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Sitting down with Avi

Kordell Kirkland asks Avi what pieces of the short story, “Scout’s Honor” came from his life experiences. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
June 02, 2010 - Jack Kuczmanski sat down in front of the webcam and looked at the face on the computer screen, live from Denver.

He introduced himself to Avi, the author sixth grade Advanced Language Arts classes at Sashabaw Middle School studied and were interviewing via Skype.

Each student in Kristine Butcher and Anne Ortel's classes had read various works by Avi and researched his life.

The students had to made a connection between his life and his stories, said Butcher. They realized, though Avi had written over 70 books in different genres, some ideas, characters, settings and details came from his life experiences.

Kuczmanski had his question ready for the author after reading True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and a collection of other stories. He leaned towards the microphone as his classmates watched Avi on a large screen.

"Many of your stories are about kids figuring out who they are and not falling to pressures of others," he realized. "Did you struggle to be true to yourself?"

Avi addressed Kuczmanski and the audience of 50.

"When you are young, I mean this in a positive way, you are trying to find who you are and what you are," he said. "I think it is a fundmental and important part of being a young person. It's a part of living."

Avi in turn asked Kuczmanski a question, do you feel that way sometimes.

"Yes," he said without hesistating.

Maggie Collins asked if he had similar family problems as the ones he writes about in his books.

Avi described his parents and his relationship with them as well as his close relationship with his twin sister, who gave him the nickname Avi. His role as a stepfather also often appears in his books, like in the Poppy series.

Sam Mead continued asking when Avi decided to become a writer.

He admitted he always wanted to be a writer and kept a diary in his senior year of high school and in the month of March he declared his future.

"I made my mind up to be a writer," he said.

Why write for children and young adults, the students asked.

"I like kids," Avi admitted. "You're smart, you are interesting and you have a good sense of literature. You are loyal readers. You read books for pleasure and entertainment and that's why I write them."

He also told the students his favorite book so far is the one he is currently working on. But as for reading, which he has read over 1,000 books, he doesn't have a favorite and doesn't want one.

"Each has a different meaning for me," he said. "It changes all the time."

The students also asked about his process. It takes him an average of a year to a year and a half to write a book.

"Sore Losers took a day," he admitted. "I just sat there and wrote it. Bright Shadow took 14 years - it does vary. Writing is only a part of it. Production is part of it, too. Rereading and making sure all the details are there."

He tried out the title of his current book in the works to the students - "A Terrible Struggle with a Crazy Man."

The audience laughed.

"Do you like it," he asked. "Titles often change. No one has read it yet. I sent the first draft to the editor last week. If everything is good I will start rewriting it with her thoughts and suggestions."

Until it's published the students can anticipate the next release in two weeks, Crispin: the End of Time, the last book in the Crispin series.

"My purpose is not to teach you something. It's to entertain you, amuse you. My goal is to make it fun to read," he said.

"It gets published and you buy it - it becomes your book. It doesn't matter what I thought, it matters what you think," he answered about any meaning in his stories.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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