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Ask Avi how you know when you're a real writer and his answer is ...
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Ask Avi how you know when you're a real writer and his answer is simple: "I think you become a writer when you stop writing for yourself or your teachers and start thinking about readers." Avi made up his mind to do that when he was just a senior in high school.
Avi was born in 1937 in New York City and was raised in Brooklyn. Kids often ask him about his name. "My twin sister gave it to me when we were both about a year old. And it stuck." To this day, Avi is the only name the author uses.
As a kid, Avi says, he was "shy, not into sports, but someone who loved to read and play games of imagination." He did not consider himself a good student, though. "In elementary school I did well in science, but I was a poor writer. When I got to high school I failed all my courses. Then my folks put me in a small school that emphasized reading and writing." What made him want to become a writer? "Since writing was important to my family, friends and school, it was important to me. I wanted to prove that I could write. But it took years before I had a book published."
Avi didn't start off as an author of children's books but as a playwright. It was only when he had children of his own that he started to write for young people.
When asked if writing is hard for him, Avi gives anunequivocal YES. "But," he goes on, "it's hard for everyone to write well. I have to rewrite over and over again, so on average it takes me a year to write a book." Where does he get his ideas? "Everybody has ideas. The vital question is: What do you do with them? My wife, a college teacher, uses her ideas to understand literature. My rock musician sons shape their ideas in to music. I take my ideas and turn them into stories."
Avi's advice for people who want to write: "I believe reading is the key to writing. the more you read, the better your writing can be." He adds, "Listen, and watch the world around you. Don't be satisfied with answers others give you. Don't assume that because everyone believes a thing, that it is right or wrong. Reason things out for yourself. Work to get answers on your own. Understand why you believe things. Finally, write what you honestly feel, then learn from the criticism that will always come your way."Avi's many award-winning books for young readers include the Newbery Honor Books Nothing But the Truth and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, as well as more Tales from Dimwood Forest, including Poppy, winner of the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, Poppy and Rye, and Ragweed. His many other books include tales of mystery, fantasy, and historical fiction for young readers of all ages.In His Own Words...
When I was small, I was read to continually. My grandparents were always telling stories. Our house was filled with books. I saw adults read. Hardly a wonder, then, that I becane a early reader of all sorts of things — books for childern, comic books, science magazines, history books — anything in which I could fing a story. There was kids' radio too, which I adored. Even so, writing didn't interest me.
It was in my junior year of high school that a great crisis took place: My English teacher informed my parents that I was the worst student he ever had. That summer I was required to spend a lot os time with a family friend, a teacher, who tutored me in writing basics. She gave me something even more important: a reason for writing.
Writing, she taught me, was not just for myself or for some teacher. It was a way of sharing ideas and stories with many. With that notion in mind, I set out after that summer to be a writer, though it wasn't until I had childern of my own that I began to write for young people.
I believe that as a writer for kids, I have three basic options. The first is to write as well as I can. The second is to be honest. The third is to create a vision of possibility. It doesn't matter if that vision is happy or tragic, funny or serious. What does matter is that I show that life is worth living, that we must at least try to fulfill the promise of ourselves. As one of my characters once said, "A good childern's book of promises. And promises are ment to be kept."
I really enjoy meeting my readers. Each year I visit schools and classrooms, and talk to young readers, teachers, and librarians all over the country. We talk about books, the writing and reading of them, how books affect — even change — their readers. It's a good life.
When the first mate of the freight boat Neptune falls ill, it is up to Abigail, the captain's daughter, to steer the ship up the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York City.