Stars inspire film student to write kids’ lit

By ALEX HEIDEMA/Montana State News

Joe Schadt, a 23-year-old film student at Montana State University, is used to writing screenplays, academic essays, and poems for his peers and professors, so his newest target audience might come as a bit of a surprise. He is writing a children’s book for 6-8-year-olds.

Schadt’s book, “Annie in the Dark” tells the story of Annie, a brave little girl who follows a lightbulb’s power cord to try and save mankind before the lightbulb goes out forever.

The Montana native says the inspiration for his story came from a personal experience during a recent camping trip.

“I was walking around at night with a lantern for a long time, and then decided to turn it off, only to realize that I hadn’t been able to make out the stars above me because of the way staying in the lantern’s glow was affecting my eyes,” Schadt said.

After leaving his lantern behind, Schadt was able to see just fine with only the light from the stars.

“I realized I didn’t need the help the whole time, and saw a lot of potential in the event as a metaphor” he said.

From there, the idea to recreate this experience in writing was born. The decision to make it a children’s book, however, was unique for Schadt’s preference of audience. Schadt has never dreamed of writing a children’s book. He said, “That part came from a long and painstaking process of finding the right medium to tell the story through.”

Eventually, Schadt decided a children’s book was the best way to share his story. “I’ve come to the conclusion that children’s stories, in any medium, have a huge amount of potential to provide a positive cultural influence, which is what I want to do more than anything else.”

Connor Murnion, Schadt’s friend since preschool, shared some insight on the book saying, “The aim of the book is to give kids the courage to face darkness, both metaphorical (as in the dark parts of life) and literal, and to enjoy the challenge and beauty of living in a world with darkness. “

Murnion believes Schadt is writing a book geared toward children about this metaphor because adults tend to be stuck in their own ways and may not be as responsive to a new way of thinking.

“Younger people are more receptive to new ideas and won’t discard them out of hand just because they sound different than what they’ve been told before,” Murnion said.

Writing a children’s book is not an easy task, however.

“There’s certainly more to it than I anticipated,” Schadt said. “ ‘Annie and the Dark,’ my story, is technically an Easy Reader, which means it needs to be 32-56 pages long.”

When it comes to publishing, Schadt hopes to get his foot in the door through a friend. He said, “I’ve been very lucky to find myself connected to an award-winning children’s book author named Kathleen Krull through a relative, so ideally she’ll be able to give me a few pointers as far was direction to go from here.”

Tom Hanchett, a high school friend of Schadt’s is illustrating the book. Schadt says he is a wonderful artist, but living in Phoenix has caused stress between the two while trying to communicate. Regardless, Schadt said, “I am highly confident that together we’ll be able to make something that little kids will really treasure.”

These continuous ideas and dreams have given Schadt a reputation among his peers as being a creative entrepreneur.

“I think he’ll be well on his way to becoming a multimedia culture creator and leader. The man has big ideas and a big voice. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t end up pretty quickly coming into a solid reputation as a filmmaker and writer,” Murnion said.

Where did Schadt get this creative spirit from? Schadt said his parents and two sisters have had the biggest influence on him, along with famous artists Drake and Beyoncé. His older sister Audrey said that growing up, she always knew that Schadt’s uniqueness was going to lead to big things for him.

“Joe is as strange as he is ambitious,” Audrey said. “I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t end up in a career that matches that.”

– Edited by Lauren Shun

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