Sharon Draper’s novel “Out of My Mind” has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for more than nine months, and it all started with a student.
“I was a teacher for, I don’t know, 150 years,” Draper says, laughing. “I was a teacher for 25 years. And near the end of my teaching career, I had a young man, a student, who challenged me to enter a short story contest. I didn’t plan on doing it, but I did. And I won first prize.”
With new confidence, Draper began working on her first novel, “Tears of a Tiger.”
“It took a very long time,” Draper says. “It took 20 years to become an overnight success. But the first book came out […] And then it just kept on going. I’m very, very blessed.”
Today, Draper has written more than 20 books for children, tweens, teens and parents. She has won multiple Coretta Scott King Literary Awards, was named the National Teacher of the Year, and was one of four authors invited to speak at the National Book Festival Gala in Washington, D.C.
“You know, a lot of people ask me, ‘What was the moral of the book?’ I don’t have one,” she says. “A good book should be memorable to a reader, but not all readers should get the same message from the same book. Books are personal.”
Draper will be in Lincolnwood Saturday, May 10 to speak at the 14th Annual Honor Thy Mother Luncheon, which will benefit Literature for All of Us. Attendees will hear poems written by Literature for All of Us participants while enjoying lunch and a silent auction and raffle.
“I really, really admire what the organization is doing, sharing books with children and getting books in the hands of kids,” Draper says. “It is not true that we have lost a generation to the computer. Kids will read if you put the right book in their hands. I get hundreds of letters from young people who tell me, ‘I love your books. I didn’t like to read before, but now I do.’ So, if not me, somebody else. But they can, and will, find the right books if we have adults who will help them do that.”