By Kim Walter
WOODSTOCK -- Ideas and thoughts were flowing Monday morning at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School.
Award-winning children's author Obert Skye gave presentations to each grade, encouraging students to write down any and all stories they might come up with.
Skye, author of the bestselling "Leven Thumps" series, the "Pillage" trilogy and the "The Creature From My Closet" series, said the basis for some of his plots and characters came from things that happened to him growing up.
He started with a story about his first time on the high dive - a venture that didn't end in success.
"I climbed these seven rungs to get there, and I got all the way to the edge of the diving board and completely froze," he said. "I couldn't do it."
Skye then moved to the focus of his presentation, which were the seven major points of being a writer. He told the students that every single one of them could write, but that their journeys must start with reading.
Although Skye admitted that he wasn't a fan of reading as a child, but thanks to a determined librarian, he came across Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and quickly fell in love. Skye said he also enjoyed Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," except that it wasn't as funny as he would have liked.
"Which leads me to my next point ... you have to brainstorm," he said. The idea for his book "Wonkenstein: The Creature From My Closet" came from combining characters from the two books he read at a young age.
Skye encouraged students to "write down every single idea, no matter how silly it may seem." He also said that, whether they like it or not, editing and revision had to be part of the writing process.
As a boy, Skye vowed to never revise anything he wrote. Now, he says, it's something that he does for months at a time, and it takes up a good deal of the publishing process.
"Sometimes it takes a lot of red ink to make things right," he said.
Finishing is one step that Skye said is "most important."
"You've got to finish what you start, because there are people waiting at the finish line to read what you've written," he said.
Getting back to his original story, Skye told the students that they have to take their finished product and "jump." He said it may seem scary to let someone in on what they've created, but that was just part of life.
Students in the audience Monday can relate well to Skye's characters, as most of them are around the middle school age, and deal with middle school problems. One character from his latest series, Rob, has "an annoying sister, doesn't like school and is interested in a girl ... just like you."
However, it's the way Rob chooses to approach challenging situations with courage that makes him special and changes his life forever.
Skye's two other book series are more fantasy based, an appropriate designation considering that the author claims he "never grew up."
"I walk away from any situation, any interaction, and write stuff down," he said. "But I've never liked things how they are."
Students were able to ask questions of the author, and while a few were about his profession and personal life, most were suggestions of new characters or story plots.
The outpouring of ideas encouraged school Principal Gina Stetter.
"Don't you see? You're already thinking about things you've read and seen, and you're putting them together and thinking like writers," she told students. "This is a great first start."
Over the past eight years, Skye said he's been "incredibly lucky" for the interest in his books. He said he's been approached to consider turning some into movies, while others are available around the world in a variety of languages. His most recent series will have 12 books total, and he's currently churning out about one and a half a year.
"I want these kids to start writing so they can be authors of the most wonderful, terrific books, and in turn, they'll also be authors of wonderful, terrific lives," Skye said. "You never know when an idea will turn into gold."
Skye will hold a book signing at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Hampton Inn in Woodstock. For more information on the author and his work, visit www.abituneven.com.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org