On Creativity: Avi

June 8th, 2017

A few weeks ago, I sent this question to several writers I admire. “I find it profoundly difficult these days to be a writer. My inspiration and enthusiasm have been buried so far below an onslaught of awful news headlines and downright hate, trauma, and tragedy that I struggle to reach them. What’s a girl to do? In a world so woeful and broken, how can I dig beneath the heartbreak and create? Do you have the same thoughts? If so, how do you free yourself to write during these confusing and troubling times?”

I have received thoughtful and inspirational answers. I’m happy to share them with you here over the summer. I’m posting them in a random order, as I received their responses. If you have your own thoughts about these questions, I hope you’ll comment.

First, from Avi:

AviKaren, I have nothing but sympathy and shared feelings with you. That said, I am writing, not just because the domestic budget requires it, but I like to think I can take the world as it is today and make it part of what I write. Perhaps it is the historical fiction I write (and you write) that helps. There are, alas, many moments in history which echo today’s world. If you can write about such, and as does happen in history (not always) the highest qualities of human culture triumph, you can imbue your young readers with a sense of their potential triumphs that might be, could be, and should be. In other words, let your struggle be your story.

Avi is the author of many books for children and teens, including the popular True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Crispin: Cross of Lead, and Nothing But the Truth, each of which were honored by Newbery committees. Nothing But the Truth is being read in classrooms because of its connection with current events, much like The Loud Silence of Francine Green. Visit Avi’s website.


On Fantasy: Avi

For a few weeks, in celebration of my new fantasy novel, Grayling’s Song, this blog is featuring a few of my favorite fantasy authors answering questions about their own writing. Today, I’m pleased to have Avi join the group. He’s the author of many fine books, including the Newbery Medal-winning Crispin: Cross of Lead.

AviQ: What was (is) the hardest aspect of building a fantasy world for you?

A: A very smart editor—Ruth Katcher—once said to me that, “A fantasy novel is like a work of historical fiction. It must have its own history, culture and rules, and be as consistent with those elements as any realistic fiction.”

Which is to say, to be successful, fantasy must create its own reality. It’s the reality that is hard to invent, not the fantasy.

Q: What do you feel is different for you, particularly, as a writer about creating a fantasy novel rather than writing a realistic or historical novel?

School of the DeadA: My fantasy writing ranges from animal stories (Poppy, The Good Dog) to tales of magic (The Book Without Words, Bright Shadow) to ghost stories (Something Upstairs, School of the Dead.) As per the comment above, I don’t think of them as fantasy, but rather as realistic fiction with a quirk—animals talking, the ability to have wishes, ghosts, etc.

Q: Is there a character in one of your fantasy novels that you wish you could invite over for dinner? What would you talk about?

A: As for dinner with one of my fantasy characters I think I’d enjoy dinner with Ereth the porcupine. He is a curmudgeon, and I find curmudgeons always have interesting things and observation to offer. And all he’d want for dinner would be salt.

Thank you, Avi, for talking with us about your considerable experience writing fantasy novels. I encourage you to read all of Avi’s books, including the Poppy books and Old Wolf, as well as the others he mentions. Learn more about Avi on his website.


bk_grayling_180pxGrayling’s Song will be available on June 7th from Clarion Books and your favorite bookseller. School Library Journal wrote, “Rich in details that bring to life the magical woodland setting, Cushman’s latest novel is full of adventure and clever characters.”