Author Roland Smith of Portland, Ore., talked to Worland elementary students on Friday about how he became an author. He said it took him 20 years to learn what he needed to, to write books, but he would teach them in four minutes.
First, you must do a lot of research, he said, that includes a lot of reading. He said he spends about twice as much time on research as he does writing a book.
After research he develops a story board, or a plan for his novel, outlining scene by scene.
Then comes the first draft or what he calls the sloppy copy. He said he wrote one of books, Thunder Cave 12 times and another 15 times before it was ready to be published.
"The secret to writing is revision," Smith told the fourth graders in the first session Friday. You write it, review it and then make it better, he said.
He showed an example of one of his pages. It took him about 30 minutes to write the page and when he edited it, only one sentence survived.
"Just because you write something, doesn't mean it belongs," Smith said, adding that he cuts about 25 percent of this books before they are published.
When he was 5 he wanted a bicycle for Christmas. What he found under the Christmas tree that year instead was a typewriter. "It was my favorite possession," he said. "I grew up wanting to be a writer," he said.
But it took him a while to get there, while attending Portland State University, majoring in English, he needed a job and got hired at the Portland Zoo. He worked for 10 years at the zoo, and was the senior feline keeper before leaving the zoo.
He said he also worked on the red wolf reintroduction project as the captive coordinator, and also worked on the Yellowstone grey wolf reintroduction.
He has written more than 40 books, mostly geared toward upper elementary and middle-school aged children.
Smith said, "I believe everyone can write as well as me. I just know how to write a book." He said one thing that helped him learn how to write is reading. He reads two to three books a week, and has for 50 years.
What does he write about? "I write about what's important to me. You need to write about what's important to ..." he paused waiting for the children to finish and as they hollered "you." He said, "No, say 'me'" then had them repeat, "I need to write about what's important to me."
Growing up in Portland he said he loved bigfoot stories, even digging a pit in his backyard in the fourth grade to catch bigfoot. What did he catch ... his mother.
But he wrote a book about bigfoot and the legend of D.B. Cooper in his book Sasquatch. He then did a four-book series on cryptids such as the Loch Ness Monster, bigfoot and more. His series is "Cryptid Hunters," "Tentacles," "Chupacabra," and "Mutation."
In addition to writing about what you know, he told the students if they are looking at ideas, to look at photos and when a photo catches their attention, then write about it.
Smith has been visiting schools across the country from more than 20 years, visiting Wyoming schools several times but Friday was his first visit to Worland. He visited with K-fourth grade on Friday. He will visit with fifth grade students on Monday. He will also be visiting the Worland Boys School on Monday.
His visit to Worland is provided through the Washakie County Reading Council.