Gary Schmidt, author of 'OK for Now,' visits Wood Middle School

Students at Inza R. Wood Middle School wrapped up their participation in the seventh annual Wood Reads program with a visit March 5 from author Gary Schmidt.

Every student at Wood read Schmidt’s book “OK for Now” this school year, and they discussed it in various classes over time.

It was Schmidt’s second visit to the Wilsonville school. His book “Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy” was the inaugural title for the school-wide reading program.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Author Gary Schmidt autographs a copy of his book 'OK for Now' for seventh-grader Corsy Smith. A Newbery Award-winning author, Schmidt lives in Michigan. He estimates that he visits 40 schools each year to talk about his books and the process of writing. His books are aimed squarely at students in the middle school years.

“It’s a powerful time in everyone’s life,” he said. “Even though it’s not a time you’d necessarily want to revisit.”

Schmidt’s novel “OK for Now” tells the story of 14-year-old Doug Swieteck, who is forced to relocate with his family in 1968 from New York City to a small town upstate.

“He’s in the eighth grade in this book,” Schmidt said. “It’s such an amazing age. Next year, he’ll be in high school and considered an adult in many ways.”

The author met with all 715 Wood students in grade-level groups. His presentation to each group was tailored to that group’s age level, with certain common elements.

“One of the things I do is tell a couple of stories to start off,” Schmidt said. “In our culture anymore, we don’t have many occasions to sit down and listen to someone tell you a story, particularly if the speaker doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, PowerPoint and things like that.

“It’s wonderful to talk to a group of kids. It’s a privilege to be in that position.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Gary Schmidt discusses his young adult novel 'OK for Now' with seventh-graders in the Wood Middle School library March 5. Schmidt's appearance capped the yearlong Wood Reads program.Speaking to his seventh-grade audience at Wood, Schmidt discussed both his process of writing and details about the characters and setting of “OK for Now.” He also fielded questions from students, who were equally curious about the process and the characters in the book they had read.

Schmidt relishes the unpredictable nature of the interaction.

“You have to make each presentation unique to them,” he said. “Particularly in a middle school, an audience can tell in a second if this is a canned presentation. I want this to be a sense that, ‘He is talking to us.’”

Both Schmidt’s presentation and his book seemed to resonate with his audience.

Seventh-grader Abby Edwards served on the committee that selected the Wood Reads book for this year and next. She said she connected with the book’s message.

“When I read it, it spoke to me,” she said. “It was something kids hadn’t experienced. Your eyes would be open to a different experience.”

Meeting the author was “awesome,” she added.

“He told me where those characters came from,” she said. “It made me want to read the book again.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Author Gary Schmidt shows Corey Smith that the copy of 'OK for Now' Corey won in a drawing is a first edition. Schmidt later autographed the book for Corey.Corey Smith, also a seventh-grader, was chosen in a random drawing to receive a signed first edition copy of the book. He was pleased to win, he said, because the book also had resonated with him.

“I loved it,” he said. He was able to relate some of the struggles characters in the book undergo to recent events in his own life.

A student committee recently chose the title for the 2015 Wood Reads program. Next fall, all students at the school will receive a copy of “The Running Dream” by Wendelin Van Draanen. Many of them already were looking forward to it.

“I’m a reader,” Edwards said. “That’s my thing.”

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
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