Clifton talks about her ‘best friends’

Robert Smith
Lu Clifton talks to students at the Pawhuska Public Library on Monday. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

Oklahoma native Lutricia “Lu” Clifton, winner of the 2017 Young Adult Oklahoma Book Award, talked with nearly 300 youth Monday in Pawhuska about the art of writing fiction.

Clifton, who was born in Krebs in the southeast part of the state, and lives in Illinois, is the author of six published novels, including two intended for a young adult audience. She made a presentation Monday to about 270 kids in Pawhuska Public Schools, and to another smaller audience Monday night at the Pawhuska Public Library.

Clifton’s appearances Monday were elements of Oklahoma’s fourth Reading Roundup Author Tour. The tour is sponsored by the Reading Trust, the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, the Oklahoma Center for the Book, Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma, Best of Books, and the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Clifton’s novels for young adults include Freaky Fast Frankie Joe, and Seeking Cassandra. The author told the Journal-Capital that books played an important role in her childhood development.

“I would stand out on the road and wait on the bookmobile to come,” Clifton said. “Books became my best friends.”

She also learned from her father, who was a hunter and had coon dogs, a healthy appreciation for the outdoors.

Clifton shared with the kids Monday how different aspects of one’s life experience can be used to help shape a fictional narrative. She pointed out that experiences from her own youth — parents divorcing, moving around from state to state during childhood, having a blind cat from which she learned life lessons — all show up in her fiction for young adults.

One of the central characters in Clifton’s young-adult fiction uses a personal journal to keep a record of certain thoughts and observations. In keeping with that thematic element, the children who attended Clifton’s presentation at the Pawhuska Library received journals in which to record their thoughts.

Asked by the kids what sorts of books she likes to read, Clifton responded that she enjoys mysteries and is a fan of the work of Tony Hillerman. Clifton also talked about belonging to a book group, and said participation in the group helps her reach beyond her comfort zone as a reader.

“We don’t have book groups in our school,” one little girl told Clifton.

“Well, start one,” Clifton said, encouraging the girl. “Talk to your librarian.”

The Reading Roundup Tour is held in conjunction with a $40,000 grant the Oklahoma Department of Libraries received

from the Reading Trust. The grant is being used to purchase books by Oklahoma Book Award winners or finalists in the

children/young adult category. These books are placed in all 219 public libraries across the state.