In Chris Crutcher’s upcoming novel, PERIOD 8, a group of students comes together every day during Period 8 to talk about (in the author’s own words) “the important things: hopes, dreams, fears, and the comedy and tragedy of their lives.” Teacher Bruce Logsdon, who runs Period 8, has only one rule—you have to tell the truth. No question is off-limits, no topic is forbidden, as long as the discussion remains honest.
If you’ve read his books or seen him speak, you know that frank treatment of tough subjects is a Chris Crutcher hallmark. Perhaps you are thinking, “Hmmm. I wonder how much of this Bruce Logsdon character is autobiographical.” We can’t exactly answer that for you, but we can offer you this exciting invitation . . .
In the spirit of Period 8, Chris Crutcher is taking real-life questions from teens, and he will answer them in a video to be posted on our teen community website Epic Reads.
Do your teens have burning questions they’d like to ask him? (Who doesn’t, right?) Encourage them to submit their questions on Epic Reads, and check back at the end of March for some video answers from this very wise man.
When it comes to relationships, there are always two sides to the story.
In Girl Meets Boy, 12 top young adult authors came together to create an anthology of diverse, original, he-said/she-said stories of love and heartbreak. One of these dual narratives is a collaboration between bestselling author Chris Crutcher and the mastermind and editor behind the book, Kelly Milner Halls. The two of them recently got together again in this exclusive author one-on-one.--Seira
Kelly Milner Halls on Girl Meets Boy: Creating Girl Meets Boy, a he-said, she-said anthology for Chronicle books was a new challenge for me because I am best known for creating high interest nonfiction. But picking the writers I wanted for my YA project was a no brainer. I wanted the writers about whom I’d written and I wanted the best. My friend Chris Crutcher is the best of the best, and he was my partner in our interactive story pairing. So I caught up with him to ask a few questions about writing for Girl Meets Boy, as well as a few questions about his upcoming Fall 2012 release, Period 8.
Kelly Milner Halls: How did you feel about contributing to Girl Meets Boy --the concept of two authors exploring the same plot points from two different points of view?
Chris Crutcher: It's a very interesting idea, and novel. Perspective is always an author's friend, and the idea that perspective alone can create two different stories from one point of view is intriguing.
Milner Halls: You created the lead story for the pair of stories we wrote together. Were John Smith and Wanda Wickham characters you created just for Girl Meets Boy or were they rooted in other creative projects?
Crutcher: They were created for Girl Meets Boy. I'm sure I've used pieces of their personalties elsewhere, but they were specific to this anthology.
Milner Halls: Have you ever considered writing a book from alternating points of view as Joyce Carol Oates did in Big Mouth & Ugly Girl?
Crutcher: I haven't read that particular book. Angry Management contains a novella that tells the story from three different perspectives. It's not all that hard to do.
Milner Halls: Girl Meets Boy is often controversial in the topics it examines including sexual abuse, homosexuality, transgenderism and inter-racial relationships. Is there emotional value in fictionalizing realistic life issues?
Crutcher: I'm sure there is, but the emotional value of any story comes from the reader.
Milner Halls: Which is more difficult, writing a full-length novel or writing a short story for an anthology like Girl Meets Boy?
Crutcher: It's probably a toss-up. Short story is easier from a plot point of view because usually it's about a single thing and there's not room for great complexity like there is in a novel. But short story requires word economy and straightforwardness to a degree that a novel might not. Writing Short Story is a great way to train for writing longer material.
Read the rest of the conversation between Chris Crutcher and Kelly Milner H
Chris Crutcher is the author of fourteen books -- eleven novels, two short story collections and an autobiography. He is also one of the most frequently banned authors in North America -- a fact he considers an accomplishment, rather than a drawback. Chris has been awarded the NCTE's National Intellectual Freedom Award, the ALAN Award, the ALA's Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, the CLA's St. Katharine Drexel Award and Writer magazine's Writers Who Make a Difference Award.
|Chris Crutcher giving his opening Keynote at #NY12SCBWI|
To a sold out room of over 1,100 rapt writers and illustrators, Chris is telling us about his background and childhood. He worked as a therapist with troubled youth (dealing with child abuse and neglect and illness) for over 20 years, and he couldn't use those stories, but after a while the underlying truths became the stuff of his fiction.
He's sharing where the narrative voice came from for his books, and then the inspiration for and genesis of the character Ben Wolf from his novel, "Deadline."
