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Authors Gary Schmidt and Romeo Ray share advice at Bookfest

Young adult author Gary Schmidt and poet Romeo Ray captivate the audience with their passion for writing.
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Check out other works by Gary Schmidt


Gary Schmidt

Gary Schmidt

Romeo Ray

Romeo Ray

Gary Schmidt emphasized the importance of asking questions during Saturday’s “Fire! Fire! Why We Tell Stories” presentation at Bookfest. “All stories start and end with questions,” he said. The young adult author captured the attention of both children and adults as he reminisced about his years as a camp counselor and a boy named Sidney who became a foundation for his characters. “Every kid I write about is Sidney, trying to find their place,” said Schmidt.

Rather than including messages or morals into his work, the author focuses more on having a good story. He believes that it’s the story that drives young readers and not the presence of adult guidance.

“I think you have to tap into what you were thinking in junior and senior high. What kinds of things were you thinking about and going on? Those don’t change. And once you start that, then try to be true to that so you’re not the adult looking over the shoulder of the young adult, but you’re really staying true to what the experience would be. And if you can do that, then you’re well on your way,” Schmidt explained.

Schmidt applies this advice and the lessons he learned after being published while teaching courses at Calvin College

Also sharing a love for writing, Romeo Ray was another individual who performed during this year’s Bookfest. The poet shared some “unspoken words” during the poetry slam, and even encouraged people in the audience to share some of their own gifts. “I don’t call it a talent. I call it a gift, because that’s really what it is, from the man above,” said Ray.

As a boy growing up in a house full of women, Ray kept to himself but began writing poetry in order to build up his verbal skills with the hopes of striking up a conversation with the girl living next door. Through writing he was able to develop metaphors and wrote his first poem called “The Girl Next Door.”

Following the theme of his name, Romeo Ray focuses a lot of his poetry on relationships and love. “Love is a universal thing anywhere, it speaks to anyone,” Ray said. He writes from an idea and not experience, and can been found scribbling on anything close by. The poet even admitted to writing on a pillow once when he didn’t have a notebook handy.  

Ray left the audience with one last piece of advice. “If you’re a poet and you know it, don’t be scared to say it and show it,” he said.

To read further works published by Gary Schmidt and Romeo Ray, visit the Grand Rapids Public Library (111 Library Street NE)

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