by Bria Isaacson, News Editor

David Arnold, bestselling author of young adult books “Mosquitoland” and “Kids of Appetite,” will be visiting Asbury on Feb. 23. Kinlaw Library will be hosting an author talk with him from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Coffee and North Lime donuts will be provided.

He will be talking about writing and publishing his two books. “Mosquitoland,” his first novel, is the most well-known. It follows a young woman named Mim Malone, as she travels by Greyhound bus from Mississippi, where her dad and stepmom have moved her, to Ohio where her mom lives. Along the way, she meets a “quirky cast of fellow travelers,” according to Arnold’s website.

Megan Hussmann, who works in the library as a users service assistant, liked reading “Mosquitoland.” She said, “I enjoyed the main character’s personality and quirkiness, as she was a glimpse into the mind of a young girl who is, while troubled, still full of life.”

Hussmann has been working alongside Center for Academic Excellence Director Corrie Merricks, whose husband is friends with Arnold, in order to plan this event. She is excited for this, because “it has been a while since a fiction writer visited Asbury,” Hussmann said. “It will be great for students to hear about an Asbury alum in the publishing world and hopefully gain insight into future ventures for young writers.”

Arnold himself was not a young writer, as he did not get serious about writing for many years. He graduated from Asbury in 2003 and then became a freelance musician in Nashville, where he wrote and recorded music for commercials, indie films, youth camp videos and his own albums for several years.

“During this time, I wrote a little, but it was mostly a hobby,” he said. “And then my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby, at which point it was decided I was going to be a stay-at-home dad. Literally the next day I started working on “Mosquitoland.” It took two years to write. I joined a group called SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and found a community of writers, and when the time came, I found a literary agent who sold the book to Penguin.”

He is excited to talk with writers about writing and his process during his author talk. Attendants will be allowed to ask him questions throughout.

Part of his writing process is “to bleed on the page,” he said. “If you’re going to make something that matters, you have to be willing to go places you don’t want to go. You have to do things that scare you. Art reflects humanity: if what you’re creating is perfect, that means it’s not human; it’s just robot art, which I don’t find very interesting.”

Because Arnold’s characters are human and not robots, they may say or do “morally questionable things,” he said. This “reflect[s] the authenticity of character and story. If I am to write my most authentic character — and really, if I’m not doing this, what’s the point of writing at all? — then that character is going to say and do morally questionable things. I’m a huge fan of the late musician Elliott Smith, and I often credit him with teaching me that an honest voice is more compelling than a pretty one. This is true of all art.”

Arnold said that he is hesitant to give writers advice, as writing advice that works for him may not work for everyone. Regardless, he did give three bits of advice. First, he said, “Read a writer who doesn’t read is like a chef who doesn’t eat.” Second, he said, “Don’t be afraid to cry. I cry all the time while I’m writing, and I know it sounds weird. But if you’re writing something that scares you, or something that really touches a nerve, it means you’ve found something real. And that’s the trick, really.” Third, he said, “Find a community. This can be one other person or a dozen, but find likeminded artists. You need other people in your canoe.”