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Q: Did you always want to become a writer?
A: Nope. In high school, I wanted to go to the Naval Academy at Annapolis and become a career naval officer. Then, late in high school, I wanted to be a vet—mostly because of the James Herriot books and the PBS show, I suppose. Then, in college, I decided to become a lawyer—until my senior year, when I switched to an English major to become a teacher, which I did become. Somehow becoming a writer happened along the way.
A: In my school, we were tracked—meaning that we were put into classes depending on how well we had done in testing. This happened in first grade. I had tested poorly and ended up in the pumpkin group—no kidding. We were the poorest readers, and so since I was told I wasn’t any good at this, I didn’t read much. Then I got taken up by Miss Kabakoff, who just liked me, and who brought me into her class and taught me how to read.
Once that happened, I read everything I could. The Freddy the Pig books, the Doctor Dolittle books, any Greek mythology I could get my hands on, and the Norse mythology that I liked better, the biographies in the Childhood of Famous Americans series, the tales of the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, the Herbert series and the Henry Reed series, Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson, Howard Pyle’s The Adventures of Robin Hood and His Merry Men, Bambi (which is a lot better than most people think it is), anything by Jack London or Jules Verne or H. G. Wells, the Horatio Hornblower books, Treasure Island, and of course the Hardy Boys series and the Tom Swift series, which I collected whenever I could.
Q: How often do you write?
A: Every day I am not teaching—so two or three days a week, and sometimes at night—unless it’s really cold out and the woodstove needs a lot of tending.
Q: How much do you write each day?
A: I work on three projects at a time, and they are all at different stages. One may be a first draft, one may be almost finished, and one might be in proofs—or perhaps just being conceived. I try to write about five hundred words a day on each project. Most American writers—Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Jack London—all wrote about five hundred words a day. It seems the right pace for me. It keeps me from going too fast at a project.
There are some children’s book writers—like Enid Blyton—who supposedly wrote ten thousand words a day. This seems impossible to me, but even if it is true, one should not judge oneself by the absurd outlier.
Q:Where do you write?
A: I have a study in a small outbuilding away from the house. It has a desk, a lamp, more books than should be in any one room, and a woodstove. I work at a typewriter, and keep lots of scrap paper around me. This means, by the way, that if anything comes out pretty awful, I can just open the woodstove and burn it all. The feeling of relief is remarkable.
On my desk are a dictionary and a thesaurus, books by Emerson and Whittier and Longfellow and Darwin, Henry David Thoreau’s journals, a collection of Churchill’s war speeches, two volumes of Shaker hymns, some Tolkien, some Avi, some Katherine Paterson, some Elie Wiesel, The Giver, and a statue of a greyhound that has been in my family for four generations.
Q:You work at a typewriter?
A: You can’t believe how hard it is to find typewriter ribbons for a 1953 Royal.
Q: Your books often are very serious. Shouldn’t you lighten up?
A: You think life in middle school isn’t serious? Are you kidding?
Living is a serious business. Funny is good, of course. We all like to laugh. But I want more than that. Much more. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his first great book, called life "a veil of gloom and brightness." We all wish it could be brightness all the time. And maybe for some people it is. I doubt it, but maybe. But there is gloom for us all, too. And maybe books even for kids shouldn’t ignore that. Geez, read Where the Wild Things Are, or Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, or just about any Grimm folktale, or Crow Boy, or Bridge to Terabithia, or Nothing but the Truth, or No, David, or Octavian Nothing, or The Tale of Despereaux, or Stitches, or The Storm in the Barn, and then try to tell me that writers for kids should try not to be too serious.
Q: What is your favorite book that you have written?
A: Hmmm... If I give one title, then all the other books get sort of cranky and jealous, and they start to rearrange themselves loudly at night to push each other off the shelves. Then I have to pick them all up in the morning instead of walking the dogs and then the dogs get irritated and they take their sweet time on the walk so I get back home late and miss most of breakfast and the kids get to school after the bell has rung and the day just goes downhill from there.
Let’s just say they’re all my favorites.
Q:What is your favorite book that you have not written?
A: An easy question. It is The Little World of Don Camillo. There is no other book like it, so sweet, so funny, so moving, sometimes suspenseful. I wish I had written it.
Q:What book are you working on now?
A: Sorry. Writers should never talk about what they’re working on next. It will be done when it’s done, and then I’ll be glad to talk about it. But not now.
"This is Schmidt's best novel yet—darker than The Wednesday Wars and written with more restraint, but with the same expert attention to voice, character and big ideas."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Reproductions of Audubon plates introduce each chapter in this stealthily powerful, unexpectedly affirming story of discovering and rescuing one’s best self, despite family pressure to do otherwise."—Booklist, starred review
"Readers will miss Doug and his world when they’re done, and will feel richer for having experienced his engaging, tough, and endearing story."—School Library Journal, starred review
"The book is exceptionally well written. Schmidt creates characters that will remain with the reader long after the book is done. Doug’s voice is unforgettable as he tries to help and protect his mom. . . .While there is much stacked against him, he is a character filled with hope that the reader cannot help but root for. Push this one on readers; they will not be sorry. . . .Schmidt writes a journal-type story with a sharp attention to detail, patterns in the story line, and an unexpected twist at the end."–VOYA
A National Book Award Nominee
I highly recommend this book for young adult readers on up!
These books do this by engrossing the reader in the lives of the main character and making you feel like you are living with them and that they are your friends.
In a companion to his acclaimed novel, The Wednesday Wars, award-winning writer Gary D. Schmidt revisits the Vietnam era in Okay for Now.
Okay For Now is a good book, the main character, Doug, is a young man who moved to " stupid Marysville"
in the start of the book because his dad lost his job and he... Read more
This book....this is a fantastic book. I had it on my "To Read" shelf for a long time, but never bothered to get around to reading it. And do you know why? That cover. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Ryan
Wonderful story about a young boy and what life has to give him. Against strong opposition the main character overcame prejudice and resentment, proving himself every day.Published 29 days ago by R. Schroeder
I got this book for my daughters summer reading program, she really enjoyed the book. I read it too and though it is written from a child's perspective, I felt it was a well told... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Christopher C. Ventola
Wonderful addition to "Wednesday Wars"! I love the way Gary Schmidt writes! This book gives insight to what may be going on inside someone whom we would judge by their... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Excellent book for young and old alike. Real characters with real problems and the determination to overcome.Published 1 month ago by Patricia C Schickler
Some of the best YA literature you will read. My grandchildren like it as much as I do. Of course the NY Yankees being in it doesn't hurt!Published 1 month ago by Bubbles
I loved this book especially how Doug stayed with lil during all her troubles and overlooked her having no hair and being all wired up I give this book 100%Published 2 months ago by rachel