CRANFORD – If you’re a writer and you’re stumped, author Gordon Korman suggests asking the “what if” question.
“I’m very much of a what-if writer,” Korman told students Thursday at Orange Avenue School during a visit sponsored by the OAS PTA. “If you ever have writer’s block, you just ask yourself, ‘What are the what-ifs of my story?’ ”
Korman has published more than seven dozen books, beginning with one he wrote as a 12-year-old, in an English class in his native Canada.
He got a B+ on the assignment. But his newspaper-columnist mom typed up the story, and they boldly shipped it off to Scholastic, where it grabbed the attention of editors who published it in 1978 as “This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall.”
On Feb. 1, he released his 87th book, “Masterminds: Criminal Destiny.” On April 1, a TV miniseries based on “MacDonald Hall” is set to launch in Canada. It’s one of three of his novels that have gone on to inspire small-screen adaptations.
“This is something I never could have predicted back in seventh grade,” he writes on his blog.
Korman, who now lives on Long Island with his wife and three children, spoke to OAS’ 3rd- through 8th-grade students, entertaining them with snippets from his more recent books, dialogue technique, the value of research and tips on where to find story ideas.
“The feeling of fireworks ahead is what tells you that this is going to be a great story,” said Korman, his bald head bobbing in time with his waving arms.
To prepare for the visit, OAS students competed in a trivia contest and wrote letters to land a seat at lunch with Korman. One of those students, fourth grade student Lexi Kruk commented on Korman’s visit, “It was really fun, it was very informative to learn about the life of an author. I was super excited to meet him.”
He drew laughs from the crowd when he explained one minor pitfall of wild international success. When your books are published in a dozen different languages, title translations can get tricky.
Take, for example, his 1997 book “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.”
When translated into French, it read: “Teller of untruths, your trousers have combusted.”