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READ LIKE A WRITER, a teaching blog


By Christine Kohler

“When journalism is silenced, literature must speak. Because while journalism speaks with facts, literature speaks with truth.” Seno Gumira Ajidarma, an author, film critic, and creative writing teacher

I was on a panel at a Teen Bookfest when two authors gloated that they lie to their readers. I was dismayed that the authors bragged about lying gleefully, as if they were speaking for all novelists. Know this, I do not lie. Not even in fiction. I respect my readers. I tell the truth through stories.

Long ago I wrote this poem: My mother is a liar./My dad is a storyteller./Who tells the truth?/

Know who else told truths through stories? Jesus.

That day of the Teen Bookfest, here’s some examples I gave: WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS by Maya Angelou, the PATIENCE IN HOPE trilogy by Beth Fehlbaum, THE NAMESAKE by Steven Parlato. (There were other titles and authors, but this was several years ago and I don’t recall all the books I mentioned.) Of course, I also added my own NO SURRENDER SOLDIER to this list.

When I first wanted to speak, many of the teens found it funny that I wouldn’t interrupt, and I raised my hand like a student in class. But the second I stated my case—I don’t lie to my readers—and gave examples in literature of truth in fiction, they listened and nodded in agreement. One shy teen in the second row had told me prior the program that she’d read and loved NO SURRENDER SOLDIER. She smiled, knowingly. It was one of those special moments for me when I felt a reader connected with my work. She knew I hadn’t lied. She knew I respected her.

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