King of the Mild Frontier gallops into my school

Chris Crutcher spent almost two hours yesterday entertaining me, my Creative Writingkotmfpaperback2_5.jpg class, my AP students, and about forty others in the library at my school. Yep. My school.

He’s a kid-magnet. I loved that he was so honest, that he shared his mis-adventures in school, that he disliked reading more than anything. And then he met Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. He said he didn’t realize until he was mid-way through the book that Harper Lee had written it. He said he was so taken over by Scout, her voice, and her story that he thought she had written it. [insert light bulb moment here] That’s it, isn’t it? What we all, as writers, strive to create in our readers: pushing them out of reality and inviting them to freefall into the pages, so lost there that they forget our names are on the covers.

One of my students, Hannah, was impressed by his storytelling ability, noting that most writers are people who write because they’re afraid to speak. Chris is a writer and a therapy consultant. The stories of children he met turned us inside out.

Again, my limited blogging time (repeat after me: National Boards are due 3/31) prevents me from continuing to emote about this amazing visit, but I wanted to leave you with these writing tips from Chris to my kiddos:

1. When you revise, cut the adverbs where you can.

2. To be a better writer, you have to be a reader.

3. Don’t plop your friends or other people as they are into a novel unless you are friends with a very good lawyer. Use pieces and parts of yourself and others to create a character.

4. He does not plot. He said sometimes all he starts out with is a character.

5. To learn about writing, read Stephen King’s novel On Writing, John Irving’s Trying to Save Piggy Snead, and “How to tell a true war story,” a chapter in Tim O’ Brien’s The Things They Carried.


Saving the best for last, and I can’t wait to tell Chris about this one. I could not order his wristbands promoting not banning books because Chris Crutcher’s website is blocked by our school filter for objectionable content. Now, there’s a lesson in irony.


3 thoughts on “King of the Mild Frontier gallops into my school

  1. Hey… I want one of those bracelets too — if you do take a school order. If not, I’ll order it on my own. Let me know. :)) I really was touched by this speaker. Thanks for turning me on to him — even though my daughter already had one of his books. Her LSU “YA Novels” class studied him — wouldn’t that be awesome — to have a college course studying your books?

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