Author brings Lemony outlook to Fort Couch Middle School

Author brings Lemony outlook to Fort Couch Middle School

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Lemony Snicket is coming to town.

Author Daniel Handler, known for his work under the pen name Lemony Snicket, will visit at 10 a.m. Friday in the Fort Couch Middle School library. At 7 p.m. that evening he will speak at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland as part of the Pittsburgh Arts and Lecture Series.

His best-selling Snicket series, including "All the Wrong Questions" and "A Series of Unfortunate Events," have sold more than 60 million copies and are enjoyed by children and adults.

"About 60 of our students will get to see and hear him live in our library," said Mary Grace Kelly, librarian at the Fort Couch. "About 45 of them are members of either our Creative Writing or Popcorn and Paperbacks Book Clubs. The remaining 15 were chosen by raffle from a list of 200 who wanted to attend.''

Every student in the Upper St. Clair School District will have a chance to catch Mr. Handler's visit live via an Internet link that will connect through the middle school's television studio.

Thanks to a video conferencing bridge set up by Tim Devlin of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, five other schools in the county also will be able to participate in an interactive question and answer discussion with the author along with the students from Fort Couch Middle School.

"I consider myself a matchmaker," said Mr. Devlin, program director for Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3. "The people from the Pittsburgh Arts and lecture Series came to me to find a school district that Mr. Handler would be able to visit. However, through video conferencing technology, he will be seen and heard at other school districts in the county."

Mr. Devlin said he organizes about 100 special programs annually and goes through a list of 200 elementary, middle and high school locations in the county to link them to the programs.

"Going down the list, it is Fort Couch's turn, which is why Mr. Handler is visiting that school," he said.

During his talk, Mr. Handler will discuss what it's like to be an author and what it is like when that book is turned into a movie. This will be of special interest to the 15 students in the school's Creative Writing Club.

"The club -- which meets once a week -- gives students freedom to write what they want, short stories, poems, novels," said Abbey Toohey, the middle school's eighth-grade language arts teacher who started the club this year. "They're constantly bouncing ideas off one another and helping each other develop characters."

For Mr. Handler's talk, club members have come up with questions for the author such as what he does when he gets writer's block and how he came up with his pen name, Lemony Snicket. (Spoiler alert: The name came from research for his first book and the author says it was a Freudian slip that it sounds a lot like the Disney character Jiminy Cricket.)

"The members of the school's book club are also excited about Mr. Handler's visit," said Ms. Kelly who organized the club at the beginning of the school year. "They read a lot in class, but the book club is reading simply for the fun of it."

Each week, club members read about 50 pages, then discuss the work at their meetings. The current selection, "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak, was No. 1 on the New York Times Best-Sellers List, and a film based on the book will be released next month. Ms. Kelly and club members plan to see the film and if it differs from the novel.

Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer:

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