Third-graders at Pinewood Elementary School in Marysville learned what it’s like to write a popular book.
Author Suzanne Selfors gave students in three classrooms the details of her “Wedgie & Gizmo” books and told the captivated students how she became an author. Selfors’ book is one of six used in this year’s Sno-Isle Libraries Mega-Fun, Biblio-Trivia, Rockem-Sockem, Third Grade Reading Challenge.
“We all start telling our individual stories with pictures,” Selfors said, showing a picture she drew in first grade of her with a smiling snowman.
Her mother took her to the library often, and Selfors fondly remembered the first book she fell in love with: “Harry, the Dirty Dog.”
“I checked it out so often that Mom eventually bought me my own copy,” Selfors said.
She still owns the book and pulls it off the shelf sometimes just to savor the smell of its old pages.
By third grade, Selfors had written poetry and started reading fantasy-themed books, such as “Stuart Little” and “James and the Giant Peach.” In sixth grade, she wrote “Pierre the Floating Pig,” about a pig that eats so much he balloons up and floats away.
Much as Selfors enjoyed writing when she was young, she didn’t get any encouragement to keep at it.
“I didn’t know this was a job I could have,” she said.
She set writing aside and the years passed. She finished college, got married and had two children.
With her kids in school during the day, Selfors suddenly realized she had time to write again. She wrote, and rewrote, and finally finished a novel for adults. She sent the manuscript to a dozen publishers with high expectations.
“I was so proud of myself,” she said.
Instead, Selfors got a dozen rejection letters.
“Rejection’s a very difficult thing to deal with,” she said.
For a few more years, she gave up writing again.
Then, a walk on the beach gave Selfors fresh inspiration. She saw two girls playing with a sea anemone in a tidal pool. She started writing and the words “poured out.”
Selfors sent the story to seven publishers. All seven wanted to publish it. That story became “To Catch a Mermaid,” Selfors’ first published book.
Selfors has since become a prolific children’s book author with 33 titles available through Sno-Isle Libraries. She said she’s usually writing more than one book at a time, and finishes a manuscript in four to six months.
Selfors’ real-life dog and Guinea pig, Skylos and Spot, inspired the characters Wedgie and Gizmo, she told the students at Pinewood. Just as Gizmo got his head stuck in a box of cereal, so did Spot. She showed the picture to prove it, and the students laughed.
One boy asked Selfors, “Why did you make Gizmo so evil?”
Wedgie came first, Selfors said. “Characters need to be in opposition. Wedgie needed an evil villain. And Gizmo is evil because it’s funny.”
Right now, 226 teams from 60 schools across Snohomish and Island counties are preparing for the reading challenge.
Since November, students have been reading Selfors’ “Wedgie & Gizmo,” “Here’s Hank: Bookmarks Are People Too!” by Henry Winkler, “Juana & Lucas” by Juana Medina, “Key Hunters: The Mysterious Moonstone” by Eric Luper, “Life According to Og the Frog” by Betty Birney and “Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows” by Asia Citro of Seattle.
Coaches test team members’ collective knowledge of each book with a series of in-school quizzes to determine which team advances.
The quiz competition has three rounds of eight questions each. A Sno-Isle Libraries staff presenter reads each question twice, then teams have 30 seconds to discuss their answer and deliver it to the presenter. Each correct answer is worth five points. Teams that finish in a tie enter a sudden-death overtime that ends when one team answers incorrectly.
Winning teams of the 60 in-school contests will compete in eight regional semifinal events scheduled for March 3-16. Special judges will include Edmonds City Council member Luke Distelhorst, Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Lance Gibbon, Lake Stevens City Council member Shawn Frederick and Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson.
The eight top-scoring teams from the semifinals will face off at the final quiz, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 23, at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. “Zoey and Sassafras” series author Asia Citro will be special guest.
The Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation supports the Third Grade Reading Challenge by providing books, prizes and T-shirts to participants.