By Katelyn Farago • FlorhamParkHanover This Week • February 24, 2010
Author Ann Tufariello recently visited the sixth grade class at Ridgedale Middle School in Florham Park to share her experience writing her novel, "The Breakthrough."
Tufariello, a mother of three from Chatham, said her book actually began as a simple bedtime story. Inspired by a visit to the Labor Day Carnival in Mendham in 2005, she began telling her daughters a story about a local boy who wanders over to a hot air balloon during the carnival and accidentally gets carried away on an adventure into the fourth dimension.
Tufariello added to the bedtime story every night as she tucked in her daughters and eventually decided to write the story down. Writing and revising took her about year, and in September of 2009 she published "The Breakthrough."
"My number one goal was to write a story that would keep kids reading late at night," she said.
She told the class her story ideas typically come from a variety of places — books, dreams, movies and some of her own observations.
She advised those interested in writing their own stories to get their ideas down on paper, and then continuously ask "why." She also suggested trying some "What if?" scenarios, or combining two unrelated stories to see how the plot might develop.
Her other piece of advice? Keep reading.
"To be a good writer, you really have to read and you have to read a lot," she said.
Tufariello described her favorite childhood books as "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis and "A Wrinkle In Time" by Madeleine L'Engle.
Following her presentation, which included a reading from her book, Tufariello hosted a Q&A with the sixth graders and offered to sign books. Among those students who decided to purchase her novel was Colin Peterson.
"I love fantasies," he said, when asked why he was interested in reading "The Breakthrough." "When she (read) to us, I just hung onto it."
Colin said he reads a lot of books in between his commitments to school and sports.
"It just takes me into a whole new world," he said. "I just love to read."
Fellow sixth-grader Amanda Hinton expressed a similar sentiment. She said that when she reads a detailed book, she can picture its scenes clearly, like a television show.
"Writing is a place where you can express yourself," she said. "And when I read, I almost fall into my own little world."
Amanda said she's planning to borrow "The Breakthrough" from the library. She wants to see what happens to the main character, and his brother, who is in a coma at the beginning of the book.
"I think it was interesting," she said. Her favorite part? When Tufariello read from her novel. "I think the book really pulled you in."
Jason Turiansky also enjoyed the author's visit.
"It motivated me to read the book," he said.
Jason said he enjoys writing mysteries, and although he has a lot of good ideas, he sometimes uses them up and becomes stumped. He said he appreciated having the chance to ask Tufariello how she comes up with her ideas.
As she signed books, Tufariello said many of the students expressed a desire to write but seemed to think they weren't good at it. For them, the biggest challenge is simply overcoming that sense of self-criticism, she said.
Kelly Hilden said she likes to write and would like to become an author, but like the students Tufariello mentioned, she usually doesn't like the stories she writes. She said she felt inspired after the author's visit and appreciated having the chance to see how far Tufariello had come as a writer over the years.
When asked what she hoped the students would take away from her visit, Tufariello said simply: "I hope it inspires them to write themselves."