1. I’m reading Gary Schmidt’s new book, OKAY FOR NOW. In three pages I was completely sucked into the story, rooting for the main character. I would have read it in one sitting except that it was nearly 1am and I knew I should get some sleep.
2. Reading Gary Schmidt’s books makes me excited about writing middle grade and motivates me to get back to work on my two. Of course the flip side to that is if I play the compare game (hey, I know I shouldn’t do it but that doesn’t make it easy to stop.) and I realize how utter brilliant he is which makes me feel utterly ordinary.
3. Reading OKAY FOR NOW, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach very early in the book. That feeling you get when you realize another author has done something kinda sorta not exactly but somewhat similar to something you were going to do in your own book. It’s not like it was a super odd-ball character or unusual happening, the sort of thing that you could peg from book to book. No one else will give it a second thought. But I will at times. Sigh. And then I will remember the teeter totter of brilliance versus ordinary. And then I will just have to knuckle down and find my own brilliance.
4. In 2010 Gary Schmidt spoke at our local SCBWI conference at Asilomar. I was memorized. His talk about working with incarcerated students reminded me of my own work in similar situations. He made me laugh. He made me cry. I wanted him to adopt me. Okay, maybe not adopt me but I wanted to be one of his students. I know he teaches in some distance education programs but I can’t afford to sign on for a long term program. But I could afford some one-on-one time. I wish he would consider taking on a private student. Namely, me. (I have a similar writer crush on Beth Kephart and the same desire to somehow be a student in one of her classes some day.)
5. The first Gary Schmidt book I ever read was The Sin Eater, maybe 10 year ago. I remember being somewhat in awe, that you could write this kind of story, with this kind of emotion and so many layers for middle grade. I felt like it handed me a get-out-of-writing-jail free card and encouraged me to write my kind of books, the not-so-funny, probably going to hurt your heart kind of books.
If you haven’t read any of Gary’s books yet, you owe it to yourself to pick one up. Thanks Gary, for lighting the path.