It's the Question that Drives Us

“Good stories start with a question and end with one,” author Gary Schmidt told us yesterday at an assembly gathering all the 5th – 8th grade students into our gym. “And good books—books worth reading—have a way of waking us up, making us ask those questions.”

Sometimes this massive world of ours can feel a bit smaller than it is. Case in point: one of my students’ mothers is on the alumni board for Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI), where Gary Schmidt teaches English. He just happened to be coming to San Diego on business, so she asked if he’d be willing to speak to our middle grade students about the writing process. Of course he accepted, because he’s a cool guy.

And—cue “It’s a Small World” music—he was my wife’s English professor in college.

She told me about him a few years ago, how he was writing and seeking publication while teaching full-time. I remember thinking that was something I could aspire to, that maybe someday I’d be doing the same. Maybe when I was forty, when being a teacher was no longer the all-consuming challenge it is today. By then, I might have it all together.

Wednesday Wars is one of Schmidt’s most recent novels, and it’s hilarious—yet poignant. Somehow he manages to pull it off. It’s based on his own life, growing up in the ‘60’s, with all the hijinks of 7th grade set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, political assassinations, and the draft. He writes about what he knew. And he was awarded a Newberry Honor for it.

Did I tell him about “Hero for Hire”? Of course. Did I scribble down the link to A Fly in Amber? You betcha. Because I, too, write what I know.

Sort of.
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