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Batten Library’s visiting author could not grace the stage of Johnson Theater this year. Instead, Mitali Perkins taught Norfolk Academy students all the way from her home in northern California, leading a question and answer session through Zoom. 

Born in India, Ms. Perkins lived in Ghana, Cameroon, London, New York, and Mexico before settling in California as she entered middle school. She has taught both middle and high school-age students, and is a National Book Award nominee who has authored many books for children and young adults. Her most recent works are a YA novel, Forward Me Back to You (2019), followed by a picture book, Between Us and Abuela.

Her work addresses issues of social justice and fostering empathy across cultures, poignant topics during NA's Year of Belonging.

Students asked Ms. Perkins many questions about her work as an author, her greatest writing challenge (plotting), the hardest thing about being a professional author (the uncertainty of success), and her tricks for overcoming writer’s block (10 minutes of forced, uninterrupted writing). 

Although the book business, like so many during the COVID-19 pandemic, is in a precarious position, Ms. Perkins assured students that authors and their books are going to be OK.

“Humans have always needed stories and always will," she said.

As the session approached its close, Ms. Perkins addressed seniors. She shared her sadness that so many traditional spring highlights - prom, graduation, goodbyes among friends - need to be canceled or postponed. 

But then she charged them with this idea: “Disruption is invitation," she said. She challenged them to pursue creative outlets, to discover new passions, to find ways to contribute.

Even in times as challenging as these - and sometimes especially so - there is opportunity.

- Article by Lynn Paul, Batten Library Director

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