|Gary holding us in the palm of his hand|
Gary Schmidt is the author of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, which won Newbery and Printz Honors--and The Wednesday Wars, which won another Newbery Honor, among other books.
Gary's keynote was both moving and hilarious--a perfect combination. He started off talking about Border Collies, and how these dogs can show you a lot about life (and herding). Basically they tell you to pay attention to everything. Surprise is a gift that we should treasure.
Gary went on to talk about his schooling, how he developed his love for reading--and then had us all cracking up with his middle school tales of reading Shakespeare.
But when Gary told us all a story, he moved the room to tears. It was something he'd heard in middle school about a master violinist in Auschwitz. And when he was done, we understood why he said that that story changed him and made him devour books.
Gary didn't decide to become a writer until a fated museum visit where the words of an art teacher inspired him to "see" Monet in a different way--not easy for someone who is colorblind.
The keynote then turned back to the funny as Gary read to us from letters he received from kids. The audience was roaring with laughter, and then of course, Gary started reading the letters from kids who his stories affected in deeper ways.
Gary Schmidt told the audience that if there was one thing he wanted us to take away from this conference, it was this:
"Write the stories and poems and drama that will give your readers more to be human with."
What beautiful advice.