Transcript of Authors Live with Jerry Spinelli
February 26, 2002
Moderator: Welcome to Authors Live, Jerry Spinelli.
Jerry Spinelli: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Virginia: Good afternoon, Mr. Spinelli.
Iowa: Will there be a sequel to Maniac Magee?
Jerry Spinelli: Hello, Iowa. No, I'm afraid there will be no sequel to Maniac Magee. I feel it's complete as it is. He starts out looking for a home and in the end finds one.
Virginia: Mr. Spinelli, where did you get the idea for Maniac Magee?
Jerry Spinelli: The idea came from many sources. For example, I met a girl who carried her home library to school in a suitcase.
Iowa: Do you have a certain number of similes or metaphors for each book? Have you heard them before or do you make them up as you write?
Jerry Spinelli: No set number. I write them as they seem appropriate. I make them up.
Iowa: What do you think Maniac Magee ate in his other homes since he had never eaten pizza? Are you allergic to pizza?
Jerry Spinelli: I guess he ate anything but pizza. No, I'm not allergic.
Mass: If you could be famous at something other than writing, what would that be?
Jerry Spinelli: Hi, Mass. I might like to be a musician or baseball player.
Virginia: Which of your novels is your favorite?
Jerry Spinelli: My personal favorite is Space Station Seventh Grade.
Mass: I love reading book dedications because they give me a hint about the personal side of an author. The dedication in the book Stargirl includes Eileen, Loren, and Sonny Liston, the fighter. Please explain the dedication.
Jerry Spinelli: Loren Eiseley is one of my favorite writers. Sonny Liston was a heavyweight boxing champion who lived through an experience like Stargirl after she won the oratorical contest.
Mass: What is your favorite food, movie, hobby, and sport?
Jerry Spinelli: Favorite food: chocolate almond ice cream. Movie: Anne of Green Gables. Sport: track and field.
Iowa: If you were on a talk show and could talk about anything you wanted to talk about, what would it be?
Jerry Spinelli: I'd talk about my grandkids.
Virginia: What are some other books that you have authored?
Jerry Spinelli: OK, other books: Crash, Stargirl, Fourth Grade Rats, Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush? That's a few. Coming: Loser.
Virginia: What was it like to win the Newbery Medal?
Jerry Spinelli: A thrill!
Mass: Many of your main characters are sad, struggling boys. Please comment about them.
Jerry Spinelli: Characters with problems are more interesting.
Iowa: How did Maniac get so good at everything he does? Like run, hit balls, get knots out, etc. Was there someone like Maniac in your life when you were a kid?
Jerry Spinelli: Athletically, yes, I've known a few kids like Maniac, one of them a good friend of mine. In terms of attitude, he's something like me.
Iowa: If there was a hidden camera recording everything you did as you wrote your books, what would it show us?
Jerry Spinelli: It would show me sitting in front of this computer with a blank look on my face wondering what the heck to write next.
Mass: Who is your favorite all-time author and what is your favorite novel?
Jerry Spinelli: Favorite author: Eileen Spinelli. Favorite novel: Anne of Green Gables (I must have this thing about orphans).
Mrs. McCarthy: What is your favorite place to write books?
Jerry Spinelli: Right here in my office. I walk up the stairs to go to work each day.
Iowa: Complete this sentence. As a writer, I am like a ____ because_______.
Jerry Spinelli: ...like a horsefly because I bounce from idea to idea.
Mass: I enjoyed reading Knots in My Yo Yo String. It seems as though you had a very active life. How would you describe your relationship with your parents when you were in middle school?
Jerry Spinelli: I had a good relationship with my parents, though I was awfully quiet. I spoke much more to my friends than to them, I think.
Iowa: If you were going to construct a Writing Kit that included all of the supplies and tools you need to write your books, what would be in the kit?
Jerry Spinelli: A head full of memories. Notes of encouragement. Rejection slips (to use as confetti when I finally got published). Ideas. Good books.
Mass: Do you have any advice for young writers?
Jerry Spinelli: It all boils down to this: Write what you CARE about.
Virginia: What do you like to do in your spare time, when not working on a novel?
Jerry Spinelli: Play tennis, enjoy the grandkids, read, travel with Eileen.
Mass: Can you tell us the "chicken bones in the bag" story?
Jerry Spinelli: I opened my lunch bag from the fridge one morning and found only bones someone had eaten all the meat from my fried chicken. Went to work that day and started a story with that as the basis. It became Space Station Seventh Grade, my first published novel.
Iowa: Is it easier for you to write from a boy's point of view than a girl's point of view?
Jerry Spinelli: Good question. I guess it's more natural from a boy's point of view, but in some ways more challenging and interesting from a girl's
Virginia: Do you write one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?
Jerry Spinelli: At one point I was writing both Knots in My Yo-Yo String and The Library Card at the same time, but usually it's one at a time.
Virginia: What is your most favorite character from the stories you've created?
Jerry Spinelli: Wow, hard to say. Actually my girls are often my favorites. I like Megan from Toothbrush; Amanda Beale, Stargirl.
Iowa: What is your earliest memory of reading or being read to?
Jerry Spinelli: Hearing my mother read Babar the Elephant.
Mass: Did you know anyone like Stargirl?
Jerry Spinelli: Yes, Eileen Spinelli.
Iowa: What similarities are there between you and your characters?
Jerry Spinelli: It varies from book to book, but there's probably at least a little of me in each one; my own memories are a primary source.
Iowa: In Maniac Magee, why did most kids accept Maniac but not the old man?
Jerry Spinelli: Because he is bigoted against white people, as some whites in the story are prejudiced against blacks.
Mass: We were all in school on September 11. Where were you and what was your first reaction?
Jerry Spinelli: I saw it first on the Internet. That afternoon we had to entertain people coming from England to interview me.
Mass: Was English your favorite subject when you were in middle school?
Jerry Spinelli: No. Geography.
Mass: Most of your books are realistic fiction. Do you think you will try another genre?
Jerry Spinelli: I'm keeping an eye out for a good science fiction idea. Wanted to do that for some time.
Iowa: What would you like us to learn from this experience?
Jerry Spinelli: By "this experience," you mean this interview? I guess that writers are people, too; if we can do it, so can you!
Tenn: What made you want to start writing books?
Jerry Spinelli: Hi Tennessee. I went to boot camp in Memphis. Writing was a way to complete my experience. It seemed to come naturally.
Mass: Would you want a movie to be made from any of your books? Which one would it be?
Jerry Spinelli: Actually we have movie deals for four of my books: Maniac Magee (already made; may air on Nickelodeon next year), Stargirl, Crash, and Wringer.
Virginia: Goodbye, Mr. Spinelli. We have to return to our classes. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
Jerry Spinelli: You are quite welcome, Virginia. The pleasure was mine.
Iowa: Why is everyone afraid to go into Finsterwald's yard?
Jerry Spinelli: Because they don't really know him. We're afraid of the unknown.
Mass: What was your greatest difficulty growing up?
Jerry Spinelli: I guess going from being such a big shot in junior high to a "nobody" in my first-year of high school.
Mass: What do you think about the Patriots winning the Super Bowl?
Jerry Spinelli: I was rooting for the Pats!
Moderator: This was awesome, Jerry Spinelli – just like your books. Thanks so much for taking the time to write them and to be with us today!
Mass: Three cheers for Jerry rooting for the Pats.
Jerry Spinelli: My pleasure. Thank you for all the great questions.
Iowa: Thank you for your time.
Iowa: We love you.
Moderator: Thanks for coming, everyone!