Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Well-known author encourages GR students to write every day


Inspiring young children to write is something Green River residents want to continue to do.

One way to do this is by bringing well-known authors to the schools. Last Wednesday, students listened to author Roland Smith discuss his books and how he started writing. Smith has written novels, non-fiction books and children's books.

Smith visited with students from Monroe Intermediate School, Lincoln Middle School and fourth graders from various Sweetwater County School District No. 2 schools.

During his presentation, Smith told the students about a gift he received from his father. Smith had wanted a bike, but when he was five he received a typewriter instead.

Smith said he doesn't use typewriters to write his stories, but he does own a few, which he uses on weekends.

"I believe everybody here can write as good as me," Smith said.

The author who has written more than 40 books said, the key is to write every day.

Prior to becoming a writer, Smith worked at the Portland Zoo, in Portland, Ore., for 10 years. Smith spent about 20 years working with animals, including elephants, jaguars and wolves. He worked as a research biologist for 12 years. Most of his novels are based on his life experiences.

Smith said people need to write about what's important to them. He admitted that he writes from what he knows; and if he doesn't know about it enough it is time to research the subject to get a better understanding. When someone reads his book he wants them to see it in their mind as if they are watching a movie.

One of his books "Elephant Run," took 10 years to write. Even though Smith wrote other books during that time, he continued to work on that book.

Smith said he has been visiting schools for the past 20 years and he always gets asked what his favorite book is. He said he would always say it was too hard to pick. However, he said for the first time he truly thinks the favorite book he has written is "Beneath." This book is about a man who has to search for his brother who ran away from home and is living in a self-sufficient society living beneath the streets of New York City.

After discussing his books, Smith told the students he was going to give them tips on how to become a great writer. He also told them he was going to do it quickly so they would not remember, thus securing his future as a novelist. The students responded with a laugh.

His first tip for the kids was the research for his books always took twice as long to complete than the actual writing of the book itself.

"I never start writing a book until I finish research," he said.

Most of his research was done at local libraries or in school libraries. While Smith is researching, he puts information he wants to put in his book on an index card.

After Smith thinks his research is complete, he takes all of those cards and makes a story board out of them. He tries to put them in the order of how he wants the story to go. The cards help Smith stick to the story line; and it also helps him from getting writer's block.

Once the story board is complete, it is time for Smith to write a sloppy copy, also known as a rough draft.

"Every book you ever read, every book you ever loved, started off bad," Smith said. "The secret to writing is revision."

Smith is old-fashioned when it comes to writing his rough draft. He uses a pen and a notebook until the book is done. Then he transfers it to a computer where it is easier to edit.

Part of the revision process is taking out what doesn't belong there, he said. For example: for one of Smith's books he initially had 80,000 words.

When published, the book was about 60,000 words. He said a lot of this is from what editors felt needed to be cut out of a book.

He said someone who wants to be a writer, should get used to seeing a lot of red ink on their work. In his experience, 98 percent of the time the editor is right.

He encouraged the students to never become discouraged when they see that red ink on their reports.

It is merely there to improve the overall report, he said. At the end of the presentation, the students were encouraged to visit the Sweetwater County Library to meet Smith, have a book signed or purchase a book.


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