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Author Nancy Werlin speaks to Needham students

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By Josh Perry
Hometown Weekly Staff

“Look at that person,” said Nancy Werlin during her presentation at the Needham High library. She pointed to the slide being displayed behind her and added with a smile, “That’s one of the laziest people you’ll see.”

The photo was of Werlin seated in a chair typing on her laptop. The author, who is originally from Peabody and who currently lives in Melrose, was sharing how her writing process is unique from other authors.

She was speaking to the third group of students to come through the Needham High library that day and being very candid about how difficult it is for her to complete one of her novels.

She told the students, “Nothing gets done just by dreaming about it.” Werlin explained that she uses a slow and steady process, one that works best for her, and a method that has allowed her to complete nine young adult novels with a 10th, “And Then There Were Four,” on its way in the next year.

“I like to talk through what it takes to write; what my process is like,” said Werlin prior to her presentation. “For me there is a lot of revising and iterative work going over and over scenes until I feel that I’ve gotten them right.”

The third group was smaller with two-dozen students in the front few rows getting an idea of what it takes to have a career in writing. Earlier in the day, Werlin spoke to a group with more than 100 students packed into the library.

“We’ve had more questions than we could even ask for,” she said about the response from the students. “They’ve been very interested in the process - what do you do when you’re stuck.”

The students have also asked about where the ideas for her plots or her character names come from and how the creative process gets started. Despite encouraging the question, Werlin was surprised that she did not get more inquiries into how much money a writer could make.

She explained, “I think that if you want to start a creative life then you need to think in a logical way about where money is going to come from and make a decision about how to continue if the money doesn’t come.”

In the afternoon session, one of the classes was filled with ELL (English Language Learner) students, who will be working on an outside reading project using one of Werlin’s nine novels.

Librarian Paige Rowse remarked, “Nancy’s books are perfect for that because they’re such varying genres and different perspectives that there’s really something for everyone. If you can’t find a book in this set that doesn’t appeal to you, we’ve got bigger problems.”

Werlin had long aspired to a career as a writer. She called herself “a big reader” as a youth, but it was not until she was in her late 20s that she decided to pursue her dream.

She said, “When I was in my late 20s, it was time to do the thing that I always claimed I wanted to do.”

Now she is hard at work on her 10th novel, a story about a group of kids who discover that their parents are in a conspiracy to kill them.

“It’s like five murder-mysteries wrapped into one,” Werlin said, “and working out the mechanics of this book has been very difficult, very complex. So I’ve been walking the kids through some of the things that have gone through my mind while I’m trying to figure out this book.”

She added, “It’s really fun. Since I write about teenage characters, it’s good for me to see them in the flesh and see that they’re real people. I also like when I’m talking to them to see what are the things that they respond to, when they sit up a little bit or make eye contact.”

For more information about Nancy Werlin’s work, visit

Josh Perry is an Editor at Hometown Weekly. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

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