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He has the mistaken notion that an adolescent novel is "covered" in the same way that the novels he read in his college lit class were. The teacher is actually unprepared to read a good adolescent nov- el and design a creative, thoughtful learning unit. Unfortunately, the people who make this statement are not the same people who restrict their children's television viewing for the same reasons. Contrary to the beliefs of some communities, there is nothing wrong with a novel that honestly explores sex, violence, drugs, or other contemporary issues.

Many fine nov- els deal squarely with these issues, the same issues that confront and confuse our young people. Of course, some novels sensationalize a provocative topic, but these are the novels that should not be a part of the English curriculum. There are, however, many fine titles that deal with topics that concern young people.

We have been brought up to believe that classics are sacred. They may very well be sacred, but the generations brought up on the classics do not include avid readers necessarily. The average adult reader in this country reads 1. Yet even this figure is deceiving because the readers read voluminously and the non-readers never crack a book. Mark Twain called a classic "something that every- body wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

One of the chief goals of an English teacher is to make every student a life- long reader. The teacher is cheating his students by not offering them reading mater- ial that they can handle at their level of language development. Once a student is a Reading Freak, anything can happen, and that might include the classics. But don't be disappointed if he doesn't turn to the classics. Be satisfied that you have given him a habit that will give him hours of fun, relaxation, and education.


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What is a "great" book? Is it the one that got you reading like never before? It is the one that was expli- cated in three or four class periods? Is a great book the one that led you to discuss ideas with other people? Is a great book one that made you fall asleep because of the outdated language or ludicrous social situations? Is it the book that set your mind aflame with intellectual curiousity? Is a great book one that you couldn't understand until your teacher explained the author's thoughts while he was writing the book?

Is a great book one you live? Is it a book from which you've memorized a list of fifty vocabulary words? What exactly is a great book? You know. Looking back at ourselves when young, we may romance a little. This is human enough, but scareely the basis for a realistic approach to children's needs. The picture of oneself at ten, immersed in a good book, is irresistible. And when we juxtapose the real image of our own grubby ten-year-old gripped by a comic or a 'series 1 book with this fuzzy memory — well, truth doesn't always bear away the victory.

We forget the trash we read at ten, partly because it's not worth re- membering, but partly, too, because we fear that our children will never read anything else but trash. Nevertheless, there are times in children's lives, as there were in our own childhood, when the undemanding world of the 'series' books offers some emotional satisfaction; and I am not prepared to decry that satisfaction. McKenzie, California State University, Northridge There have been dozens of surveys and studies of adolescent reading and interests in the last decade.

One reason is that by its very nature adolescence is a time when tastes, ideas, opinions, and reading interests change very rapidly and what is "in" today is sure to be obsolete tomorrow. This survey represents still another attempt to keep abreast of adolescent read- ing tastes and to ascertain what young people read when they are free to select what- ever they wish. To conduct this survey, the English department chairmen of nine high schools and ten junior high schools were sent letters in October asking for the cooperation of their English teachers in polling students regarding tneir leisure time reading choices.

Each teacher requested students to write down the name of one book they had read as leisure reading during the past school year. Schools represented a fairly broad spectrum of the population with students coming from a number of differ- ent backgrounds. Most ethnic groups were represented, and students came from homes ranging across the economic scale. Free response was used rather than the more rigid- ly delineated checksheet of specific titles to find what books were currently popular and at what grade levels.

A checksheet would have been too limiting and would have precluded an unbiased survey of what adolescents really read on their own time. The 11, responses, grades 7 through 12, were received 1, 7th grade; 1, 8th grade; 3, 9th grade; 1, 10th grade; 11th grade; 1, 12th grade. The smaller number of responses from grades 11 and 12 may, perhaps, be explained by the fact that English is not required of all students every semester in these two upper years of high school in this school district. In addition, the very small number representing grade 11 may also be because many students complete their eleventh grade English requirement in summer school and would not have been included in this survey.

One of the hypotheses with which this study began was that there would be a great diversity of titles, and the results more than support this hypothesis. The results of this survey support those obtained on a smaller scale by William T. Although no attempt was made to differentiate re- sponses by sex, results show that certain books are widely read by many students at the same time revealing the tremendous diversity of titles and tastes within the group.

