Children's author discusses power of imagination with BV students

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Berryville Intermediate students got a glimpse into the exciting origins of authors on Friday, Dec. 16, only to discover those origins aren't so different from their own lives.

Jefferson Knapp, author of "The Kingdom at the End of the Driveway," visited the intermediate students and discussed how what inspired him to be an author is the same thing that they use every day during recess or when playing at home: imagination.

"Honestly, how I feel is just like you," Knapp said. "I'm no different than you. I just write books for a living. It's a cool job and my favorite job I've had, but it's not like I don't have to take out the trash when I get home."

He told the students that he was going to show them how he became an author with a slideshow he prepared. To truly understand how he got his start, he said they would have to travel back in time to when he was a kid during a crazy decade known as the 1980s.

The children gasped and laughed as Knapp showed them pictures of the otherworldly hairstyles and clothing from decades ago.

"Hairspray was a hot-selling item back then. For some reason, people wanted their hair to look kind of like a turkey," he said. "Hair was different back then, and people dressed differently, too."

Style was not the only big difference, he said. Technology, he said, was a far call from what is is today.

"The television was bulky back then. Computers were gigantic machines that took up half your room," he said, "and there was no internet yet."

Growing up in the country outside Wichita, Kan., Knapp said he and his siblings had to use their imagination to have fun when playing outside or being stuck inside on a rainy day.

"I had to use my imagination. There was nothing else to do," he said. "I would pretend to be living somewhere else and like I was someone else. I would pretend to be different characters in movies. A lot of the time, I wanted to be a cowboy and pretend I was living in the Old West."

Knapp said he was really interested in monsters such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster as a kid, as well as Greek mythology.

"I loved Greek mythology. It's pretty cool stuff," he said. "One of my favorite stories was the Trojan Horse. The Greek army took the Trojans a giant horse as a trophy during their war, but the Trojans didn't know there were Greek soldiers hiding inside the horse and brought it inside the gates. That night, the Greeks snuck out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of their army. The Greek army basically destroyed the Trojans in their sleep."

Knapp said he story of the Trojan Horse later inspired the "Trojan Pig" in the second book of his series.

"I got that idea from the Trojan Horse," he said.

Knapp also brought his 25-foot model python "Farangis" with him, shocking the students as it moved from left to right and flickered its tongue. He said "Farangis" is a mechanical replica of the protagonist in his first book "The Brave Journey."

He said "Farangis" was inspired by an encounter he had as a child in Kansas with a snake that seemed uncommonly large to his young eyes.

Knapp encouraged the students not to discount their dreams, reminding them that the ideas they create with their imagination could become stories someday, just as his have.

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