‘Goblin Secrets,’ Charles Darwin and how our world influences how we think

March 19, 2014

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Internationally-known, award-winning author William Alexander will do a public reading from his first novel, “Goblin Secrets,” on Monday, March 24 in the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Harry and Laura Nohr Gallery from 7-9 p.m. The reading is free and open to the public.

Alexander studied theatre and folklore at Oberlin College and English at the University of Vermont and now teaches at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis, Minn.

His novel “Goblin Secrets” won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2012 and became a New York Times bestseller shortly thereafter. The novel is a fast-paced, fantastical adventure that explores themes of love, loss and the importance of family. The story's main character is an orphaned boy who runs away and joins a theatrical troupe of goblins to find his missing brother in the magical town of Zombay, where acting is forbidden and people wear masks to hide who they really are.

“Fantasy is enjoying unprecedented popularity and ‘Goblin Secrets’ is part of that trend, along with Harry Potter and ‘The Hobbit,’” said Thomas Pitcher, English lecturer at UW-Platteville, who organized the reading along with Dr. Evan Larson, assistant professor of geography at UW-Platteville. “We need fantasy — not to escape problems in the real world, but to think through solutions.”

“‘Goblin Secrets’ is a wonderful novel that engages readers through the emotions and experiences of the main characters – feelings of loss, triumph, fear and courage, all set in a fantasy world,” said Larson.

In addition to the public reading, Alexander will speak with English students who are studying world building as well as biology and geography students who are studying the development of evolution to explore how science informs literature and how literature informs science by expanding what is considered possible.

On March 24, Alexander will speak to students in World Building, an English special topics course taught by Pitcher. In the class, students craft detailed worlds for speculative fiction, considering everything from culture to cosmology. UW-Platteville is one of the few schools in Wisconsin to offer this type of course.

“It’s a rare and valuable opportunity for students to speak with a successful world builder like Alexander,” said Pitcher. “They will certainly benefit from hearing his perspectives, methods and insight.”

The following day, Alexander will speak to students in Biogeography, a course taught by Larson that examines the living environment at spatial scales of individual organisms up to ecosystems at ecological and evolutionary time.  

“Will plans to explain how Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution, how he was almost scooped by a younger, lesser-known scientist named Alfred Russell Wallace and how the world in which they lived informed how they pursued their discoveries,” said Larson. “It is important for us to know how our world influences what we think, how we view things and where our mind wanders. This helps us become more creative, thoughtful and reflective contributors to our world.”

Alexander's second novel, “Ghoulish Song,” set in the same world and city as “Goblin Secrets,” will be released on March 5. For more information about both books, visit www.goblinsecrets.com.

Contact: Dr. Evan Larson, department of social sciences, (608) 342-6139, larsonev@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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