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‘Brown’ novelist inspires students - John Michael Cummings at Mark Twain

Young adult novelist John Michael Cummings, author of “The Night I Freed John Brown,” and Park Slope resident, visited sixth and seventh grade creative writing students at the Mark Twain Intermediate School 239 for the Gifted and Talented.

Since many of the students aspire to become novelists, Cummings read excerpts of his debut novel and gave insight into the publishing world. He also signed copies of the book and offered tips on developing characters and keeping readers’ interest.

“The Night I Freed John Brown” is an autobiographical novel set in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Thirteen year-old main character Josh struggles to understand his father’s unrealistic expectations and harsh temper while growing up in the town made famous by the hanging of abolitionist John Brown.

Cummings has published more than 75 short stories, two of which received Pushcart Prize nominations. The first-time novelist enjoys sharing his work with young audiences and compares fiction writing to being a puppet-master. “You get to determine the outcome,” he says.

Creative writing teacher Michele Wallach arranged the author visit. “This was an enriching experience,” she says. “The students were thrilled to meet the author and get a behind-the-scenes peek at the writing life.”

Mark Twain Intermediate School 239 is located at 2401 Neptune Avenue.

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