Grave-robbing had never before entered the language arts lesson plans of River Ridge Elementary School pupils.
Janice Krauss who works for MCG Health Systems , talks about her book, Gravely Mistaken, and the writing process to Angie McQuiag's fifth-grade language arts class at River Ridge Elementary School.
photo by R.C. Rique
That changed Friday when aspiring local author Janis Krauss discussed writing techniques with about 100 fifth-graders by reading excerpts and answering questions about her historical novel, Gravely Mistaken.
Set in the mid-19th century, the yet-to-be-published novel centers on two Medical College of Georgia students playing a prank on a slave, who is stealing cadavers for the school in a local cemetery. One of the students winds up buried alive.
"Directing the shovel with a forceful downward thrust, he located both top corners of the pine box and uncovered enough soil to direct the strike," read Krauss, who is also a clinical decision support analyst for MCG Health Systems Inc. "Switching tools, he wielded the ax, like so many times, smashing and scraping to pull back the top half of the coffin and remove the grisly contents."
At that point, English teacher Angie McQuaig stepped in to teach her students about some of the figurative language used by Krauss in the passage.
"We all know what's in a coffin," McQuaig told her pupils. "She didn't have to tell us it's a dead body. You can make the writing more interesting by calling it 'grisly contents.'"
McQuaig found Krauss through the Author's Club of Augusta.
"I have some talented writers in my class," McQuaig said. "I thought bringing in an actual writer would make more of an impression on them than just telling them about writing."
For Krauss, lecturing the class offered a chance to discuss the writing process and her novel, for which she is seeking a publisher.
"Do a lot of reading. A lot, a lot of reading," she answered when one of the pupils asked for writing advice. "Also do a lot of writing. It takes time. Be patient."
Krauss also discussed creating characters, writing subplots, using simile and metaphor, researching and ensuring historical accuracy.
"A lot of research went into this," she said. "Even though it's fiction, you want to have facts of the time right. You want it to be believable. If I write that someone was putting bodies into a Cadillac Escalade in 1850, you know that's not right."
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