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August 17, 2004


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News Article
Author plans children's book about the Scopes Trial



By: Rachel Evans
Source: The Herald-News
07-21-2004

Kimberly Morris, author of over 50 books for young adults and children, visited Dayton last week to look at the 1925 Scopes evolution trial from a different perspective.

“You don’t always think about it, but children are the true eyes and ears of an event like the Scopes Trial,” said Morris. “They can go places where adults cannot. They can slip in and out of a place without notice. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to be a child who lives in a town where nothing ever happens and then, bang! There are suddenly reporters everywhere.”

Morris, who is from Houston, Texas, is working on a children’s book that will tell the story of the Scopes Trial from the perspective of a range of young characters representing the different demographics of Rhea County in the 1920s.

“At first I was just humoring my agent,” said Morris. “It was his idea that I write a story set during the Scopes Trial and I reluctantly agreed to check it out. But then I came to Dayton and found that learning about the trial is like eating peanuts. Every piece of information made me want more and before I knew it, I couldn’t get enough.”

Last weekend Morris watched the Scopes Trial play, conducted interviews with local experts and eyewitnesses, and even did some hiking in Pocket Wilderness to “get a sense of place” for her story, for which she hopes to have an outline by November. Writing a story that requires in-depth research is a new enterprise for Morris, who has primarily worked in the fast-paced industry of mass-market paperbacks.

“I’m used to working with the fast and furious,” said Morris, who has contributed to series like Mary-Kate & Ashley, Sweet Valley, ThunderCats, Muppets, Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock. “This project will take me through the slower, more traditional steps of writing a book and getting published. It will be a new experience for me.”

The biggest challenges of tackling a subject like the Scopes Trial will be addressing the great debate between evolution and creationism in a way that children will understand and “resisting the temptation to interpret the events through the lens of contemporary culture,” Morris said.

“‘Inherit the Wind’ really demonized William Jennings Bryan,” Morris said. “There’s always the temptation to make characters sort of cartoonish. But the truth is, most people are not that easy to pin down and most people really want to do the right thing; conflict arises when people disagree on how to do right thing.”

And conflict is the most important ingredient for a good story, Morris said.

“The Scopes Trial provided an opportunity for a lot of adventures for children,” said Morris. “One might work at the courthouse; another might be a runner for a news reporter; another may live in a house that hosted William Jennings Bryan or Clarence Darrow.”

Morris said the help she received from Dr. Dick Cornelius and the Rhea County Historical and Geneological Society was invaluable and that she found the Dayton of 2004 to be just as fascinating as that of 1925.

“I’m calling all my friends and family to tell them that we have to move to Dayton,” laughed Morris. “I really love it here.”

Rachel Evans can be reached at raevans@xtn.net.

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