Published Author Helps Students Put Ideas on Paper

This month award-winning author Will McIntosh visited upper and middle school students to work on creativity and put experiences, thoughts and actions onto paper.

Over the summer, middle school students were tasked with reading one of McIntosh’s most famous books, “Watchdog.” When they arrived back to school in August, each class had a different assignment associated with the book to spur conversation and encourage it to think about questions for its upcoming author visit.

When the day finally arrived, McIntosh kicked things off with an assembly for middle school students. He said the main place he goes for ideas is his memory. He said some of the best memories helped him shape his book “Burning Midnight,” a story about people in search of and acquiring different-colored spheres that grant powers.

“[‘Burning Midnight’] came from experiences in my childhood. When I was 13, near our house, back in the woods, there was a bottle dump from the 1920s that had been abandoned. My sister and cousin and I spent a summer digging for antique bottles and built a pretty decent collection. It was so much fun and so exciting because these bottles were worth money. We ended up selling the collection for $50 to an antique dealer—that was a lot of money back then! But the idea of finding things in the wild went into ‘Burning Midnight.’”

McIntosh then held smaller, Q&A sessions with upper school students in the Stanton Library before having a crash-writing course with middle schoolers in the Explore Room. He challenged them to create book-back descriptions for books they may want to write in the future.  

“I really enjoyed that he got us to take our own ideas and write them down on paper,” said Casey Newsome ’23. “I never thought about having to write a summary on the back of a book as an author. It was a cool experience.”

Kenna O’Brien ’24 was also touched by McIntosh’s visit. “I loved learning about why [McIntosh] became an author. He told us he wrote the book ‘Watchdog’ for his children, and that was interesting to hear about,” she said. “It was also interesting to hear about his beginnings. He started writing for a newspaper, and now he’s waiting for a movie deal for ‘Watchdog.’”

Middle and Upper School English Teacher Jill Archer says the visit was a great opportunity for students to get real-world author advice and experience.

“Middle school students read the book ‘Watchdog’ over the summer in anticipation of McIntosh’s visit, and I really think they got a lot out of it. When they were in assembly, they had tons of questions for [McIntosh], and it was great for them to be able to read their ideas to someone who’s published. We’re already looking forward to next year.”