He's reading an excerpt from the book now. The room is still, listening to the words. Moved. Drawn in by the spell of it. On the verge of tears, and then laughing.
And then, Chris says,
I love to make people laugh, and I love to make people cry, but what I want is for someone to read my books and go, Yeah, I get it."
That spiritual connection, the "what is the book about." And he's sharing with us the moment he realized "Deadline" was about grief.
He's telling us the story of a child he encountered dealing with grief, and those of us in the room are rocked to our cores.
"The language of grief, and hard times can be pretty rugged, and we as writers need to tell them in their native tongue."
And one of Chris' best tips:
"If you're going to go down the tragic road, you want to go just as far down the comic road," explaining that you need to balance them out.
The room is up on their feet - an incredible opening keynote!
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It’s well-known in book-ish circles that it’s Banned Books Week. This week is a wonderful celebration of the freedom to read and to raise awareness against censorship. But one thing that comes up each year – by myself, included – is that Banned Books Week needs to happen every day of the year. As book people who are passionate about the right to read whatever one chooses, we must remain vigilant in supporting that right.
With that in mind, this week we’ll be featuring booktalks of banned books by well-known librarians, school media specialists, and bloggers. That way, you can support the freedom to read year-round. (Not to mention that, should you be working on your programs, these booktalks can set you on your way!)
So stay tuned and visit here all week for the booktalks. Before I post the first one, I thought I’d share what others are doing around the interwebs to celebrate this week:
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It’s Vacation Time around the office lately, especially now that ALA is over. But one of the delights of being offline is getting to catch up once you’re back online: it’s always fun to see that the electronic world has continued to spin even in your absence. Here are some of the posts I’ve read and loved since being back in the office:
- From Abby the Librarian: first, I loved her discussion of summer reading clubs – she’s had a phenomenal turn-out for hers…further evidence that libraries and librarians provide vital and popular services. I also enjoyed her post on ALA’s Emerging Leaders program. I was an ALA Emerging Leader (Class of 2008) and agree with everything Abby had to say – it really is a great program and I encourage librarians who meet the qualifications to apply (you still have a little time left – the deadline is August 1st!).
- Jenny Brown (of Shelf Awareness fame) over at twentybyjenny wrote a lovely reflection of Kevin Henkes’ JUNONIA: “For a child, sometimes the small shifts can feel like tectonic plates realigning their world. That’s certainly the case for Alice. And with Alice as a companion, children know that if she can survive all these changes, they can, too.“
- The Reclusive Bibliophile created a booklist “if you like cooking, baking, and candy making…” Some of my favorite foodie books are on there, and I’d love to add THE KING’S TASTER by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, and just wait until you read our upcoming BLISS by Kathryn Littlewood (February 2012)!
- Jennifer Hubert Swan over at Reading Rants reviews Candace Bushnell’s SUMMER AND THE CITY, the sequel to THE CARRIE DIARIES. It’s the perfect summer beach read (both Jen’s blog and SUMMER AND THE CITY)!
- Melissa Rabey at librarian by day has a fun cover comparison post that involves Chris Crutcher’s DEADLINE, and she also posted a review of P.J. Converse’s SUBWAY GIRL.
- A lovely review of
Chris Crutcher’s book Angry Management has been removed from a summer reading program because ONE angry parent decided that, after “reading” the first twenty-four pages, it had too much profanity. Yeah, you read that right. That offends me on so many levels. One parent gets to decide for the entire summer reading program, not just his kid? Based on only the first twenty-four pages–where swearing fit the context and the characters going through hard lives? And please–teens are not new to swearing, and there is so much on TV and movies alone. Why go after a book that gets the reader inside the character and offers insight?
I LOVE Chris Crutcher’s response–to send five copies of Angry Management to the local library near where the book was removed. You go, Chris! Smart teens will still access his book, and decide for themselves whether it appeals to them or not. And I think it will.
This is another book that is going on my to-read pile, now. I hope it’ll go on yours, too.
Huge improvement over the original (whitewashed) cover. Still don't think he looks like T. J., though.
Sometimes it takes more than one book to figure out what the fuss is about. You know, when you read your first novel in a certain genre or subgenre, or by a particular author, and you enjoyed it, but haven’t been converted into a fan. Then one or two or three books later, you stumble across the book that makes the proverbial lightbulb click on and you finally understand what the big deal is.
