GMS teacher Jared Leaman arranged for a special lesson for his class today; allowing them to Skype with Newbery Award winning author Avi. His 6th grade class was able to ask questions of Avi, whose given name is Edward Wortis. The Skype session was initiated after Leaman’s class read Avi’s book, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, which won the 2003 Newbery Award.
Avi opened the session by telling the students that they might think he became a writer because it is easy for him. In fact, he said, it is very hard for him to write, and even harder to write well. He said that all writers can get discouraged, but it is all a part of the process of learning to write.
Each student was allowed to ask Avi one initial question, and then those with follow-up questions were given more opportunities to ask additional questions. One of Mr. Leaman’s students had compiled a list of 36 questions prior to the chat with the author! One of the first students to speak asked Avi when he wrote his first book. Avi answered that he wrote his first book when he was about 27 years old, but it was not actually published until he was 30 years old. He noted that writers need to be able to handle rejection, because one cannot be a writer without experiencing some rejection of his or her work.
Avi was asked several times about his favorite things, and he answered that he liked to read (among his favorite books, he listed Treasure Island and Great Expectations), write, cook, be with his family, go to movies, travel, walk in the woods, and talk to young readers. He stated that he regularly skypes with two classes per week; today he talked to GMS and to a class in Maine.
A student asked him why he went by the name Avi instead of his given name, Edward Wortis. Avi answered by stating that he had been called Avi ever since his twin sister called him that when they began to talk. He said, with a laugh, that his parents discouraged him from trying to make a living by writing, so he didn’t want to put their (last) name on his books.
One of the students asked him when he was born, and he said “1937, I am 76 years old. I was born when there were still dinosaurs on the streets. No, that’s a joke!” He did illustrate his age, however, by stating that he did not watch TV as a child, because it was not around back then. Instead, he played with his friends, read comic books, listened to the radio, and did things with his family.
Avi was very kind to the students, asking for, and then addressing them by their names. He was also encouraging to the students, urging them to continue to read books and to work at their own writing skills.
Special thanks go to Avi for sharing his love of writing with Mr. Leaman’s students, and also to Mr. Leaman for arranging the author talk.