Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Richardson Reads One Book: Markus Zusak

By Julie

Each year, we here at What Women Write attend the Richardson Reads One Book event as a group--whoever is available, usually most if not all of us! We were super excited to learn that the 2013 book was The Book Thief, and that Markus Zusak would be the special guest! Several of us had already read and loved the book.

Here's a quick run-down:

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
Susan, Pamela and I (and eventually, Elizabeth, after a prior obligation with her kiddos), along with Susan's daughter and a friend of Pamela, met up last night for a delightful evening listening to Zusak speak about writing and reading and The Book Thief.

We also took the obligatory group shot. By the time we got through the line (which is always HUGE at Richardson Reads One Book because they do such a fabulous job choosing the author and promoting the event), I think everyone was tired, including the author. After doing my own book talks and signing events for the last seven months, I now have a huge appreciation for authors who tour almost nonstop, sometimes for years, as Zusak has done with The Book Thief due to its immense popularity and success! How do they keep up the smile and small talk and personal level of attention for so long? At any rate, we all, including Zusak, joked about making us look good--thus the arty effects, which I assure you were completely necessary. :)

I knew it was my turn to blog, so I jotted a few notes to share with you.

  • We loved hearing the story of Zusak's first few events after his debut in Australia years ago. It was heartening to hear that even a world class author like this had to more or less bribe the high school rugby team he coached to come to his launch so it wouldn't be just him and the bookseller. Look at him now--more than a thousand rabid fans attended this event!
  • He talked a lot about story. He started by sharing a funny family anecdote, then talked about what made it work for the audience. These are lessons that can be applied to writing, public speaking, or any situation where you need to tell a story your audience connects with.
    • It's yours. In this case, it was his family's story.
    • The details are what makes your story believable. (For instance, knowing not only what color a jacket is, but what's inside the pockets.) If you know the details, you are the expert. You are the owner. People believe people who know the details.
    • You've told it again and again. You know it inside out. (And in the case of novel writing, you've been willing to fail and fail again as needed until you get it right.)
    • The best moment in a story isn't the expected, but the unexpected.
The biggest point of his talk, and also, as he shared, the main theme of The Book Thief,  was that:

Stories make us who we are.

What a great reminder.

Want to write a book?

What are your stories? 

Want to do something else innovative or creative?

What are your stories? 

How do your stories make you who you are?

If you haven't read The Book Thief yet, we suggest you run right out and find a copy and devour it (as we are sure you will) before the movie comes out in November!


  1. This book ranks high on my list of all-time favorites. LOVED it. The film looks great, too!

  2. Cindy, thanks for stopping by the blog, as always! I hope the movie is good


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