After Dan Gutman came to Waynewood Elementary School, Librarian Anne Muchoney knew she made the right choice in selecting him to come speak to the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th-graders.
"They [the students] have been reading like crazy; they've bought a lot of his books," said Muchoney, who organized his visit. Earlier in the month, Muchoney had asked Storyteller Pat Johnson to come speak to students in the earlier grades.
Waynewood Principal Daria Groover also knew that they had made the right choice. "We thoroughly enjoyed having Mr. Gutman at Waynewood. He related to the children and got them excited about reading and writing. He listened to their ideas for writing more books. Mr. Gutman answered so many questions about being an author that some students said that is what they want to be when they grow up," said Groover.
Gutman is the author of more than 40 books and spoke to students about several of his books, including one of his more popular ones, "Honus and Me." This book is about a boy who finds the most valuable baseball card in the world — the 1909 Honus Wagner T-206. The book talks about how the boy also discovers he has the power to travel through time, using baseball cards as his time machine. He goes back to 1909 and has an adventure with the great Honus Wagner.
Gutman spent the entire day at Waynewood, starting with an interview by Zach Perconti for Waynewood News. Muchoney said that students had written out questions that they wanted to ask of the author.
Perconti said, "I'm a big fan of Dan Gutman's books and I really enjoyed interviewing him. He is a really nice guy. Mr. Gutman told us about his new book series. He said it was about a school where the teachers are all crazy. In the book, Mr. Klutz is nuts. The principal does stuff like kiss a pig and climb up the flagpole." Gutman had lunch with Principal Daria Groover, Zach Perconti and 10 students who were randomly selected to join them. They were Torey Hammond, Charlotte Cummins, Jamie Odom, Leigh Orleans, Karen Munyan, Nikki Bak-Brevik, Sammie Kadonoff, Alexandra Baszkiewicz, Duncan and Abigail Welch. The rest of the day, he met with students from the four grades.
DURING HIS presentations, he started out with a slide show which let the children see a more personal side of the author—Dan sleeping, Dan trying to write, Dan playing and Dan just being silly. Then he talked a little about how hard it was to get "Honus & Me" published. Gutman said that even though he had already had several books published when he wrote this one, he was rejected by several publishers before he was accepted. He showed the students his collection of rejection letters and even read one which said, "I don't think that kids will find this subject as fascinating as adults."
After talking about each rejection, he said to the students, "Did I give up?" "No," they replied.
And as he went through his litany, the students were more and more caught up in his struggle, knowing all the time that the ending was a happy one. The important thing was that he made his point about not giving up.
After explaining how he thought about giving up, Gutman told how he was finally accepted by HarperCollins Publishers. He then went on to talk about what happens after a book is accepted—the multiple revisions that were required. He tried to make the students understand that by making corrections for their stories it will make them better writers. Gutman also explained how illustrations are selected for the covers of books. In his case, he had presented an idea for a cover to the publisher. They liked his idea, however, he was somewhat disappointed when they didn't use the photo of his nephew that he had presented.
Throughout his exchange, the students seemed very engaged and interested in what he had to say. Perhaps some of them will be inspired to become a successful author as well some day.