St. Mark’s welcomed international bestselling author Ruta Sepetys to campus as this year’s Robert E. Dennard Visiting Scholar. Sepetys’ visit on September 17–18, 2018, comes a few days before the red-carpet premiere of Ashes in the Snow, a film based on her first novel Between Shades of Grey. Sepetys is considered a crossover novelist as her books are read by both students and adults worldwide.
Throughout her two days on campus, Sepetys met with Middle and Upper School students in humanities and English classes. During her presentations, she outlined the five elements of story: plot, characters, detail, conflict, and voice. She also shared the extensive and sometimes shocking research she made while writing her latest bestselling novel Salt to the Sea. The novel is told from the perspective of four teenagers in World War II whose paths converge during the sinking of the German cruise ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Converted into a refugee transport, the Gustloff was sunk by a Soviet sub with 9,400 souls aboard, making it the worst maritime disaster in history. Yet, even after the war, few knew the story.
“History isn’t lost, it’s just hiding. Some of these most enduring mysteries are out there. We just have to keep asking questions and find them,” Sepetys told students. She detailed the extensive research she made into the Gustloff sinking, including interviewing survivors of the disaster and divers who have visited the ‘ghost ship.’ “These people on board thought the world had forgotten them. By reading books about history, you are restoring a part of their human dignity.”
Sepetys’ novels Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy are both international bestsellers and Salt to the Sea won the Carnegie Medal. Sepetys is the first American crossover novelist to address both European Parliament and Library of Congress. She was awarded The Rockefeller Foundation’s prestigious Bellagio Resident Fellowship and was recently bestowed the Cross of the Knight of the Order by the President of Lithuania for her contributions to education and memory preservation.
St. Mark’s School of Texas is a private, nonsectarian college-preparatory boys’ day school for students in grades 1 through 12, located in Dallas, Texas. St. Mark’s aims to prepare young men to assume leadership and responsibility in a competitive and changing world.
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