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."