Bestselling author imparts valuable life lesson at Dartmouth Middle School

Mar 30, 2024

Failure is inevitable—and that’s not always a bad thing, according to author Dan Gemeinhart, the author of several children fiction novels such as “The Honest Truth,” “Scar Island,” and “The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise.” 

But Gemeinhart doesn’t attribute his success as a New York Times bestselling author to talent. Rather, he said it was his determination in the face of rejection—99 rejections to be exact—that kept him going.

Traveling to Massachusetts from his home in Washington state, Gemeinhart shared his story in a presentation March 26 at the Dartmouth Middle School auditorium. 

Hard work doesn’t guarantee immediate success, he said. Gemeinhart wrote several books before he eventually made his debut as a published author with “The Honest Truth,” a book about a young boy who dreams of climbing Mount Rainier. 

Although his first five books remain unpublished and are now languishing on his laptop, Gemeinhart said he doesn’t regret writing them because those failures made him a better writer. Writing a book is hard, he said, but getting a book published is even harder. For ten years, he pitched his books to publishers only to be rejected time and time again. 

“I tried not to focus on whatever rejection or failure I got,” he said. “Instead, I tried to focus on my next step, on how I could get better and grow.”

Each rejection was an opportunity to learn from his mistakes, he said. 

“How can I make my 75th try a little bit better than my 74th try,”Gemeinhart said.

Gemeinhart’s visit was fully funded through the middle school’s Scholastic book fairs. Middle school librarian Laura Garder said Gemeinhart was their first and only choice. Gemeinhart’s visit comes on the heels of his latest book, “Coyote Lost and Found.” Many of his books are written for middle school reading levels. 

“We knew immediately that we wanted our author visit to be with author Dan Gemeinhart,” Gardner said. “We have read several of his books in summer reading and student book clubs all across the school. A huge percentage of our students have read one of his books.”

Gardner said she thinks Gemeinhart’s message will resonate with middle schoolers. 

“His message is all about the importance of hard work, and I think that’s a really important message for middle schoolers to hear,” she said. “If they want to achieve their dreams, it takes hard work, persistence and never giving up.”

Gardner said she believes Gemeinhart’s visit will inspire students to read more of his books and invigorate reading in general at the middle school. Growing up, Gemeinhart said that libraries were a consistent source of comfort as his family regularly moved from one town to the next.

“Everything else was always changing,” he said of his childhood. “Everything else was always being taken away. But wherever I went, books were always there, and books were always there for me … Books were kind of like my home, because my home was always changing. And books were kind of like my friends.”

It was his love for books that eventually inspired him to take action to become a writer instead of just dreaming about it. He stressed the distinction between dreams and goals, explaining that dreams are something you want and that goals are something you work toward. 

“Dreams only come true if you decide to make them come true,” he said.