Thursday, April 22, 2010

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."


HelenL said...

Thanks for posting this. I absolutely love Chris Crutcher. He has such a unique way of combining hard hitting reality with humor.

Mother Hen said...

Hi Alice,
What Are Chris's feelings now about the YA market and getting published I wonder. Will pick up a copy of the CWIM this summer in Boston.

Paula Slade said...

Thank you Alice. I've been enjoying this retrospective journey!

Wonders of Weird said...

Mother Hen, I work for Chris and we've been friends for almost 14 years now. In fact, I first met Chris the year Alice featured this interview. I wrote first for Alice soon after. I can tell you, he knows YA has been good to him, but I have heard him call YA the red-headed step child of literature. Many of the stories are so compelling, and yet the are seen as LESS THAN adult novels. I don't ever sense he'd want to be anywhere other than where he is. He loves his audience. But I do think adult often miss the magic of YA because of it's "teen" designation. I think he'd like to see crossover books cross both ways.

That said, he's always responsive. So feel free to write to him at, if you have questions. He's great.

Kelly Milner Halls

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evanhenry said...

Chris Crutcher is a really nice guy. I enjoy his writing. Thanks for posting the interview Alice. Photos on canvas

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