Wednesday, July 20, 2016

And Then There Was That Time That Chris Crutcher Skyped Into @cwpfairfield for the Young Adult Literacy Labs. Wow!

I am a lucky man. First, it just happened to be Chris Crutcher's birthday this weekend (he turned 70) and he just happened to respond to my birthday video. Second, I happened to mention that I was running a novel writing lab this week for 6th-12th grade youth at Fairfield University and inquired if he ever Skyped. Third, I knew he Skyped because he presented to the same teachers I did in Florida earlier this month. All came together and he said he'd share with the kids, but didn't want me to call it wisdom.

It was absolute wisdom. His contributions to the field of Young Adult Literature and Adolescent Psychology are tremendous. He's a fit man who spent his life running and swimming, so sports have always been of high interest to him. He also has been a social worker and psychologist for several decades so he understands the human condition, especially with young people who struggle with larger issues in their worlds. The result has been his phenomenal writing for teenage audiences (and I know personally his books change kids lives).

A few years ago in Louisiana when I met Chris Crutcher I was fortunate to have lunch with him where I heard some of his stories of students writing him letters and reaching out to him for help. I think that is the magic of words. Once they're shared, they allow others to gravitate to them and share their humanity. For those stories that too often go untold, books by Chris Crutcher speak. He has gentle, but deep, prose that really pushes teenage characters to make decisions through turbulent times.

When I taught 9th grade, Chris Crutcher books were a staple in my classroom, especially Athletic Shorts for the short story unit. Fast forward 20 years and the author is Skyping to my Connecticut kids. It is sort of surreal. I asked him what he's been working on lately and it turns out he has family in Hamden and travels here often from the West Coast. Intrigued by Newtown, he's been exploring a novel that takes on mass shootings, especially of children. The book should be out this Fall.

And I will be reading it. I'm feeling blessed that he took the time to be with us yesterday. But today, there's much more work to be done.

No comments:

Post a Comment