I’d read a couple of Chris Crutcher books before and liked them well enough, but (and this may be heresy for a YA librarian) I didn’t think they were all that amazing. Then I read Whale Talk and said, “Oh, so that’s why people are such big Chris Crutcher fans.”
So, Whale Talk.
Cutter High School is obsessed with sports. Which is one of the reasons T. J. Jones sticks out. T. J. (full legal name: The Tao Jones), adopted as a child by white parents, is “black. And Japanese. And white. Politically correct would be African-American, Japanese-American, and what? Northern-European American?” He’s one of the few people of color in town and one of the best athletes in school, even though he refuses to join any of its sports teams.
Sports, to T. J., should be about sportsmanship and competing against an opponent at his best. Not cheering when an opponent gets hurt or an obsession with letter jackets, like it is in Cutter. He’s also got a problem with authority figures telling him what to do, another reason why T. J. doesn’t want to play football or basketball, despite the avid pursuit of the coaches.
When one T. J.’s teachers, mostly in an effort to avoid being an assistant coach on the wrestling team, proposes starting a swim team, T. J. is therefore reluctant to participate at first. Until he realizes putting together a team consisting of people who “would look most out of place in a Cutter High School letter jacket” (namely, “one swimmer of color, a representative from each extreme of the educational spectrum, a muscle man, a giant, a chameleon, and a psychopath”) would be an excellent way of pissing off those people whose lives seem to revolve around said Cutter High School letter jackets.
Over the course of the year, a camaraderie develops among the swimmers. As T. J. battles for all swim team members to receive letter jackets, he confronts coaches, student-athletes, and one particular racist and abusive Cutter High alumnus who don’t want to change the status quo. Yet despite the (often unsubtle) messages and sometimes painful incidents T. J. encounters, the story does not feel didactic or heavy. The way Crutcher balances his storylines, T. J.’s relationship with his father, and, most notably, the angst vs. humor level, make Whale Talk an unexpectedly enjoyable read.
Part of what I liked best about Whale Talk is how it’s about racism, but not really *about* race. I know, this needs clarification. What I’m trying to say is that 1) while racism is an important part of the story, it’s not the only thing that’s going on; and 2) it does not provide internal conflict, but external conflict. T. J. doesn’t have a problem being mixed-race; he is who he is. Although some people have a problem with it, T. J. doesn’t allow it to define him or for others to use it as a way of denigrating him.
Book source: public library.
Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.
Looking Back on CWIM: The 1996 Edition
An Interview with Chris Crutcher...
I was flying solo for the first time as editor of the 1996 CWIM. The book was over 400 pages long, $22.99, had a new trim size--and was hardcover! I included three features on agents, a feature interview with Eric Kimmel, and Karen Cushman was among the "First Books" author interviews.
Among the Insider Reports in this edition was an interview with author Chris Crutcher. His oft-banned books pull from his experiences as a family therapist and are at once comic, tragic and honest. This excerpt from his 1996 CWIM interview offers some interesting comments on the YA market at the time:
Chris Crutcher loves to tell stories, and if his tales are enlightening to the reader, great. Otherwise, he is simply happy to entertain. He doesn't flinch that USA Today puts him behind only Twain and Salinger as author of the most banned books in America. His books make people think and argue, and that's exactly what he wants. Whether the subject is sexual molestation (as in Chinese Handcuffs), free speech (as in Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes) or the growing pains of adolescence, he hopes that this stories inspire readers to understand different viewpoints.
Although billed as a writer of young adult novels, and sometimes even as a sports fiction writer (which couldn't be further from the truth), Crutcher fights against categorization. Out of necessity, he defines himself as a writer of "coming of age" novels. "I seem to have gotten into a place that I didn't know existed, " he says. He cautions other writers of "young adult" fiction that sales are "pretty much by word of mouth, school journals and magazines. Early on, you're not going to get into any bookstores. Serious adult lit is going to get in."
He urges novice writers to starts at the beginning--write a good story. "The better you're able to tell the truth and pull no punches, that's how you get into the passion of the book, the intimacy of the character." Don't get too caught up in how others will respond. "You want no constraints on yourself as a storyteller."
