On Wednesday, October 7, 2020, Winsor welcomed author Lauren Wolk, this year’s chosen Virginia Wing lecturer, to speak with students about her book Wolf Hollow, which was the all-school summer read for Winsor students, faculty, and staff. In her remarks, Ms. Wolk offered wonderful insight into the writing process and the evolution of her moving, thought-provoking book.
“I begin every book with the three Ps: Place, People, and Plot,” she shared, noting that the place is where it all starts for her. “It has to be a place I want to spend a lot of time, and a place I know well,” she says, and with that in mind, “I can dive right in.” When it comes to characters, she revealed that they begin as “glimmers.” She said she has an idea of who she wants them to be, but from there, she allows herself the freedom to see things through their eyes, and “follow the journey alongside them,” experiencing things as they experience them, and feeling what they feel when it happens.
In the case of Wolf Hollow, the place was a real place, ingrained in her mind from decades of family accounts and anecdotes, and the people were based on real characters, all intertwined with her own imagination. Threading together fact and fiction, and relying on the universal languages of emotion and the senses, she approached the story from the first-person, which was a first for her. She says the experience was a revelation, and something she wishes she discovered sooner. Absorbed in the character and the story, each time she returned to the writing, “the words rose like bubbles. It was an exhilarating experience.”
Offering a few final words of advice for aspiring authors, she underscored the challenge but importance of revision, advising to come back to the work with some distance so you can see with a clear eye what doesn’t ring true. And most importantly, “trust your characters enough to follow where they lead,” and “believe in yourself and your story.”
A question and answer session followed, with Ms. Wolk addressing a wide array of inquiries submitted by students prior to the assembly. Responding to a common question about why the book has such darkness and sadness, and whether it was intended for younger audiences, she was thoughtful and passionate. “All art should tell the truth....In life, there is light, and there is darkness...I wrote a sad book because I’ve experienced a lot of sorrow. But it is because of the sorrow that you can really appreciate the joy.” And as for sharing it with young audiences, she added, “Children are wise, brave, smart and resilient. We need to trust you with the truth and allow you to help figure out what to do with it.”
She closed with words of gratitude for the Winsor students. “I have met with thousands of readers across the world, but your questions were among the most thoughtful and insightful….proof of what great readers you are.” Encouraging them to continue reading, exploring, and discovering, she signed off saying, “I salute you.”
The Virginia Wing Lecture Series was established in 1987 by Bradford Washburn, Director Emeritus of the Boston Museum of Science, during Miss Wing's final year as Director. Each year a leader in his/her field and a role model for the Winsor community is invited to speak to the entire school in honor of Miss Wing. This year’s lecture marks the start of new tradition for the fall series, which will annually feature the author of a carefully selected all-school summer read.