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'Divergent' author returns to Barrington to inspire young writers

"Divergent" author and Barrington High School alumna Veronica Roth speaks with BHS English teacher June Kramer and Dist. 220 administrator Becky Gill-Schultz.  |  Bridget O'Shea/Sun-Times Media
"Divergent" author and Barrington High School alumna Veronica Roth speaks with BHS English teacher June Kramer and Dist. 220 administrator Becky Gill-Schultz.  |  Bridget O'Shea/Sun-Times Media
"Divergent" author and Barrington High School alumna Veronica Roth speaks with BHS English teacher June Kramer and Dist. 220 administrator Becky Gill-Schultz.  |  Bridget O'Shea/Sun-Times Media
"Divergent" author and Barrington High School alumna Veronica Roth speaks with BHS English teacher June Kramer and Dist. 220 administrator Becky Gill-Schultz.  |  Bridget O'Shea/Sun-Times Media
Veronica Roth  |  Photo by Nelson Fitch

Just 18 days before the release of her next book, New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth returned to her alma mater Thursday, Oct. 3 to inspire future writers.

The 2006 Barrington High School graduate who authored the "Divergent" trilogy, a series of young adult books that take place in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, was welcomed by two of her former teachers.

In Barrington's packed auditorium, the teachers asked Roth about her writing process and how she became interested in the craft. Roth explained that she always enjoyed creating new experiences.

"When I was little, I liked to play pretend, but you grow out of that," she said. "Then I realized that I don't have to act it out with stuffed animals or with my friends. I can actually write this stuff down."

Roth credited Lois Lowry's "The Giver" for introducing her to the world of dystopia, but noted that she didn't set out to take "Divergent" into the imaginary and unpleasant setting.

In fact, Roth intended "Divergent" to showcase a world that she would like; a place where people are held responsible for their actions.

"No one should put me in charge," she joked.

To encourage young writers, Roth provided some simple advice: Keep writing.

"One of the struggles of becoming an author is to open yourself up to the world," she said. "Writing isn't easy. It never has been. But if you love it, just keep doing it."

"Fuel for writing is everywhere," she added.

Roth also encouraged young writers to share their work with others and ask for feedback.

But the writing process, she explained, can be accomplished in unique ways.

Roth writes many of her gut-wrenching scenes while walking on a treadmill with a writing station set-up on top.

She highlighted a scene at the end of "Divergent," when the main character, Tris, reunites with someone from her distant past.

"It was so intense to write that scene," Roth said.

While sad to be done with the trilogy, more excitement is coming Roth's way. "Divergent," the first book in the trilogy, has been turned into a feature film that will hit theaters in 2014. The movie stars Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Theo James and Ashley Judd.

In the meantime, Roth is currently working on two short stories. 

Taking the crowd back to her high school days, Roth said her favorite classes at Barrington were English and creative writing. She also participated in the choir all four years.

Roth's story, from Barrington to dystopia, proved a hit.

"It was great," Sophia Chen-deVries said. "I've read the first two books and I can't wait for 'Allegiant.'"

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