October 7, 2010

Helen Simonson kicks off Whitman community book talks

Whitman parent Helen Simonson discussed her bestselling novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand Oct. 5 in the media center as the first speaker in a series of community book talks. Helen Simonson reads a particularly funny chapter from her book during the book talk. Photo by Lucy Chen. The events, scheduled to be the first Wednesday of every month, focus on inviting published authors, poets, and other literary figures in the Whitman community to discuss their works at the school. Principal Alan Goodwin said local writers often share their literary works with him, and he thought would be a good idea to share those discussions with the public through a book club.

“It’s too bad we have all these talented authors in the community, and we don’t spend time having nice intellectual discussions about what they write,” he said. “So I came up with the idea of having a book discussion club. It would give notice to parents in the community who are writers, and it would give students a chance to talk to bona-fide published writers.”

Goodwin read Simonson’s book over the summer after his wife recommended it to him. He looked at the jacket photo of Simonson after reading, and recognized the face of a Whitman parent. Simonson introduced herself as being born and raised in England, the setting of the novel. Her family moved to Brooklyn two decades ago from England, and last year, she moved to Bethesda.

Simonson also discussed the process of writing and publishing the novel. The manuscript took her five years to write, as she balanced writing with taking care of her sons. Originally, the novel was just one chapter. But after winning first prize at a short story competition, she expanded the idea. SOURCE: Silver Chips

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