Katherine Paterson visits Maryville College

Katherine Patterson and Anne McKee at Lambert theatre discussing Patterson's latest work on April 24th.  Photo by Tony Gunn.
Katherine Patterson and Anne McKee at Lambert theatre discussing Patterson’s latest work on April 24th. Photo by Tony Gunn.

Well-known author Katherine Paterson recently graced the campus with her presence from April 22-25. During her time on campus, the Maryville College Center for Campus Ministry put on a celebration of her work over the years.

Paterson also held a discussion in Lambert Theatre on campus where she signed books and talked about her latest works. Additionally, on April 24, Paterson spoke with the Interpreting Literature class taught by MC Professor of English Dr. Sam Overstreet, where I had the opportunity to interview her myself.

“I write and let the reader determine the meaning,” said Paterson when talking about the main ideas of her stories. “I just write the story the way it is.”

The great author was not interested in what she brought to the table, but what you can convey in the text as the reader.

“I write from within,” Paterson said. “All of the feelings that I had as a child, I put into the characters.”

Paterson writes realistic fiction because, as she said, she takes real-world issues and puts them into an incredible story. The children in her novels face adult issues, and they have to make crucial decisions. Most of the children in her novels are estranged and lonely.

There was actually a controversy over the ending of her book, “Bridge to Terabithia” because some say it was too realistic. Additionally, most of her books, such as “Preacher’s Boy,” deal with the real feelings of a child growing up in a strict Christian household.

Paterson was born in China to the Reverend George Raymond and Mary Womeldorf who were both Christian Missionaries. After her journey through Christian education, she taught Sunday school and eventually began to write theology-based literature.

Even though Paterson is known for writing children’s novels, she has been very influential through her writing on the way theology is viewed today.

“I would not be the person that I am today if it wasn’t for my Christian background,” Paterson said.

She went on to explain the influence theology has had on her work. Many of her works shadow the idea of theology—explaining the different decisions each character makes within her novels.

In the ‘70s, she began writing children’s novels for which she is well-known today. She has written books like “Bridge to Terabitha,” “The Great Gilly Hopkins,” “Preacher’s Boy,” and many more.

In addition she has won the U.S. National Book Awards for her works, “The Great Gilly Hopkins” and “The Master Puppeteer.” She has also won the Edgar Allen Poe Special Award for “The Master Puppeteer.”

Katherine Paterson has written for decades and she is still continuing to affect the literature community with her works.

The celebration was a success and the campus has gained great knowledge about her novels and what they mean. The campus has benefited greatly and has hopes of celebrating her presence once again.

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