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The Power of Words

October 31, 2016

By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools

Two days in March may well have changed Carma Sharp’s future.

They certainly altered her plans.

During a reveal event last Thursday for the second annual Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival — which will be held in March 2017 — Sharp shared stories from her experience at the first festival.

The Central Magnet School senior talked about the opportunity she had to meet several authors and the friendship she formed with Sharon Cameron, who has become a mentor and a champion of Sharp’s thesis project.

Sharp was one of several speakers at Thursday night’s event.

SE-YA Fest organizers announced the names of 40 authors who will appear at the upcoming festival.

Among the authors returning for the second year are David Arnold, Tracy Barrett, I.W. Gregorio, Katie Cotugno, C.J. Redline, Beth Revis, Victoria Schwab, Adam Silvera, Courtney C. Stevens, Kristin Tubb and Cameron.

New to the festival are Becky Albertalli, Mindee Arnett, Jenn Bishop, Ashley Herring Blake, Kym Brunner, Nicole Casroman, Cindy Williams China, Melanie Conklin, M. Tara Crowl, Tobie Easton, Jennifer Eaton, Lauren Gibaldi, S.E. Green, Brittany Hodder, Sheba Karin, E. Katherine Kottaras, Sarah Lariviere, Mindy McGinnis, Amy Christine Parker, Shaila Patel, Julie A. Reece, Lois Sepahban, Monika Schroder, Laurel Snyder and Rick Starkey.

Four other authors – Andrew Maraniss, Kathryn Ormsbee, Brooks Benjamin and Brittany Goodwin – who will also be at the SE-YA Book Fest in March — were on hand at Linebaugh Public Library for the reveal.

The festival will take place March 10-11. Authors will make in-school appearances throughout Rutherford County on March 9, while March 10 is dedicated to students. March 11 is free and open to the public.

The festival earlier this year was a first for Sharp.

“I got to meet a lot of the authors,” said Sharp, who attended the first day as a student and then volunteered on the second day. Students are not expected to volunteer in order to meet authors.

However, Sharp said the “personal connections” were her biggest takeaways and “shaped my decision to become a librarian.”

Sharp, who has long since been a regular in the Central library for the past seven years, now works in the school library two hours every day running the circulation desk. Doing so allows librarian Erin Alvarado to be on the floor with students recommending books, teaching and doing other tasks to enhance the experience for everyone who visits one of the most bustling locations in the school.

Alvarado described Sharp as being mature for her age and a rare exception when it comes to her interest in spending all her free time in the library.

Sharp plans to major in education and originally planned on becoming a history teacher. However, with Alvarado’s encouragement and influence and after meeting several authors, she now plans to get a master’s in library science with the intent of becoming a librarian.

Her senior thesis is based on Middle Eastern themed fairytales.

In addition to researching its origin and history, Sharp will also be writing her own original fairytale.

The research for her thesis began at the James E. Walker Library on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. During the summer she pulled all the fairytales she could find and “sat there and read for hours.”

Sharp said, “I’ve always loved fairytales. I’m obsessed with mythology. … The origin stories are what I go back to time and time again.”

Her interest started with children’s poetry and Disney movies like Snow White and Cinderella. Sharp, who has three older sisters, once received a compilation of Roman fairytales from her sister Cayna for Christmas.

She’s now interested in the culture of superstitions and religions of the Middle East and Africa.

Alvarado has guided Sharp throughout the research process.

And Cameron has been a source of influence on the writing process.

“It’s very fascinating to me to listen to that process,” said Sharp, of Cameron and other authors, who have talked at length about the solitude and creativity of writing. However, she added, the idea of becoming an author “just seems scary.”

Alvarado said confidence comes with age.

In the meantime, she’s excited to see Sharp delve into mature classics like Pride and Prejudice, which she had been reticent to reading until hearing Cameron and the authors talk about the importance of reading outside your own comfort zone.

“I think the festival had a lot to do with that,” Alvarado said. “She really embraced that along with a lot of other students.”

That’s precisely why the organizers – Liz Hicks, Alvarado, Barbara Collie and Sonya Cox – included Sharp as a speaker at last week’s reveal.

They thought it was important for fellow classmates and students from throughout Rutherford County to hear how the SE-YA Book Fest directly impacted a young adult reader.

“We want all of the students to come away with that excitement,” Alvarado said, “and the feeling that it changed my life in some way.”

For more information, please, log on to www.seyabookfest.com.

PHOTOS / KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT (Top) Central senior Carma Sharp talks to those in attendance at the SE-YA Book Fest author reveal. (Bottom) Students and parents from throughout Rutherford County attended Thursday's author reveal at Linebaugh Public Library.