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I have been out of my home more than I should be of late—at meetings, at conferences, at gatherings. I have not found the time simply to be. Last night, as I walked through the dusk of my city, Philadelphia, toward the ALAN cocktail hour at the NCTE event, I felt a floating disassociation from myself. I counted the things that I should be doing, the things that would never get done.
That welling was countered almost at once by the embrace of HarperTeen's own Laura Lutz (who is a dark-haired version of the young Amy Irving, I finally decided); by a conversation with the delightful Matt Phelan; by the long rat-a-tat with HarperTeen's Emilie Ziemer, not just a dancer herself, but an exemplary reader (and good soul). It was further improved by time spent with Jill Santopolo, and by listening, then, to writers talk about their process and their teaching.
Are you a lawyer? someone asked me. No, why? I wondered. Because you ask so many questions, came the answer. A familiar accusation.
There was a dinner after that—eating on stools, family style, in the Osteria kitchen; it was like a scene straight out of Top Chef. Chris Crutcher talked about freedoms of speech. Patricia McCormick was her extraordinarily lovely self (we share friends, as it turns out, and experiences in special places). Alessandra Balzer and Patty Rosati were gracious hostesses. I wasn't entirely sure, to be honest, just why I was there, how I fit—if I would ever fit—within that lit world glamor. But I was very glad to have been invited. To have touched down, for a brief spell, within that world of books.
Two of the banned books I read for the banned book challenge are also on my Fill in the Gaps list. And, one was on the list of doom, and one was one of Anita Silvey's 100 Best Books for Children: A Parent's Guide to Making the Right Choices for Your Young Reader, Toddler to Preteen.Whale Talk
I do love it when books count for multiple challenges!
Ok, first things first. All the editions of this book I've seen feature a white guy, running. WHY?! The book is about a swim team, and narrated by a black/Japanese/white guy.
Anyway, TJ is adopted and has some anger issues and goes to a school where athletics are everything and the letter jacket is the holy grail. Various coaches are always on him to use his full potential to help bring glory to the school and join a team, but TJ's having none of it. Then, he decides to form a swim team, which gives all the misfits he can find a chance to earn their own letter jacket and stick it to the system that's been making their school lives hell.
I did not love this one nearly as much as I was told I would. I mean, it was good, but I just didn't click with it. Mainly, I wasn't a huge fan of TJ, and the story is entirely in his voice. He's just... too good. His main problem is that he doesn't like jerks in authority positions (which makes him even better to a teen audience!) and his anger issues (but he only gets mad at the bad guys, and only lashes out at people we see are bad people and deserve it, so it's totally ok!) His self-righteousness annoyed me.
But, I lettered in academics and choir (yes, seriously) so what do I know?Julie of the Wolves
Jean Craighead George
My mother has been trying to get me to read this one since I was 10. I've been resisting for a number of years now for two main reasons.
I really, really disliked the other Jean Craighead George book I've read, My Side of the Mountain
I don't like survival stories in general. They're just not my thing.
But, I like my mom, and it's only of Silvey's 100 Best, so I thought I'd read it. Plus, it's often banned, so it fit with the challenge.
Miyax is 13 and has run away from her husband in Barrow, Alaska and is trying to get to Point Hope, where she can get a ship to San Fransisco, where she can go live with her penpal. She quickly gets lost on the North Slope and observes, then is adopted by, a wolf pack in order to survive. Along the way there's lots of information about wolf behavior (George spent lots of time observing wolves) and Miyax is torn between her traditional Native culture and the more modern, culture of the cities and lower 48 states.
First off, after reading this, I Google Maps'ed these cities to see where they are. HOLY CRAP! I mean, Barrow's up on the top of Alaska. Her journey is insane.
Anyway, I'm always wary of books written by outsiders to the culture they're writing about. George seems to have done a good job (but uses the word Eskimo instead of Inuit.) The issues of being torn between two cultures is good, but Miyax's view by the end of the book is very black-and-white. There's no gray areas, which bug me, but does match with a 13-year-old view's of the world. Although, the title is a blend of the cultures, as Julie is Miyax's English name, but her time with the wolves is spent in traditional clothing and living the traditional lifestyle she learned from her father.
But, when it boils down to it, Jennie doesn't like survival stories. I loved the descriptions of the landscape of the North Slope, but it was the flashback scenes of Miyax's life up until she ran away that I enjoyed.
