All About Avi - Edward Irving Wortis

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Avi's Background:

Avi was born Edward Irving Wortis in 1937 in New York City and was raised in Brooklyn, New York. His twin sister called him Avi, and the name stuck. Avi had a learning disability called dysgraphia, which caused him to reverse or misspell words, but nonetheless he was determined to be a writer. He first tried to be a playwright, and began writing for young people after his son Shaun was born.

Avi's Career:

His first book, Things That Sometimes Happen, was published in 1970; in all, he's published over 50 books. For many years he worked full-time as a librarian, first at the New York Public Library and then at Trenton State College in New Jersey. Now he lives in Denver with his wife.

Books and Awards:

Early reader, picture books, and young adult books; fantasy, realism, animal stories, historical fiction, mystery . . . you name it, Avi's written it. Likewise, name an award for young people's literature, and Avi's won it. To list a few examples, The Fighting Ground, about the Revolutionary War, won the Scott O'Dell award in 1984. Another historical novel, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1990), won a Newbery Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. He won the Newbery Medal for Crispin: Cross of Lead, which came out in 2002.

Lessons from Avi's Life:

What can we learn from Avi?

That if you have a story to tell and you're determined to work hard, you can be a writer. Avi became a renowned writer despite his disability. For this reason, Avi enjoys visiting schools. He brings his copyedited manuscripts so that students with learning disabilities can see that he, too, gets things wrong.

Avi on Writing:

"I think you become a writer when you stop writing for yourself or your teachers and start thinking about readers. I made up my mind to do that when a high school senior."
(From Avi's site.)

"I enjoy writing and it is hard. But then it is hard for everyone to write well. I have to rewrite over and over again so that on average it takes me a year to write a book."
(From a 1996 interview.)

Learn More:

Obviously Avi's website is the best source of information on him. In writing this article, "Avi" by Cathryn M. Mercier in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, edited by Jack Zipes, was also referenced, along with a profile on the Scholastic website.

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