For most of his childhood, Paul Volponi didn’t read. The New York native would pretend to read the books given to him by his teachers, and instead listened to what his classmates had to say about the books. However, a teacher had overheard him talking about a James Bond movie he had seen, and introduced him to the original novel. Volponi ended up reading the book cover to cover, and fell in love with reading.
Now a full time author for the past 16 years, Volponi has written 14 novels, many of which were inspired by his experiences teaching at Rikers Island Prison in New York. He visited the SC library on March 20, and presented to students for most of the day. He spoke about a variety of topics, ranging from his experiences as a reader and writer to the creative process.
“[The students] are just like me when I was in school,” Volponi said. “Many of them don’t read for fun, like I didn’t read for fun, so I like to introduce them to stories that reflect their own lives.”
Volponi presented to Humanities and BECCI classes about reading during periods one through three, and expressed the importance of finding stories that they are able to relate to. After Volponi’s presentation, many students left with library books in hand.
“I hope that the students learn that books come from real people,” Volponi said. “Books don’t come from someone so smart they don’t know how to talk to you.”
During periods 6 and 7, Volponi held a writing workshop with Darragh McDermott’s English One Honors classes. He critiqued student-written pieces that were sent in, gave writing tips to the students and encouraged students to write stories that truly mattered to them.
“I want to show people that what they want to write is really important, that they can write their own stories,” Volponi said.
Moreover, Volponi had students work in small groups on literary devices such as alliteration, imagery, and onomatopoeia. He also had students share their writing with the group, and explain their creative process when writing their pieces. McDermott found the presentations and workshops to be very beneficial for the students.
“I think that [Volponi] really understands students and their needs, but it was still super engaging,” McDermott said. “As a teacher, multiple times I was really interested in what he had to say.”
Colin Naff ‘21 was in attendance at one of the presentations, and found Volponi to be engaging and relatable, he said.
“I thought it was pretty cool that he wrote some of his novels based on his experiences with teenagers,” Naff said.
During the workshops, Volponi encouraged the students to identify themselves as writers. At one point, he held up one of his own books next to a student-written poem and said that both were equal; it didn’t matter whether it was on scratch paper or a published book, McDermott said.
“I think it’s empowering for the students to know that we are all writers, and that we can all be writers,” McDermott said.