Aliens, Ghosts, and Unicorns: Children’s Author Comes to Town

Deryn Varney

In a wooden rocking chair on the third floor of the Colgate Bookstore, writer Bruce Coville looked at ease. He wore black slacks, black Puma sneakers and a khaki button-down shirt. His socks were navy.

The room in which Coville’s book signing was supposed to take place had been somewhat difficult to find. After climbing up some rickety stairs, apt because of the spooky nature of some of Coville’s stories, one finds an earnest following of children and their parents, along with a few die-hard Colgate University students, waiting with paperbacks in hand to hear what Coville had to say. In this well-lit wooden room lined with copies of his novels and eager children’s faces, what he had to say turned out to be a lot.

Coville is a significant writer to the Hamilton community partly because he grew up in Syracuse, New York. In his stories, he even uses real-life experiences from growing up there. In one novel, the house in which one of his characters lives is based on the house in which Coville lived as a child; another novel is set in a theater in downtown Syracuse.

Coville attended Syracuse University. However, it was long before college, in sixth grade, that he realized he wanted to be a writer. That year, he had a teacher who let him realize his ambition. Over the course of the year, she taught Coville about how to write.

“The only way you learn is by doing it,” Coville said.

Coville had more pieces of wisdom like this one to share. He explained that a good book must have more than one main idea and that in the past he has wanted to write stories that he has not had the skill for at the time.

“You always come back to it,” Coville said.

He also said that he became a writer to become a storyteller. This idea was evident in his adept and lively recitation of a story about one dumb, but well-meaning giant who, in an act of martyrdom, saved the town that exiled him from destruction.

Coville, who began the story seated in his rocking chair in front of the audience, leapt up enthusiastically part of the way through, presumably to allow more space for his excited gesticulations. His voice reached a crescendo with the actions of the story and changed according to the dialogue of different characters.

Coville was impressive, his energy and enthusiasm evident. He was clearly passionate in all his stories. This makes sense because some of the stories he writes are based on ones he wished he could have read as a kid. One of Coville’s books, In the Land of Always October, he said he remembered wanting to read on Halloween night when he was ten years old.

Coville fan and sophomore Nick Mitilenes said that he had been reading Coville’s books since he was about seven. Just last summer he happened to pick them up to re-read.

“The imagination Bruce Coville has is pretty unique,” Mitilenes said.

He added that it was “pretty weird” that Coville would come to Colgate now, just after Mitilenes had read all the author’s books again.

Two younger fans, Liam Stahl, nine, and Molly Stahl, six, live just a block away from the bookstore. Molly is working on her first Coville book while Liam is on his second. Both nodded their heads adamantly when asked if they enjoyed Coville’s books.

“They’re spooky and they have monsters,” Liam said approvingly.

Coville is not finished with his work yet. His legacy continues through the wit, humor and imagination he expresses in his novels, qualities of which he is entirely aware.

At the end of the question and answer portion of the book signing, when asked if it was weird for him to read his own writing, Coville’s response revealed the shameless candidness he had not disguised well during the rest of the event.

“I love it,” Coville explained to the crowd. “I find it inspirational.”