Friday, January 13, 2012

Gary Schmidt Visits Lawrence

Award-winning author Gary Schmidt was our guest last night for the third annual Author Night for 5th and 6th grade students and parents. It was a great evening. A wonderful storyteller, Gary kept the audience filling the library rapt for a full hour before inviting questions, which continued enthusiastically for another half hour. His premise that "It's all about the story" seemed to ring true; students continued to retell story after story today as we reviewed his visit.

Gary's books (among them the touching historical fiction novel Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and his riveting Okay for Now) have central characters who struggle with their place in the world yet come out, over the course of the story, in a better place. Quoting Ezra Pound, Schmidt maintained that a book ought to singe one's hands, bringing the reader to new awareness. His books do just that. He also shared many writing hints -- such as his own discipline of writing 500 words a day on his manuscript and not believing in writer's block ("Move to another location in the story, start writing, and see if you can join the threads").

Gary has already received the Newbery Honor Award for Lizzie Bright and for The Wednesday Wars. His fans, including me, are keeping their fingers crossed that the newly-published Okay for Now will receive recognition this year in the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards ceremony on January 23rd. Good luck, Gary!