to do. It’s about becoming the great people you are intended to be. Every time you read a good book, you not only (hopefully) are entertained, but you get to crawl inside someone else’s head and try on their ideas. You won’t always agree with the author or with each other, but like exercising to get better at sports, reading lots and lots of books will strengthen your own sense of who you are. As an author, a citizen, and a human being, I couldn’t hope for more than that. I’m honored that Bull Rider is on your Truman Award List, is part of the Book Battle and that, for a little while, we may share some thoughts. Enjoy.
Suzanne Morgan Williams
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suzanne Morgan Williams is the author of the novel Bull Rider (Margert K. McElderry, 2009) as well as eleven nonfiction books for children. Bull Rider is a Junior Library Guild Selection, is on state award lists in Texas, Nevada, Missouri, and Indiana, and received a Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City and represented the state of Nevada at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. Suzanne’s nonfiction titles include Pinatas and Smiling Skeleton (Outstanding, Parents’ Council and Best Multicultural Book, Independent Publisher’s Book Award), The Inuit , Made in China, and the upcoming China’s Daughters (Pacific View Press 2011). Suzanne’s work takes her into classrooms and communities across the US and Canada, from Mexico to the Arctic. Visit www.suzannemorganwilliams.com