Wylie 7th-graders got a rare treat this fall when they got to Zoom with the author of their favorite book, How they Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous.
Author Georgia Bragg spoke to a cafeteria full of 7th-graders from her home in California.
“In all the years that we have read this awesome book, we have never had this opportunity,” said Wylie West Junior High English Teacher Ann Hurst. “This is really rare.”
How They Croaked tells in a humorous way how famous people in history met their demise.
“It’s always a favorite of the kids every year,” Mrs. Hurst said. “I went on her website, and you could write a note to Georgia Bragg.”
So Mrs. Hurst sent her an email asking if she would be willing to talk with Wylie students via Zoom about her writing process.
“I was just floored when I heard back from Georgia Bragg herself,” Mrs. Hurst said. “It was crazy how it all worked out. I felt like if I could get her, we could really have some kids that that light
would turn on.”
The entire 7th-grade at Wylie West Junior High sat in the cafeteria and cheered when Mrs. Bragg appeared on the big screen and said “Hello Texas.”
She answered questions from Wylie students using visual aids to show boxes of research and almost as many boxes of drafts.
“She was really calm and chill,” said 7th-grader Kat Darden. “She wasn’t surprised with a whole cafeteria full of 7th-graders. She answered all the questions thoroughly.”
Kat said she was most surprised by the amount of rewriting the author did.
“She had so many drafts,” Kat said. “Usually in school, you only write one draft. She had like 27.”
Fellow student Mateo Rosa said he loves to write and he loves the book How They Croaked, so he was eager to hear from Bragg. Like Kat, he was astounded by the sheer number of drafts that Bragg wrote before getting her book perfected.
“That really surprised me,” he said. “I didn’t expect that. I thought there would only be a couple. She had a ton. I can use that in the future to help me go through all these processes.”
Bragg told the students that the idea for the book came while riding in the car with her kids (who are now grown) and hearing them talk about George Washington and wondering how he died.
“On a complete whim, I looked up how George Washington died,” she said. “I looked up Beethoven and a couple of other people. I thought this is a great idea for a book. It’s going to be about how famous people died. But once you have an idea, it’s a lot of work. It takes a lot of research and a lot of work.”
She said it was also a bit tricky getting the tone right, since she wanted to make the book funny.
“I had to be really careful,” she said. “These people died long enough ago for me to have a sense of humor about it.”
She also told the kids how she handles writer’s block.
“Set a timer for 15 minutes,” she said. “You can do anything for 15 minutes. Just put something on the paper, then when you come back, you can rearrange.”
Bragg followed up How They Croaked with another book called How They Choked, which is about the failures and flops of some famous people. Most recently she has written Caught! It tells how some of the most famous bad guys in history were captured.
Kat said she loved How They Croaked because of the humor.
It’s really funny,” Kat said. “The chapters aren’t really long like a text book. It’s very fun, and it captures your attention.”
By Candy Reagan