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Canadian best-selling author visits two Bedford schools

BEDFORD - Students in two Bedford schools had a chance to get writing tips from best-selling Canadian author Sigmund Brouwer.

During the two-day visit, Brouwer met with staff and students at Memorial School and Lurgio Middle School, presenting his "Rock and Roll Literacy" program and spreading the message that good writing starts with a story.

"Story is everything - writing is just a way to put story on paper," Brouwer said.

Brouwer told an audience of eighth graders at Lurgio Middle School that part of what draws a reader in to a book is the engagement of that reader through feeling.

"We get lost in a good song and good story because of how it makes us feel," he said.

Brouwer used an iPod full of music to reinforce that concept, punctuating his lecture with various rock songs by artists such as the Beach Boys, Queen and ZZ Top, mixed with popular current songs like "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepson.

Brouwer involved Principal Ed Joyce in the presentation as the two led students in a rousing chorus of the Dobie Gray hit "Drift Away."

While writing may not be easy for everyone, himself included, Brouwer told students that everyone has a good story to tell.

"You are born to tell a story," he said. "A powerful story makes a reader feel something."

Students were encouraged to daydream and see where those daydreams take them, and were always reminded to consider their audience when they write.

"You need to understand who you're communicating with," Brouwer said. "Audience is everything."

Brouwer has a particular fondness for reluctant writers.

As a middle schooler, a teacher told him one of the stories he wrote was stupid, and it wasn't until he was in college that another professor told him his writing was good.

He encouraged staff to try to be less critical about the mechanics of a written piece and give an emotional reaction first.

"Remember that there is a child behind that story," he said.

Brouwer's mission is to encourage school-age kids to get excited about writing, and Lurgio students were well on their way after his presentation, with many saying they would incorporate his tips into their own writing.

"It was really fun, and I liked the music," said Zach Stephenson.

Kristen Perras said she would consider Brouwer's tips in her future writing, and that the use of music kept the presentation interesting.

Reading specialist and literacy coach Kate Schoedinger said Brouwer's visit was a perfect way to enhance the literacy efforts in Bedford schools.

"When kids are readers and writers, everything will fall in place seamlessly and they'll be successful in other areas," she said.

Schoedinger said the response from both students and staff was overwhelmingly positive.

"On a scale from one to 10, the kids thought he was a 20," she said.

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