published Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Author David Mark Lopez makes a case for literacy, history and magic

David Mark Lopez talks with third-graders at North Hamilton Elementary School on Wednesday. Lopez is a lawyer and author of a series of children's historical fiction.
David Mark Lopez talks with third-graders at North Hamilton Elementary School on Wednesday. Lopez is a lawyer and author of a series of children's historical fiction.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
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    David Mark Lopez, lawyer and author of a series of children's historical fiction, spoke at North Hamilton Elementary School on Wednesday morning.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

David Mark Lopez had his audience itching with anticipation.

The 65 third-graders gathered in the library at North Hamilton County Elementary School could hardly take it as Lopez's story reached an apex with a young girl about to be mauled by a grizzly bear. Then Lopez stopped to ask a question he had asked before.

"Do you want to know what happened next?"

"Yes!" the students screamed, their cries louder each time he asked.

"Well, you've got to read the book," he said.

Not a bad sales pitch.

Lopez, a children's author born in Chattanooga, is spending the week in the Scenic City sharing his stories and selling his series of books at area elementary schools. Lopez, 53, now lives in Bonita Springs, Fla., where he spends half his time practicing law and half working on his books.

So far, he has written, illustrated and self-published five books in his Maddie's Magical Marker series. Those books, initially written for his daughter Maddie, follow a young girl who's able to transport back in time with a set of magical markers. The historical fiction series takes Maddie back to ancient Egypt, Lewis and Clark's expedition, the Civil War, the Salem witch trials and the Revolutionary War.

Lopez said he started the books as a way to stay connected with his oldest daughter from his first marriage who lived with her mother in Atlanta. She was 11 when he started the series; she's now 20.

He said he enjoyed practicing law, but found his true passion in writing.

"It's a really deeply satisfying process for me," he said. "I'd always dreamed of being an author and writing."

Lopez, a graduate of Tennessee Temple University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said he's visited schools across the country but has made regular visits to Hamilton County in recent years.

He charges schools $100 for two presentations; he said he'll do about 18 here this week. After about 30 minutes of storytelling -- and plugs for the books -- Lopez signed copies of the books for kids who purchased them. The books cost $6 for one or $5 apiece for two or more.

North Hamilton's librarian, Linda Mulker, said the author's visit ties in to the school's literacy goals.

"We feel like them actually meeting a real author inspires them to read and to write," she said.

And the kids clearly had fun.

"It was awesome," Mulker said. "He really knows how to handle a crowd."

Third-grader Madison Vandergriff, 8, said she enjoyed the author's suspenseful storytelling.

"It made me really want to read all the books," she said.

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about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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