Sunday, April 24, 2011

One Writer’s Process: Todd Strasser

If any of Todd Strasser’s teachers at the I.U. Willets Elementary School in Roslyn Heights, NY had taken bets on his future career, it’s unlikely they’d have predicted a career as an author.

Back then his best subject was science, and, although he liked to read, he had trouble with spelling and grammar, and did poorly in English. “I was a poor writer, a terrible speller, and, except for one memorable instance, wasn't given much encouragement until I got to college.”

Strasser was a teenager in the 1960's and, after high school, hitch-hiked around the US and Europe, keeping a journal, sending letters home, writing poetry and short stories.

After graduating from college, he took a job as a newspaper reporter, started his own fortune cookie company (The Dr Wing Tip Shoo Company), then moved into advertising as a copywriter. “But I was never happy telling someone else's stories,” he says. “I wanted to tell my own.”

Flash-forward forty years and 140 books later, and meet Todd Strasser, whose stories and articles have appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, and The New York Times, and who has become one of the most popular writers of young adult fiction writing today.

His books for older teens–The Wave, Give a Boy a Gun, The Accident, Can’t Get There From Here, Boot Camp, Wish You Were Dead, and If I Grow Up–have earned him international recognition and numerous awards, and his work for upper elementary and middle school readers–such as his new series, The Tardy Boys–has taken him in a new direction.

“My goal with these books is to let kids see that reading can be fun and maybe even make them laugh out loud.”

Strasser lives in Westchester County, NY, and was kind enough to take time away from his work-in-progress and from his current passion–surfing–to share some thoughts on writing with Wordswimmer.

Wordswimmer: How do you get into the water each day?

Strasser: Each morning I brew coffee, read The New York Times, answer e-mails, then hold my nose and jump.

Wordswimmer: What keeps you afloat...for short work? For longer work?

Strasser: I try not to forget how fortunate I am to be able to swim in this rather small pond.

Wordswimmer: How do you keep swimming through dry spells?

Strasser: To be honest, I don't experience dry spells. There's always more swimming ahead.

Wordswimmer: What's the hardest part of swimming?

Strasser: Staying in the pond on beautiful, sunny days.

Wordswimmer: How do you overcome obstacles, problems, when swimming alone?

Strasser: While it sometimes feels like I'm swimming in circles, I find that if I keep stroking I almost always reach the far shore.

Wordswimmer: What's the part of swimming that you love the most?

Strasser: The hot shower afterwards.

You can visit Todd Strasser’s website for more info (and to find out which of his magazine-length articles and older books are available on Kindle):
Fans of his first YA novel, Angel Dust Blues (1979), will be glad to know that they can now find it on Kindle:

And you can follow him on Twitter:

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