Putting a ‘Face’ to a name: students use FaceTime to meet author

By Sarah Payne

Clara Cozort

Ernest Hemingway. John Knowles. Raymond Carver. What do these authors have in common?

Unfortunately, they’re all dead.

Most students don’t have the opportunity to interact with the authors of the books they’re reading. With this in mind, English teacher Jason Griffith introduced LA Times journalist Steve Lopez’s book, The Soloist, to the Honors English curriculum.

The Soloist is the true story of Nathanial Anthony Ayers, a former Julliard student diagnosed with schizophrenia, told from Lopez’s perspective as Ayers’s friend.

“Having the experience to interact with the author of one of our class books was something that my students really enjoyed. Mr. Lopez was generous to make time in his busy schedule to spend with us, and we got to hear some great stories that weren’t in the book,” said Griffith.

On Monday, Mar 16, Griffith’s three Honors English classes met in his classroom during period 7 to FaceTime with Lopez and ask him questions about his book.

Griffith started the call with an introduction and a few ice breaker questions. Lopez talked honestly about the never-ending road to recovery he was watching Ayers travel.

Sophomore Ally Lanceta said, “My favorite part was getting to hear how his relationship with [Ayers] has grown and improved after the book and it helped me to feel more connected to the story on a personal level, and develop a better understanding of the homeless community.”

Other students enjoyed simply getting a look into the life of Lopez and Ayers without the covering of an edited book or movie.

Sophomore Kate Erfle said, “My favorite part was being able to talk to the ‘real’ Lopez and actually [get] his opinion about [Ayers], the book/movie, and the whole situation without it being changed by publishers, editors, directors, et cetera.”

The FaceTime with Lopez reinforced many lessons from the book, while introducing just as many new ones.

Griffith said, “The conversation helped students recognize that the name on the cover is also a living, breathing person who made intentional decisions about his process and product. More than that, Mr. Lopez encouraged students to help with one of his main purposes for writing: ending the stigmas on mental illness and homelessness.”

Lopez himself charged the students with a responsibility, saying, “You all are now part of the solution by continuing to help destigmatize mental illness and homelessness.”

For more information about mental illnesses and what you can do to make a difference, visit The National Alliance on Mental Illness.