Ridley Pearson is a New York Times best selling author with his signature now on 38 different books. Though he mostly writes crime novels, he’s moved into the area of children's books and loves every new experience.
Pearson held an hour and a half workshop for fifth and sixth grade students at Oak Hill School in the Villa Duchesne auditorium yesterday that kept about 100 students mostly silent and spellbound.
Pearson is the No. 1 nationally bestselling author of a dozen youth oriented novels and picture books, including the Peter and the Starcatchers series, the Neverland Books and Science Fair, all co-written with Pulitzer Prize winning humorist, Dave Barry.
These days, Pearson is under contract to Disney Studios and writes all about his experiences at Disney World in Orlando. Frankly, he loves the place, and haunts the facilities day and night when he’s in Florida. He waxed stories about his around-the-clock experiences at Disney World. “I love to explore the underground." He found a gigantic tunnel running under the Magic Kingdom where 80,000 people a day would enjoy the park with no idea what was beneath them. “They have electric golf carts that transport all the park employees costumes from end to end. Everyone who works at Disney World and Epcot Center wear uniforms. They are washed and freshly ready for each employee the next day.”
Going on, “Did you ever see anyone taking trash out of the park?” He noted how trash was sucked below ground into a half dozen gigantic tubes; crushed and compacted and removed from the park in bags unnoticed.
His job is bringing all those Disney characters to life. “My job is to write detailed descriptions of my characters. Its my job to bring these characters to life.” That’s the adrenalin rush that has him working at the word processor 11 hours a day.” Simply put, he told the students that all stories are basically the same. They have a beginning, a middle and an ending with plenty of narration in between.”
Pearson has ties to St. Louis. He and his wife Marcelle have two daughters, Paige and Storey and they are students at the Principia in West St. Louis County. As a writer, he could easily reside anywhere. “For a while, my wife attended Principia so we decided to make St. Louis our home,” he revealed.
The 100 or so Oak Hill students sat with rapt attention, hanging on every word he said. He challenged them to a writing assignment and they responded with great style. They were to write brief scripts, detailing what they saw of four celebrities on a a slide presentation. That was easy. “These kids obviously read a lot and they’re really smart,” he said proudly. He urged them to show lots of attention to detail.
Pearson reminded the students he started his career on the road as a youngster, playing base guitar in an acoustic band. Today, he’s a member of the Rockbottom Remainders, an all-author 60s style rock band with best sellers Amy Tan, Dave Barry, sports writer Mitch Albom, Scott Turow, Greg Isles and another sports writer Roy Blount Jr. with cameos by famed novelist Stephen King. “We’re the worlds worst band but we love to play together and people still enjoy our performances,” he said with a laugh.
The students handed in their assignments to Pearson and he quizzed them on naming the stars. Needless to say, the responses were quick and accurate.
The fifth graders were eager to hear what Pearson was going to say in the beginning. Flynn O’Down, fifth grade waited with excitement and said he was “eager to explore new ideas.”
Jack Wachter, another fifth grader who was in the room with his twin sister Lauren enjoys writing personal narratives. “I think this is cool. I’m glad he (Ridley Pearson) is talking to us today. I expect to learn a lot,” said the fifth-grader, prior to the start.
The students did learn a lot, and lined up 10 deep for autographs once the formal session ended. The rule was, only students with Ridley Pearson books could get his signature. Clutching copies of The Kingdom Keepers, and books in the Steel Trapp series, there were plenty who waited patiently in line.