Steven James’ love of storytelling dates back to childhood when his uncle would tell stories during family get-togethers.
“I grew up in this world of story and storytelling and then when I became a counselor at summer camp, I started to tell the kids my uncle’s stories and then when I ran out of those, I had to start making up my own and the kids loved to listen to those before they went to sleep at night,” he said Tuesday in between speaking to students about the nature of writing and storytelling at Indian Trail Intermediate School.
James is an award-winning local author of more than 30 books that span such varied genres as crime thrillers, inspirational nonfiction and fantasy. He was invited to Indian Trail to speak to fifth-graders in Erin Arnold’s writing class about the mechanics of storytelling, developing narrative and the importance of writing.
The author fielded questions from students about a variety of topics, played story-building games and read passages from his young adult fantasy novel, “Quest for Celestia.”
Before becoming an author, James spent much of his time traveling telling stories after receiving a master’s degree in storytelling from East Tennessee State University in 1997.
In order to spend more time with his family, he decided to start writing stories.
While he’s often busy writing novels, James said he enjoys getting out of the writer’s room to talk to kids about writing and how to build a good story.
“It’s always thrilling ... to see their light go on in the imagination — that twinkle in their eye — as they come up with a new idea and make laugh if you can and help them think about stories in a new way,” he said.
As someone with a lifelong love of telling stories, James said young people need to be encouraged to take their ideas and create something.
James hoped he could inspire some of the students to follow their dreams, but the one thing he wanted each student to take away from his visit was the fact that a well-told story has depth.
“A great story is a transformation and not just a list of things that happen. So many kids tell stories that’s just one thing happens and then another, but if they can take this idea of it’s about a character who faces a struggle and makes a discovery that changes his life, that would be fantastic,” he said.