Margaret Peterson Haddix promotes her newest book

Elisa Boyer, 11, a sixth-grader at H. B. Lee Middle School, was all aglow after meeting children’s book author Margaret Peterson Haddix.

“It feels special to me to actually get an autograph of a special person,” Boyer said as her face broke into a big smile. “I am thinking of being an author when I grow up.”

Boyer wants to write “mysteries, fantasies and comedies,” and certainly met a good role model in the successful-author department. Haddix is best known for writing “The Missing” series of time-travel science fiction books as well as the “Shadow Children” books. She was in town to promote her upcoming book “Game Changer.”

The new book tells the story of eighth grader KT Sutton, whose life revolves around softball. The star pitcher of a club team, she blacks out in the middle of a championship game, and then wakes up to find everything has changed. School has become sports, and sports have become school.

Haddix spoke to about 80 students in the H.B. Lee library the morning of Sept. 18, and Barnes & Noble sponsored her visit.

Judging by the students’ reactions, she seemed to have a lot of fans at H.B. Lee, including José Ruiz-Valentine, 11, a sixth-grader who briefly performed a skit with Haddix, donning a wig that made him look like Albert Einstein, much to the amusement of his peers.

“I read most of her books,” he said after his performance. “I love her books, they’re awesome.”

He noted his favorite was “Among the Hidden,” which is part of the “Shadow Children” sequence. The book tells the story of Luke, the third child born to a family living under a government that forbids families from having more than two children.

“She puts a lot of detail into them,” Ruiz-Valentine said of Haddix’s stories. “I really like that.”

He also noted he wasn’t nervous playing Einstein in front of his schoolmates.

“I got to stand next to my favorite author.”

Q & A

After she gave a presentation about her books, Haddix took questions from the audience. Students were interested in everything from where she got her ideas to what it was like be famous. Haddix explained how she makes more money on hardcover books as opposed to paperbacks as well as how she stays interested in her plots and characters.

For example, she said, she’s long been interested in time travel, although she wouldn’t want to live in 1483, the year to which the main characters in her book “Sent” travel.

“They had not invented toilet paper yet,” she said, a comment that elicited a collective groan and some laughs from the children.

The Columbus, Ohio, resident also noted she started out her writing career as a newspaper reporter in Indiana and that the hardest part of being an author is keeping the inspirational spark going when she’s in the middle of writing a book.

During her talk and on her website, the author noted she went through a lot of rejection from publishers at first, but sold her first two books when her first child was 1 year old, and she was pregnant with her second child.

“For those first few years, I wrote only during my kids’ naptime, when I probably should have been napping myself,” she wrote on her website. “So I developed strict criteria for everything I wrote: it had to be exciting enough to keep me awake.”

After her talk, Haddix said she enjoyed the H.B. Lee students.

“Their level of energy was great,” Haddix said, adding children she meets are always “very curious about what it’s like to be an author.

“They want to know the nuts and bolts of how I write,” she said. She said she’s always impressed by how youngsters will ask detailed questions about her plots and characters.

“I sometimes have to rack my brain and think about what I was thinking when I wrote that.”

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