Students in Young Adult Literature classes at Hudson High School can see themselves in some of Patrick Jones' novels, in part because the idea for one of his six Young Adult Literature novels sprung to mind after he observed something in the school's parking lot. The resulting inspiration became one of the characters in his novel, "Stolen Car."
While some adults might find his writing takes a darker look at teenage life than many want to acknowledge, the students believe Jones has gotten it right.
"Jones is not afraid to tackle issues that others don't want to talk about," said Kimberly Powers, Young Adult Literature and creative writing teacher at Hudson High School.
On March 22, Patrick Jones, a native of Flint, Mich., now a resident of Richfield, Minn., spoke to three sections of Kimberly Powers' Young Adult Literature Class, her Creative Writing Class and upper class STRIVE students. Jones is no stranger to Hudson High School, having visited the school each semester since 2004. As a result the students have had the extraordinary opportunity to learn about the realities of writing and the rigors of how one actually writes a novel from idea conception through rewrites to publishing.
"The kids get to see how a book evolves from the first draft to the final manuscript," said Powers. "It is one thing for me to say it but to have a working author explain it is powerful. We have an expert that is willing to come in and share with the students."
It has been a two-way street, for Jones has also held dialogue with the students, even including some of their questions about his writing at the end of his novel "Things Change."
His novel "The Tear Collector" is dedicated to two Hudson teachers, Kimberly Powers and Laura Paulisica, who were both Young Adult Literature instructors at the time.
"He observes students and finds a scenario which he can explore," said Powers.
All of his books are set in Flint, his home town.
"People either know of it from Michael Moore's movie or because it was rated as one of the worst places to live," said Jones, during a telephone interview. "The population is under 100,000 and it averages 65 homicides a year."
As to why Jones writes specifically for the young adult audience he cites these reasons: First because he has always worked with teenagers; and secondly, "I have a great deal of empathy for them. Being 15 and 16 years old is really hard."
Jones first met Laura Paulisica at a Young Adult Literature Book Fair.
"I was blown away by what Kim and Laura were doing at Hudson High School," said Jones. "It was amazing what they were doing. As a result I have been actively involved with the classes ever since. I brought them the manuscript of the third novel before it was published to get their comments."
The first year Jones visited, Powers had all of her students read "Things Change," his first novel. Every year since, they could read any of his six novels, as long as each student read one.
Jones is a full-time librarian for Hennepin County and part of his job is visiting correctional facilities.
"There I interact with a very different clientele but they are still teenagers," said Jones. "
The students who read his books give him real feedback via e-mail, MySpace or now Facebook.
"What keeps me writing for teens is their reactions to my books," said Jones, who cites one student who, after reading "Things Change," was able to get out of an abusive relationship.
"It is really sad that I won't be going back to Hudson High School because they are dropping the Young Adult Literature class," said Jones. "It is a shame that class is going away. I am not a teacher but I don't think reading "Hamlet" is going to save anybody's lives."
"It's been all about Kim and Laurie's passion for YAL," said Jones.
"It has been a blessing to have someone in the industry to talk with us," said Powers. "He does it for free and he enjoys working with the students. We have been really fortunate that we have had an author this close."
For more information about Patrick Jones, you may visit his website at www.connectingya.com.