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Marsha’s Smithsonian Notable book THE PUMPKIN RUNNER is still “running” strong after 22 years in print. Come explore how ultra-marathoner Cliff Young inspired a nation with his good heart, sharing spirit, and perseverance. We'll also explore writing fiction stories inspired by real people, places, and events.

Marsha Diane Arnold

45 Minute Program



In 1983 a surprising entrant entered a race between Sydney and Melbourne – a 61 year old potato farmer with an indomitable spirit. Marsha first heard about this story from a short paragraph in Sports Illustrated magazine. When she heard it, she knew she had to write a picture book about this old runner from Australia. Her book is fiction and her main character is Joshua Summerhayes, but it was inspired by a real race and a real man - Cliff Young.

Schools still celebrate the spirit of The Pumpkin Runner. Walter Jackson Elementary celebrates their annual Pumpkin Run day at the end of October. It’s an all day affair and the whole community takes part in the mile run. They run for the joy of it, just like Cliff Young.

The Pumpkin Runner was inspired by a real person and a real place and a real event. Marsha’s bilingual Galápagos Girl was also inspired by a real person, place, and event. She’ll include a comparison of the two and how real people, places, and events can inspire your story too.

About the Author

Called a “born storyteller” by the media, Marsha Diane Arnold’s award-winning picture books have sold over one million copies and been called, “heartwarming,” “whimsical,” “uplifting,” and “great read-alouds.” Her books have garnered honors like Best First Book by a New Author, Smithsonian Notable, and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Her recent bilingual Galápagos Girl’s honors include Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, Campoy-Ada honor book, and the 2020 Little Read Lakeshore Community Read. Badger’s Perfect Garden’s honors include the Growing Good Kids Excellence in Children's Literature Award. Marsha’s primary joys are family, books, and nature, which are reflected in her books.

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