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David Grann Shares Stories, Advice with Hundreds of High School Students

April 29, 2024

David Grann speaks to the microphone

David Grann, author of the book, “Killers of the Flower Moon” told hundreds of high school students that it was important to continue to persist in your work, even when it was difficult. 

Grann is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and award-winning staff writer with The New Yorker magazine. His book Killers of the Flower Moon was successfully adapted for screen, directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone. Thanks to a relationship with the Idaho Humanities Council, Idaho State hosted Grann at the Stephen's Performing Arts Center on April 18, where he spoke to hundreds of high school students from 12 schools across Idaho. 

"I failed more often than I succeeded," he said. Then he spoke about his journey as an author and the drive that helps him persist and succeed in his work.

A large part of Grann’s message to students was how he immerses himself in research for his books, which he says take an average of half a decade to complete. As part of his research, Grann finds it imperative to visit the places he’s writing about.

“When you’re telling true stories you’re chasing these subject matters,” Grann said. “Sometimes you’re chasing ghosts because they’re no longer alive. Often you can’t understand what people went through unless you understand their places.”

As an example he shared his experience of going into the jungle to research his book, The Lost City of Z, also a major motion picture. He also related his experience working closely with the Osage Nation while writing Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon explores the Osage's history of exploitation and their acquisition of immense wealth in the 1920’s due to oil discoveries. It follows the author's modern-day quest to solve the century-old crimes and provide closure to Osage families.

Students had the opportunity to ask Grann questions. When asked about the experience of collaborating with acclaimed director Scorsese and the all-star cast, Grann expressed gratitude for the actors' dedication to historical accuracy, noting their efforts to reach out and inquire about historical details and the people they were portraying, whom Grann had spent years researching. Recognizing the distinctiveness of film as an art form, he emphasized the potential of the movie adaptation to broaden the audience's engagement with the narrative and its historical significance, and his hope that a film of such prominence will allow more people to experience the story and history. 

Many students wanted to know more about the impact and importance of the work Grann does.

Grann shared that one of the most fulfilling aspects of writing Killers of the Flower Moon were the lifelong relationships he’s formed. He also spoke of the importance of sharing stories, especially so that the voices of people who may not be heard, and the stories that might never be shared can be heard and better understood.

“I believe deeply in these stories,” he shared. “I tell these stories so people might learn more.”


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