Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ruta Sepetys grew up hearing stories of her father's childhood as a Lithuanian refugee. Realizing this was a story never told in a novel for young adults, Ruta decided to tell it herself. When not writing, Ruta works in the music industry. Between Shades of Gray is her first novel. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Watch the author video and learn more about the book.
If you are interested in hosting an appearance by Ruta Sepetys at your school, library, or conference, please use the online request form or send an email to authorvisits[at]us.penguingroup.com with possible dates, your school name, location, details about the day, and your contact information
A Note from Ruta Sepetys
Dear Teachers, Librarians, and Lovers of Books,
History holds secrets. Between Shades of Gray discusses historical events that have been in the dark for over half a century. Although I wrote the book, history wrote the story. My dream is for adults and students to learn more about the time period and the fear that caused millions of people to remain silent for over fifty years. Thank you for bringing readers and books together. Through exploring and learning from both secrets and mistakes of the past, we create hope for a more just future.
I look forward to meeting you!
Author Appearance Q&A with Ruta Sepetys:
What can a school, library, or conference expect when you are making an appearance? What do you do differently with audiences of varying sizes, ages, and interests?
My goal is always to present a program that works for the particular audience I'm meeting with. I can also tie into the curriculum or the conference theme if given the information in advance. In some cases that might be exploring the secrets that history holds, discussing survival instincts, the miraculous nature of the human spirit, or unlocking creative potential. Discussion is always a vital part of the event. I would much rather speak with a group than at them. And most importantly, I want it to be fun
What makes your author appearances unique?
I think all authors are unique. In my case, my background is a little out of the ordinary. I've worked in the music and entertainment industry for over twenty years–fourteen entrenched in Hollywood. I am a firm believer that fostering the creative spirit, whether through art, music, literature, film, dance, hobbies or collaborating with others, can provide a lifetime of happiness. Over the years, I have worked with celebrities and musicians, helping them bring their creative and musical stories to the world. Along the way I was compelled to share my own story and began writing. I conducted extensive research overseas for Between Shades of Gray that included many escapades, including being locked away as an inmate in a former Soviet prison. There were rats the size of cats. I've got stories.
Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?
Yes, I've done many lectures, seminars, and workshops for adults and college students and I always enjoy it! Topics may include:
- A general presentation of the book with Q & A.
- Discussion of the historical background of the book.
- A session on unlocking your creative potential.
- Writing workshops called "Sparks" that assist attendees in coming up with story ideas
- Surviving the entertainment industry (not for the feint of heart!)
What can event coordinators do to ensure a successful appearance?
I'm sure all authors say this, but truly, being prepared and generating enthusiasm prior to the event is incredibly helpful. Introduce the book to the readers, create projects or discussions in advance based on the book or the history. I work full time and take time off from my day job to make appearances. I love doing it (who doesn't love playing hooky?!) but in order for it to be a success it really helps if the readers have some awareness of the book. There is a wonderful introduction video on the book's website www.betweenshadesofgray.com.
In classrooms, it's best for a teacher to remain present during the presentation. In larger school assembly situations, there should be at least one adult per every fifty or so students.
Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?
Yes, I do! Over the past twenty years I've traveled extensively for my job and often it's through my travels that I get ideas, scenes, and characters for books. So who knows, a visit might inspire something for the next book!
Do you ever make appearances at more than one school in an area? Could schools and libraries from one area join together to bring you to their institution?
Absolutely, as long as the two locations aren't too far apart. That's a win/win situation because it's cost effective for schools and organizations and allows me to meet more readers.
The subject matter of your book is quite serious and sad. Are your presentations serious or melancholy?
Oh no, that wouldn't be enjoyable at all! I focus on the hopeful elements of the story and how hope and courage can save lives. Also, I dearly love to laugh so I'm constantly making jokes!
Could you tell us more about your book club interactions?
Sure, this is a non-appearance option for schools, bookstores, libraries and book groups. I provide them with free bookmarks, autographed bookplates, and the discussion guide. I can also answer a couple of questions via email in advance.
What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?
I hope the audience will think about the force of life, the power of stories, and how to speak when your voice has been extinguished. It can be fascinating to learn about cultures and challenges different than our own.
What was your most memorable appearance experience?
I recently gave a workshop series in Mexico and spent a few days at schools in Guadalajara and Mexico City. We discussed the historical elements behind Between Shades of Gray and how the innocent victims expressed their pain through art, music, and writing rather than violence. The students were fascinated that after fifty years of brutal occupation the people of the Baltics regained their independence peacefully and without any hostility. A week later I received an email from a sixteen-year-old student in Mexico that said, "I've been thinking about what you said and the people you described. Maybe it's true. Love can lead us to freedom. I'm going to write about it."
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