Virtual Visit with Lauren Tarshis

Author visits typically take place in the school library or cafeteria. Lauren Tarshis’s recent visit with Increase Miller Elementary third, fourth and fifth graders was different. She spoke to students while sitting at the desk where she writes.

“I’m home and you’re home,” said Tarshis, holding her dog Roy. “I’m going to show you a lot of things I could never show children in an in-school visit.”

This was Katonah-Lewisboro’s first author visit during distance learning. In a way, it was strangely appropriate for students to speak to an author who writes about catastrophes during a pandemic.

Each book in Tarshis’s bestselling I Survived series takes place during a disaster, with topics ranging from the destruction of Pompeii, in 79AD, to the California Wildfires of 2018—her 20th book which will be released in this September. The stories are extra exciting because they are always told through the eyes of a child who survived the calamity.

Students had the opportunity to send questions to Tarshis ahead of time which she answered in a video created specifically for Increase Miller Elementary.

Dillan wondered what inspired her to write the I Survived series. “One of my sons,” said Tarshis. “When he was in the fourth grade, he wasn’t interested in books. I asked him what he wanted to read. He said, ‘I want to read about the Titanic or a tornado. I want a lot of suspense and I want the main character to be a boy just like me.’”

Which book was the hardest to write, James wanted to know. “All of them are challenging, responded Tarshis. “Some take a lot more research.” A hallmark of her historical fiction is their immersive quality because they are so well researched. Whenever possible, Tarshis visits the place she’s going to write about and speaks to eyewitnesses as well as meets with experts, reviews maps, visits museums and reads a lot of books.

Tarshis made the revision process real for students by showing them the long list of documents on her computer—each one an edited version of the same story. She also gestured to the books lining the shelves behind her desk—each one representing one of the dozen or so books she reads before writing her own.

Daniel, Isaac, and Teddy asked if Tarshis would be writing about the coronavirus next.

“I think we should all be writing about it," she responded. "You should be keeping a journal. Write down the new things you are doing—how you have school, connect with friends and use technology. We need to work together to capture what happened. Future historians will want to know how children lived during the coronavirus.”

Lauren Tarshis’s visit was set up and sponsored by the IMES PTO.