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June 11. 2012 12:01AM

Bedford school embraces reading with workshops


Novelist Katy Grant leads a discussion on the teaching of writing with teachers at Ross A Lurgio Middle School in Bedford. The entire school, including staff, read Grant's novel "Hide and Seek" as part of an annual program. (SIMN ROS/Union Leader Correspondent)

BEDFORD — For over a decade, Katy Grant struggled to get her first novel published. Unlike the many authors who give up during such a period, Grant kept pushing.

“From the time I started writing seriously until the time I was published it was a 14-year span,” said the Tennessee native during her current visit to Bedford. “And to be honest, I credit my agent as the one who helped me to finally get published.”

Grant, who teaches writing at Arizona State University, was invited to conduct three days of workshops at Ross A. Lurgio Middle School. The entire school — including students, teachers, workers and the administration — had been assigned to read Grant’s teen mystery novel “Hide and Seek.” And the grand finale was for the students and staff to get to meet Grant.

Grant said she was astonished when the school’s literacy coach and reading specialist, Kate Schoedinger, contacted her. “I was amazed. I was humbled. I was stunned.”

“Katie Schoedinger contacted me in mid-August and sent me this email saying my book had been chosen,” she said. “It was such an honor.”

At Lurgio, Grant is teaching students the basic elements of fiction, including character development, showing versus telling and plotting as it applies to a beginning, middle and end.

Grant said there was one more thing that kept her going during those 14 years of rejection. “With that long span of time, I was at a point where I said if I never published I’d be OK with it, because at least I had tried.”

She also expressed concern for students who struggle with writing. Parents can help through storytelling, she said. “As humans we are imbued with a narrative impulse. We always tell stories. Any time there’s a tragedy we always want to know what the stories are about.”

Grant mentioned the September 11 attacks as well as the sinking of the Titanic. “The stories behind those tragedies are what we want to hear,” she said. “The people themselves might not be very literate, but they can tell stories.”

Katie Schoedinger recounted the story told in “Hide and Seek,” a mystery set in the White Mountains of Arizona.

“Katy Grant wove in the theme of homelessness, where a dad with custody of his son becomes homeless, but he doesn’t want to inform his son of that turn of events in his family’s life.”

The dad tells the kid they are going camping, and through a tale of “geocaching” and good deeds, the reader unravels a mystery.

Every year for the past 12 years Schoedinger has chosen a novel for the students and staff to read, something she calls a “community literacy building event.”

Authors who have participated include Andrew Clements, Obert Skye, Wendelin Van Draanen and Granite State scribe Sy Montgomery of Hancock.

For Schoedinger, getting to meet the authors is key. “It makes it authentic, it’s real, it’s validating, it’s seeing that these authors were at one time in another a seventh an eight grade student, and that they too wanted to write.”

“Kids gobble this stuff up because its so purposeful, it’s so real to their world,” she said.

Katy Grant’s visit was funded by a $2,500 Bedford Teachers Foundation grant.

She said again how thrilled she was to have been chosen to come to Bedford. “Reading is a solitary act, and yet (this program) has turned it into a community experience. If everyone is reading it then they can talk about it together.”

“Many times you read a book by yourself, and no one else has ever read this, and you can’t share it. So it’s that individual experience turned into a community thing.”

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Simon Rios may be reached at srios@newstote.com.


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