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Local teen ‘prodigy’ set for book release

Laurie Everett • Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 11:20 PM

His mother read "Beowulf" to him when he was 2 years old and he was reading on college level by third-grade. 

Robby Midgett is a 15-year-old student at Wilson Central High School. He’s about to launch his debut sci-fi novel called “Vagabonds.” Midgett somewhat scoffs at the term “teen prodigy” and totally rejects “boy phenom.”

“I’m, by no means, an honor student,” he said with a laugh.  

And while he said he “sucks” at math, he does have an innate penchant for penning words and wrote his first screenplay at age 11.

Midgett, who is a middle child, leaned toward words early, said his mom, Krys.

She said she was taking an English literature course when he was 2 years old. His bedtime story was the epic, "Beowulf."

“I thought I was killing two birds with one stone,” said Krys. “But when he remembered the characters of the poem a year later, that’s when I knew there was something special about him.”

Though Midgett is now in public school, for several years he was home schooled. 

He was reading simple books by age 3.

“My great-grandmother read to me and helped me learn to read books,” he said. 

He was reading quite well before kindergarten. 

“I just enjoyed reading and wanted to progress very young,” said Midgett. “My mom and dad let me read just about anything, as long as it was appropriate.”

Aside from his all-time favorite, "Beowulf," Midgett read books, such as “The Golden Compass,” at an early age. 

Though he tackled a screenplay at age 11, he admits it “was terrible.”

He turned to writing fiction. It was “superhero-type” storylines.

“I tried everything,” he said, horror, fantasy, general realistic comedy.”

While it may seem such a gifted child would be a teacher's pet, Midgett said he's quite the contrary.

“Teachers in the past didn’t seem too fond of me,” he said. “A teacher asked us to write a scary Halloween story. She found mine too violent and tore it up.”

This would discourage most kids, said Midgett.

“It only encouraged me to keep writing,” he said 

His freshman year at Wilson Central he met Josh Mauthe, who became his English teacher.

“He was the most encouraging,” said Midgett. ‘”I learned a lot about authors. His class was my last block, and it was great and much better than the rest of the day.”

“Robby was a great student to have in class,” said Mauthe.  “I had him his freshman year, and even then, his talent, intellect and personality were undeniable. I wish I could say that I influenced him to write, but I don't think I can; 'Vagabonds' was already on its way to publishing when I met Robby, but we did spend a lot of time talking about plot points and specific scenes and how they played out." 

Midgett started writing "Vagabonds" when he was 13 years old. He was inspired to write the story after he saw an image on the Internet.  That image morphed into the character, Zeph, who was to be the hero of the story, but ended up being the “wild card.”

"Vagabonds" is published by Same Old Story Productions and can be found at nearly all bookstores and on the Internet. It’s about a group of teenagers whose lives are turned upside down when their peaceful world is invaded. Forced to travel from their destroyed homes, the teens forge new friendships and do nightmarish things to survive.

Midgett said a Regina Spektor song, “Blue Lips” also helped inspire the book. Her songs evoked images in his mind and helped shape characters.

“Much will no doubt be made of the fact that 'Vagabonds' comes from a 15-year-old writer, and while that fact deserves attention, to focus too much on that detail would be to miss out on just how rich and intriguing a story 'Vagabonds' is on its own terms,” said Mauthe, who has a blog and reviews hundreds of books of all genres. 

This young man said there was no real organization in writing the book, whenever he got a laptop he’d start to write. 

“But, now that it’s published I’m pretty pleased,” he said. 

When he held the published work he said he felt, “ecstatic.”

“It was amazing,” he said.

He will officially release the book at a signing launch party at Soulshine Pizza in Nashville on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Midgett will donate a portion of the proceeds all book sales to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. 

“I have a soft spot for children,” he said. “They are our future. These children deserve a chance to grow up and fulfill their roles.”

Midgett said there are several more books that can morph from "Vagabonds" in the future. However, for now he is writing his second book, “Life, Love and other Demons.” 

“It’s a realistic comedy about a boy who is going to boarding school,” he said. 

This young author plans to go to college and will most likely major in literature and psychology. He wants to teach literature to college students, and, of course, continue his writing.

When not penning, Midget enjoys video games and is a huge fan of film

“I love obscure movies,” he said. “They don’t have a high budget and have to really reach on little.”

His girlfriend for one year is the honor student, he said. 

“I think people would be surprised I’m not confident on anything I do,” he said, “I write because I enjoy it. I’d say I’m very pleased, but I would never say proud.”

Humble to a fault, Midgett does say he thinks his published book is “kind of cool.”

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