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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 school embraces reading with workshops

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


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