Digitally connect with New York Times best-selling author Dan Gutman with the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) on January 7 from 1-1:45 p.m., and experience an interactive story-writing exercise; ask questions; and explore a few of Gutman’s rejection letters.

Gutman, whose book series My Weird School has sold over 29 million copies, has always had a passion for writing but was a reluctant reader. He often finds himself encouraging children to read.

“I hated to read when I was a kid,” said Gutman. “I thought it was boring and hard to do. But, for some reason, writing always came naturally to me. So, I can really relate to those reluctant readers out there.”

He continued, “I hope that all kids read my books, but I especially try to reach kids who don’t like to read. And I know I do, because just about every day I get an email from a parent, teacher, or librarian about a kid who hated to read until he or she discovered my books. I didn’t get into this to save the world or anything, but it really feels good to write some silly words on a page and make such a positive impact on someone’s life.”

The author finds that his laugh-out-loud writing style is often what attracts readers to his works. He also believes that humor is a way to cope during the pandemic. 

“I tried to write funny books before COVID, but now I think humor is even more important,” he said. “Sometimes we just have to stop thinking about what is happening in the world and laugh a little. We’re all stressed. The news becomes overwhelming. It’s healthy to get away from it for a while.”

In addition to sharing humor, the author, with over 40 years of writing experience, believes that it is important to share his rejection letters with children so that they can understand the struggles that people go through before they become successful.

“They see authors, athletes, and entertainers and assume they got famous right away,” said Gutman. “By showing kids my rejection letters, I’m trying to convey the message that you can encounter obstacles in your life and overcome them. You shouldn’t give up just because you get rejected.”

He continued, “I tried writing magazine articles, with little success. I wrote a few screenplays, but never sold them. I thought I had some good book ideas, but publishers weren’t interested. I received hundreds of rejection letters. It was very frustrating, but I was very determined and persistent. I felt that I had some ability as a writer, but I didn’t know where to direct it.”

Gutman also offers writing advice that can be found in his book “My Weird Writing Tips.”

“I discovered a little writing trick that works for me, and I think it would work for anyone,” he said. “When you write something, look at your first draft and read it out loud. While you’re reading it, pretend that you are someone else. Your teacher. Your friend. Anyone. When you look at your writing through someone else’s eyes, you can see the mistakes you made, and you can make your writing flow better.”

Gutman would not be offering writing tips if it were not for libraries. The veteran author credits libraries for his career as a writer. 

“I wouldn’t be a writer today if not for libraries,” said Gutman. “When I was a kid, I remember going to the library after school to do my homework there. When I started my career, the Internet didn’t exist yet, and I did all my research at the library.”

He continued, “I still go to the library with my laptop, especially in the winter months, and I do a lot of my writing there. It’s just nice to be surrounded by books.”

“Gutman’s books are very popular among our customers,” said Karen Telesco, system program coordinator, youth services. “Library customers can prepare for his visit by checking out any of the 100-plus Gutman titles that we have in our collection, whether it be in print, e-book, or audiobook, your Library has you covered.”

#BeSafeAtHome and discover SCLSNJ’s librarian-curated favorite Gutman reads available digitally:

These titles and more are also available in print format through the Library’s physical catalog: catalog.sclsnj.org

”Because Gutman’s books span across multiple genres and reading levels, there’s bound to be a perfect match for any reader,” said Diane Valentine, youth services supervisor. “Whether they’re looking for something funny, adventurous, sporty, or a trip back in time – there’s a Dan Gutman book for that.”

Continued Valentine, “Once you hand a Dan Gutman book to a reader, they’re hooked. I’m so thrilled that our customers will have the experience to meet the author himself.”

Register to meet Gutman with your Library today: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/4644882.