Monday, February 13, 2012

An Evening with Gary D. Schmidt (and a giveaway)

Several weeks ago, Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt was my featured book on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. In fact, it's so recent you can scroll down five or six posts and wah-lah! there it is. When I wrote that post, I had no idea I would be hearing him speak just days after sharing my love for his writing . . . BUT I DID! And what an evening it was.

Last Wednesday, the evening before rehearsals began on the stage adaptation of Gary's Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Gary chatted with the artistic director of Minneapolis' Children's Theatre Company, and I was in the audience.

As he shared and inspired, he told the story behind the story for each of these books.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy arose from a family vacation in Maine where he uncovered the tragedy of Malaga Island. In The Wednesday Wars Holling Hoodhood is Gary as a kid. And in Flint, Michigan, there's a library--operating with hardly any budget and marvelous librarians--which houses an early version of Audubon's Birds of America but they refuse to sell it; this set the stage for Okay for Now.

Fascinating stuff. I love the story behind the story because it makes the story that much MORE than it already is.

Gary also discussed the way he creates his stories. He writes in what amounts to a shed (heated only by a wood stove) on a typewriter. Yes, on a typewriter. It slows down the process for him, he said, and makes him understand just how imperfect his drafts are. When he finishes a draft, he burns it in the wood stove and begins again. Wow.

Responding to a question about how setting is almost a character in his stories, Gary told how the nuances of place do become integral fabric and character in writing. Where we are becomes part of who we are.

Someone asked about the "standing up moments" in his books, those crisis points where his characters choose, decide, draw a line in the sand. Gary delved into discussion about kids (and adults) learning to do this very thing (and needing to do this very thing).

There is much more I could say about this humble, unassuming, personable man, but I will end with this. When I was getting my books signed, I gushed about how much my son and I love Gary's writing. And then I ejected the colossal burp. No, not a real burp but something just as embarrassing. I told Gary I'm working on a kid's book of my own. Sheesh. I try NOT to tell authors that because I'm sure they hear it all the time. Gary set down his pen, looked me in the eye, and said "Really?" He was genuinely interested.

Yes. What an evening it was.

But that's not all. I purchased a second (hardcover!) copy of Okay for Now and had Gary
sign it for one of you!

Comment on this post by Sunday, February 19th, at 8pm CT and be one of my blog followers
(if you're not already, just click on 'join this site') to enter the drawing.
International entries are welcome, and the winner will be
announced on Monday, February 20th.

Follow the MMGM links in my right sidebar for more great middle grade recommendations.
Happy middle grade reading!