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Ms. Sepetys shared the creative process for her bestseller "Salt to the Sea" with students.

By Alcuin Student: Thea Lee

New York Times Bestselling Author Ruta Sepetys recently visited Alcuin School, a leader in Montessori and International Baccalaureate education, to give an insightful presentation about her award-winning published works. During her visit, she shared anecdotes about her journey to become a successful author with Middle and Upper School students.

Ms. Sepetys has published three books including: Between Shades of Gray (2011), Out of the Easy (2013), and Salt to the Sea (2016). She calls herself the “Seeker of Lost Stories,” as she writes about historical events that are sometimes overlooked. One such event is the sinking of The Wilhelm Gust off, a German cruise ship that was sunk by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea in 1945. Ms. Sepetys explored this unfamiliar story in her book Salt to the Sea (2016).

She also shared facts about her early life, and elaborated on one of her first attempts at writing from elementary school: The Adventures of Betsy. Ms. Sepetys was given the assignment of writing an unpredictable story. She wrote a book about Betsy, a spontaneous girl in fourth grade and her friendship with an adult that she encounters. Ms. Sepetys also mentioned that one of her early inspirations was Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. As she put it, with a little jest in her voice: “After reading that book, I either wanted to be an author, or live in a giant peach.”

Ruta Sepetys inspired many students with her goal of sharing untold stories. Her first published novel, Between Shades of Gray (2011), was about a fifteen-year-old, Lina Vilkas, who was arrested by the Soviet secret police and deported from her Lithuanian home to Siberia along with her mother and her little brother in 1942. Before writing this novel, Ruta Sepetys gathered information about the 1930s and 1940s, when Joseph Stalin’s regime killed tens of millions of people. She interviewed people who survived the mass genocide and deportations from Lithuania carried out by the Soviets. Ms. Sepetys kept the survivors’ identities a secret, but she included them in her story with alternate names, so that their voices were still heard.

Ruta Sepetys has brought immense passion, dedication, and hard work to her published works. She uses her talent to bring the stories of overlooked historical events to life. At the event at Alcuin School, Ruta Sepetys used her voice as an author to encourage many students to write and explore their own creativity, just as Roald Dahl did for her when she was a child.

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