Sixth grader Charlie G. introduced Mr. Gemeinhart to the group. Charlie informed us that Mr. Gemeinhart moved around a lot growing up and now lives in Washington State. He was a teacher and librarian for years until he decided to follow his dream of becoming an author.
Mr. Gemeinhart explained that his love of books and libraries started at a very young age. He switched schools many, many times and the one consistent experience in his life was visiting the library. Each new school had different teachers and different students, but the books in each school library were basically the same. “Books were always there for me,” he says. He shared a story of moving mid-way through a school year just as his teacher was reading aloud Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Mr. Gemeinhart was homesick at his new school and was so happy to find Hatchet in his new school library. St. B’s boys connected to this anecdote right away, as they all have read this book too.
Mr. Gemeinhart always talked about becoming a writer. But one day, he realized that his dream would remain just that until he rolled up his sleeves and started doing the work. “Dreams only come true if you decide to make them come true,” he tells us. “A dream is not the same thing as a goal. A goal is something you work toward.”
Becoming a published author is no easy feat. Mr. Gemeinhart wrote five novels over ten years before getting published. He is proud of those books as they taught him to be a better writer. The boys were flabbergasted to hear that Mr. Gemeinhart received 99 rejection letters from publishers and agents. Focusing on his next try kept him moving forward. “When life gives you chances to give up, don’t take them.”
Finally Mr. Gemeinhart talked to the boys about their life story. “What kind of character do you want to be -- the hero or the villain?” He shared a regretful story about not defending a girl getting bullied on the school bus in 7th grade.
Questions and comments for Mr. Gemeinhart flooded the Zoom chat. One fourth grader said, “This makes me want to go to the library and get a new book.” Another said, “I learned that I should stand up for other people and be the hero.” St. Bernard’s is so fortunate to have authors like Mr. Gemeinhart speak to the boys. This is made possible by the Kronengold Authors Fund, a fund established by Old Boys in honor of their second grade teacher Susan Kronengold.
Mr. Gemeinhart’s five novels, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, Good Dog, Scar Island, Some Kind of Courage, and The Honest Truth, are all available in the St. Bernard’s library and we eagerly await his next book, due out next year.