Saturday, June 4, 2011

A visit with Gary Schmidt

We had the best time with Gary Schmidt on May 15 and 16. He and his family came to the store on Sunday evening and he talked about his writing process and his new book, Okay for Now.

If you don't know, Gary is the author of the award-winning books The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, and a clutch of other equally wonderful books that you should either buy from us or borrow from your library, school or other. There's a good summer reading list for you! (This photo is of Gary and Judy, our children's book buyer, in The Den.)

Gary completely charmed (and horrified) us all with his descriptions of how and where he writes, and then reading from his book.

He writes in a little shed out back of his house- it has a wood stove, a desk, windows, a typewriter (one that uses paper and RIBBON!), and a dog "for ambience". He types and, when he is unhappy with what he's written, he unrolls it out of the typewriter and then tosses it into the stove. You should have heard the gasps that flew out of the mouths of the audience! People were appalled! Worried! He said something along the lines of: "That's right! There are no copies, no hidden texts, no backups, no bad writing out there to be dredged out of a computer and put out into the world". In our day, everything is photographed and staged, held onto "just in case", parsed and is so naughty to think that he just uses his unhappy work as fuel!

He read a piece out of Okay for Now that had most of us angry, furious, with people who take advantage of children, especially those people who are supposed to most love and care for them the most. Okay for Now is an amazing book about a boy dealing with a mostly awful life, a life that could tip one way into despair and growing up into an abusive parent, too, or with the lucky intervention of caring adults and friends, a man who knows how to do what's right.

I got to drive him (!), and his family, to his hotel after the event and it was a joy to hear him talk with and to his kids.

We went to schools the next day and he had the students absolutely riveted with the stories he told. Each ended with a question that pretty much ensured that you wanted to learn more. That point is where stories come from. The photo with the boy in the blue shirt (a library aide for Voyageur Middle School) isn't a good one for showing just exactly how riveted those kids were to his every word.

We sold some books at the schools, not a huge money maker, but the experience the kids had with the author of the books they love, was worth every bit of the time we spent there.

I think we still signed copies of Okay for Now. $16.99.

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