Visiting Author Day 2019
Nate Blakeslee | American Wolf
On Thursday, September 26, Texas Monthly writer and author of New York Times Bestseller American Wolf Nate Blakeslee traveled from his home in Texas to the small village of Avon Old Farms School to discuss the book that captured the story of Yellowstone's 0-6, perhaps the most famous wolf in the world.
The book was Avon's 2019 all-school read which, as much as it tells the story of the reintroduction of wolves to the American West, tells a story of the emotions and politics that came with the wildlife management move to bring wolves back to Yellowstone. It's a book about what can happen when just one being's story is ended prematurely.
While at Avon, Blakeslee met with English classes, entertained the entire school body during an hour-long Q&A, signed books, and even met with student editors of two school publications: our literary magazine the Hippocrene (which we also just learned won a gold medal) and the student newspaper The Avon Record. He discussed the process of researching and writing a non-fiction narrative that revolved not around a person who could share their own thoughts, but around a wolf who so many had come to know and love. He also impressed upon students the need for young energy and excitement in the field of journalism.
"Journalism is a public good: it holds the powerful accountable," he said. "It's also an opportunity to write with the idea that another world beside the one we currently live in is possible; the things you think should be different, can be different. You might see a divide between what you write and things happening because of that. But know that your words can effect change."
During the all-school Q&A, Blakeslee responded to lighthearted inquiries such as 'Will you write another book on apex predators, like the shark?' and more serious ones like 'How did you deal with the backlash that came after this book was released?'
During his responses, Blakeslee hit upon the importance of two of Avon's core values: scholarship and integrity. Responding to a question about how to find a good story, Blakeslee said that he is constantly reading a range of publications. He continued to share that while the answer 'I get my news elsewhere' has become a common excuse for not reading a daily newspaper, what most people do not realize is that most news that becomes shareable on any other medium most likely started at one of the large daily papers. "The need for reporters doing research, walking their beats, and engaging with the community will not go away." In fact, American Wolf was inspired by a 346-word article published in the New York Times. In essence, scholarship is a core value of journalism.
As for integrity, when one student asked, "How did you get the hunter to talk to you and tell you what really happened?" Blakeslee replied that it was a bit of luck, as journalism often is, but it was also a testament to the backbone who an investigative journalist is: You have to be a person who others know can be trusted. You need to always do what you say you'll do. You need to be a man of your word.
Here's to inspiring the next generation of journalists.