Author Dusti Bowling packs a lot into her acclaimed children's novels, and her visit to campus Thursday was similarly abundant. Over the course of two assemblies with Lower and Middle Schoolers she touched on: difference, passion, perseverance, friendship, struggle, environmental stewardship, living with disability, and what it's like to have a pet tarantula. (Really cool.)
As readers know, those themes run throughout her books. Aven, the heroine of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, is a 13-year-old Kansan transplanted to Arizona who happens to have been born without arms. And Gus, another 13 year old, has to contend with being bullied and striving to escape his dead-end home town in 24 Hours in Nowhere.
What readers didn't know, was how those themes also run throughout Bowling's life. Connor, Aven's compatriot in Cactus, has Tourette's syndrome—inspired by tic disorders and Tourette's syndrome among her own family members. She talked to the girls about what life is like for them, especially her young daughter, who struggles with popular misconceptions about the condition.
Bowling also shared how she became a writer. Spoiler: She started writing. "The great thing about being a writer is you can do it at any age," she explained to the girls, most of whom raised their hands when she asked who in the crowd wrote. But simple doesn't necessarily mean easy. Bowling's journey from writer to published author was far more fraught. She was turned down no less than 100 times in her search for an agent. She had to rewrite her novel over and over, and then over some more. It was a long, hard slog—10 years!—but worth it, she said. "It's a good thing I really loved the story, or else I don't think I could have stuck with it!"
Good thing for us, too. Aven fans will be pleased to know she's coming back in a sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus that sees her starting high school, solving another mystery, and still working on finding her place while being true to her indelible self.
Dusti Bowling autographed bookmarks for lucky Middle Schoolers.