My Gen Book Club author Q&A: Jerry Spinelli

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Jerry Spinelli knew he wanted to be a writer at age 16, but, as he said, nobody told him how hard it would be.

Gettysburg College
Author Jerry Spinelli
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Focus Book: Excerpt from 'Stargirl'
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Listen to excerpts of PG book editor Bob Hoover's interview with author Jerry Spinelli.

The Norristown, Montgomery County, native kept at it, however. Today, he's the author of some of the most popular novels for high school-age readers, including "Stargirl," the lead-off title for the Post-Gazette's My Gen Book Club.

Other favorites among his 25 books are "Maniac Magee," a Newbery Medal winner, and "Space Station Seventh Grade."

Spinelli told the My Gen Book Club that he's finishing up his sequel to "Stargirl," called "Love, Stargirl," that will be available next year. More good "Stargirl" news: Plans are in the works to turn it into a film by Paramount Studios. Stay turned for more on this development.

Now the father of six -- and grandfather of 16 -- Spinelli still lives near Philadelphia and roots for the Phillies, of course. Between innings, he answered questions for readers on the My Gen team:

Q: How did you become a children's writer?

A: Honestly, I don't think of myself as writing for kids, but somebody who writes about kids. Because my first book ("Space Station Seventh Grade") was about 13-year-olds, the publishers said that adults wouldn't read it. I became a children's author by accident. As far as I'm concerned I write for everybody.

Q: Where do you get the ideas for your book -- from grandchildren, your family, the newspaper?

A: From all three, and more. I would say just the observations of everyday life and, I would say, memories. Then, for want of a better word, mixing that all up with imagination.

Q: Where did the idea for "Stargirl" come from?

A: That book has a pretty long history. It was back near as I can figure in 1966 that I had to write a story about a kid who lived underground, probably in a subway or a sewer. It kind of began that way, and over the years it evolved in terms of the story itself, the title, the characters. The character became a girl, the title went through numerous incarnations, and what came out of that original idea 34 years later in the year 2000 was the book known as "Stargirl."

Q: What's your advice for teens who are interested in being writers?

A: I reduce it to a kind of "golden rule:" Write about what you care about. If you do that, you're probably going to do your best writing, reach off the page and touch the reader. How are you going to make the reader care if you don't care yourself?


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