When he isn't splitting wood at his 150-year old Michigan farmhouse, tending to his garden, or spending time in his office at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., author Gary Schmidt is writing about kids and their problems.
From a 14-year-old boy who just moved to town to a seventh-grader struggling through school in the 1960s, Schmidt is writing about issues kids of all ages can relate to.
Students in Bexley welcomed the two-time Newberry Honor-winning author and National Book Award finalist to town this week and got the chance to not only hear his stories, but to work on their own writing adventures.
In addition to working with students in grades 4-12 during his visit to Bexley Wednesday, Feb. 27, Schmidt also was scheduled to later appear at the Bexley Public Library for a free evening program.
Organizers late last week were expecting Schmidt's audiences to be captivated.
"As you know, Gary Schmidt is a two-time Newberry Honor recipient as well as a Printz Honor recipient," said Mike Nolan, Bexley High School librarian. "His works were popular among students before he was invited to visit Bexley Schools and he's become even more popular since. He writes about the moral issues, dilemmas and problems that young people regularly face and can relate to in a humorous, graceful and not heavy-handed way.
"Young readers can see themselves and their friends in Schmdit's books."
Schmidt's books Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars were both Newberry Honor winners.
He also is the author of Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert, Okay for Now, Trouble, Straw into Gold and Anson's Way.
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy also was the 2005 Prinz Honor winner. Okay for Now was selected for NPR's Backseat Book Club on All Things Considered.
Nolan said students get very excited when they get the chance to meet a celebrated author.
"The students study the author's works in advance, knowing that they'll be able to discuss the works with the writer when he or she arrives," Nolan explained.
"This gives them extra motivation to read the works carefully and thoughtfully and it obviously provides them the extraordinary opportunity of meeting a celebrated author in person. They can ask the author specific questions about their works, for instance, questions about why an author made a character behave one way or another, why the plot turned one direction rather than another, what the meaning of particular passages are, and so on.
"Often the students are curious about the process of writing and how the author got started."
Schmidt told students that becoming an author was not in the plans early on in his life. He wanted to become a naval officer, a vet, a lawyer -- but finally settled on English as a major his senior year in college and became a teacher. Becoming an author just evolved along the way, he said.
"I hope that students will be inspired by the visit to read even more of Gary's books and more literature in general and that they'll gain more insight into Gary's books, how they're constructed and their place ... in the storytelling tradition," said Nolan.
"I hope that Gary's visit will promote lifelong reading habits in our students. Meeting Gary in person will bring to life the fact that authors are real people and that students like ours can grow up to be authors.
"Perhaps Gary will inspire them to write their own books."