What children take home in their heads and hearts is much more important than what they take home in their hands. – Bev Bos
Sometimes we get caught up in having the perfect plan, the perfect lesson, the perfect unit, the perfect curriculum, and our students producing the perfect pieces. This isn’t what really matters. A [...]
“Favorite Teachers Save Lives.”
Last summer I took a course at T.C.’s Reading Institute with Kyleene Beers. She gave us a copy of her book Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise Into Practice. As I read parts of it, a section by Chris Crutcher resonated with me. Crutcher tells of a tough girl whose third [...]
Friday was a perfect day, especially at Managaha, which is as beautiful as ever.
My office had its annual "burn-out" day on Managaha.
This is the time we talk about what we've done right and what we need to do to improve our services to the community.
And we relax and have fun together as a means of avoiding "burn-out," that common ailment that gets the best of advocates and providers in the social-welfare field.
I found out that others in the legal field use Managaha for their austerity Fridays, too. Some of the clerical staff from the Attorney General's office and the CNMI Bar came to picnic.
The Public Defenders office showed up, too.
Where were you on austerity Friday? Preparing for the March Against Cancer? Enjoying beautiful Saipan? Doing what?
This post is for those not in Saipan, and those who are here but somehow missed this annual event in 2007. (Fools, all!)
The Flame Tree Arts Festival was held from April 26 through the 30th. This year it was staged at Kilili Beach/Civic Center. You can see some great photos at the Saipan Tribune fotogalleria (pull down menu to 26th Annual Flame Tree...) here
My own (less fabulous) photos are below. Creative commons license applies to all photos here.
We had fabulous weather-perfect temperatures in the low to mid- 80's with cooling breezes. The flame trees were (are) in bloom, so Beach Road on the way to the festival was lined with their vivid orangesand red blossoms.
Parking was no problem --with available spaces at the beach, at the court, at the gym and in front of the Multipurpose Center. DPS had set up orange cones to create additional pedestrian crosswalks for those parking across from the beach site. There didn't seem to be traffic jams or problems in the transit department.
The festival seemed smaller this year, with fewer booths, but each one had something wonderful to offer. The food booths were aggregated in one area, and there were very few of those. The arts booth and the agriculture/vegetable booths created a lane from the stage area all the way to the old Senate. And at least one enterprising person had avoided the cost of the festival booth entrance and just set up shop in the pala-pala by the playground!
So let's enter a booth at the festival:
The fine art of the nap! This booth was lovely, with lava-lavas and flower garlands keeping the interior shaded and fragrant.
After shopping around the many booths, I found three large-ticket items I wanted to buy (besides all the small things-like crocheted hats from Ms. Soll and photos of the old Coca-Cola bottles along the road from Whispering Palms School). My three BIG favorites were the sand paintings from Rota--large scale, beautiful local subjects, original and well-executed (but at $500 each, out of my budget); the Palau story board carving technique applied to the Chamorro icon of a latte stone-rich mahogany color, intricate carving, Marianas and Palau mix-just marvelous (but at $250, I was still feeling nervous); and one painting by Rino Obar of a woman weaving pandanus, done in oil on canvas, with light coming through a door into the dark tin house, a boonie dog watching (at $120, this was my choice). [The image below is a photographed version, but the original is much darker, with the light more captivating.)
The best part of the arts festival, though, in my opinion, is the non-stop entertainment. I listened to the Falun Dafa lead us through meditations, watched the Talabwogh dancers perform the Maas, enjoyed the Korean fan dances, Te Kanahau Nui's Tahitian dances, the popular Island Cruisers-renamed Northern Star-band performing old standards & local favorites, and Glushko's excited students prance and dance in their tutus. That was just Saturday afternoon and evening! On Sunday, I listened to more talented residents singing and playing as I sat at the beach, reading a novel! Ah, live entertainment.
Here's a little glimpse through my lens.
This is the long view of the stage, with flags waving in the breeze and the (Talabwogh?) Maas dancers on stage. Notice their woven basket in front. Wild women and a few children ran up to stuff it with money and spray the dancers with perfume. I love Refaluwasch style!
The stage, with Flame Tree blossoms and bamboo.
Korean fan dancers (from a gospel ministry!)
Te Kanahau Nui dancers.
This skirt is made of fern leaves from the boonies in Marpi, with a ti leaf hipster. Notice the drawstring -packing ties. Standard coconut bra!
Hope you enjoyed the glimpse. I love festival season and am looking forward to Taste of the Marianas.