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English 7: Introduction to Crash

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1 English 7: Introduction to Crash
. . . notes on the author Jerry Spinelli

2 GROWING UP: Jerry > Spinelli at age four—already he wanted to be a baseball player. However, he discovered he was better at writing than he was at sports!

3 BACKGROUND: born on February 1, 1941 born in Norristown, Pennsylvania
currently lives nearby in Wayne, Pennsylvania (His childhood in Norristown gave him many ideas for characters in his novels.)

4 EDUCATION: He attended Gettysburg College (Pennsylvania)
and graduated with a degree in English in 1963. He earned his MA (Master of Arts) in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD) in 1964.

5 His beginning as a writer:
When he was 16, he wrote a poem called “Goal to Go,” about winning a football game. Later, his father sent it in to the local newspaper. It was printed on the front page of the sports section. That was when he changed his mind about becoming a Major League Baseball player and decided to become a writer instead. In college, he became a writer and editor for a department store magazine.

6 INSPIRATION: He bases many of the characters and details of his plots on his own life—from growing up in Norristown to raising his own children. In an interview, Spinelli commented: “Sometimes I’m asked if I do research for my stories. The answer is yes and no. No, in the sense that I seldom plow through books at the library to gather information. Yes, in the sense that the first fifteen years of my life turned out to be one big research project.

7 . . . I thought I was simply growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania; looking back now I can see that I was also gathering material that would one day find its way into my books. I also get material from my own kids Jeffrey and Molly, who are always fighting, have been especially helpful. Ideas also come from everyday life. And from the newspapers. One day, for example, I read a story about a girl who competed on her high school wrestling team. A year later bookstores carried a new book with my name on it, There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock.”

8 CAREER: After he graduated from college, he worked ordinary jobs during the day for the next twenty years and wrote fiction in his spare time. In 1966, he spent six months on active duty with the U.S. Naval Air Reserves.

9 FAMILY LIFE: His parents were Louis and Lorna Mae Spinelli. He has one younger brother named Bill. He married Eileen Mesi in She also writes children’s books. They have six children and over fifteen grandchildren.

10 EARLY WORKS: His first four novels were written for adults, but all of them were rejected. His fifth novel started out for adults but became his first children’s book. This book, Space Station Seventh Grade, was published in 1982.

11 MORE BOOKS: Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush? (1984)—about sibling rivalry There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock (1991) Crash (1996) Knots in My Yo-Yo String (1998)—his autobiography Loser (2001) Milkweed (2003)—about a kid’s perspective of escaping the Holocaust Eggs (2007) Smiles to Go (2008)

12 MAJOR BOOKS: Maniac Magee, his sixth book, is one of his most famous. It won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award in 1990, the Newbery Medal in 1991, and the D.C. Fisher Award in 1992. Wringer (1997)—about peer pressures, conformity, and tradition. It won the Newbery Honor in 1997.

13 MAJOR BOOKS: Stargirl (2000)—also about
social conformity and how individuals get rejected by others. The title character, whose name is Susan Caraway, was based on his wife. The first Stargirl Society was formed in 2004 in Kent, Ohio, “to support creative expression, acts of kindness, and individuality.” Since then, other Stargirl Societies have formed, some as far away as Italy. The sequel—Love, Stargirl—was published in 2009.

14 FILMS: Maniac Magee was made into a movie in 2003.
Three other books—Stargirl, Wringer, and Milkweed—are currently being made into films.

15 FAME AND RECOGNITION: He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Western Maryland College. His books have been published in many other languages, including Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and Greek.

16 Spinelli in Later Years:

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