There were 4, separate specific titles reported. As can easily be seen from the tables that conclude this article, students 1 tastes run the gamut from the adolescent novel to the mature, well- written piece of serious literature. The popular adult "shocker" leads the list at all grade levels, hardly a surprising discovery. Not only does that indicate students want to be "in" and read what everyone else is reading, but it reinforces the view that media have a tremendous influence on the reading habits of our youth.

This finding is supported by Faye Louise Grinds taff? One of the most interesting findings of my survey was proof that electronic media are great influences in the bending of student reading tastes. The 50 Most Popular Books see Table A include 35 books also released in filmed or television versions. One can only speculate as to whether the students had ERLC 20 actually read the book, or whether it was listed because they had seen the movie or heard the title in an advertisement for the film.

Some students likely first saw the movie and were then led to the book as a way of reliving an enjoyable experience. A major conclusion of this study must be to recognize the pcwer of media on adoles- cent reading habits. Teachers should recognize this trend and seek ways to use it for classroom advantage to promote verbal literacy and media literacy as well. Although the popular adult fl shocker M leads the list of most popular books when we are considering single titles, the category of books that is the most popular with adolescents is that which concerns itself with mental disorders, incurable illnesses, and death.

A total of listings were given for this category followed closely by listings for books considering drug-related problems. It is, of course, natural that students should be attracted to the kinds of experiences which these books por- tray, for they represent the unknown and sometimes frightening aspects of life about which adolescents ponder. The fact that there are almost as many listings from students concerned with social, moral, or ethical issues as there were for these two categories suggests that humanistic concerns remain important to adolescents.


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Another interesting and heartening finding of the survey was the small number of lf I don f t read' 1 and "I hate books 11 responses. Of the 11, responses, only 60 stu- dents listed "I don't read 1 ' or something similar. Perhaps, most students do. One can only speculate, but I choose to be an optimist and prefer to think that students are reading more than we believed. While this survey did not produce any startling new information regarding leisure time reading habits, it did reaffirm conclusions previously reached.

These are some conclusions and implications of this study: 1 Students at every grade level are reading adult books. They must seek out books with wide appeal for students. Teachers need to be aware of this wide diversity and make pro- vision for it. Given the rapid changes in book popularity, teachers need to keep themselves alert to what the students are reading when they don't have to read. Most children begin life loving good stories, exciting stories, stories that engage their sympathy, empathy, and active attention.

They still do when they become adolescents--as witness the popularity of the filmed versions of books--but the love of reading is easy to kill. While stimulating literary taste is certainly part of an English teacher's job, there first has to be an appetite to stimulate. Teachers who keep themselves informed not only about books the students ought to read , but about those the students like to read will be doing much to stimulate and improve that literary appetite.

Hinton and FOREVER by Judy Blume, I remembered a wish Holden Caufield had thirty years ago: What really knocks me out is a book that when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

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So I called up the six authors. Following is what they said about themselves, their books, their fami- lies, their careers and their writing styles. Those animals know the way. Their first passenger was twenty-two year old Patricia McKillip, but she was doing the driving. Broke, sleeping on the army cot in her sister's bedroom back home, Patricia dreamed of freedom, independence, and her own apartment in San Francisco.

She had been writing for pleasure since she was fourteen, but this time she had a mission. The colors white, gold, crystal lights, fire, Sybel's hair and eyes, snow and moonlight Then I knew somewhere on a mountain there was a woman who had animals. It just seemed like a good idea to find out about them. Oh, yes! Nothing is fixed in fantasy. The people and the world aren't real, so finding out what is going to happen next is a pleasure.

I like to create a setting and characters, then sit back and see what they are going to do. It's such fun to create a world.. After I created that dome room for Sybel, my cot really seemed cramped. I still want that crystal room for my own. I can't remember one, but when my wizard began to speak, I knew. The challenge is to take the familiar and make it different. Casting about for a hero, I found a heroine.

Instead of fighting evil, she created it and then had to fight it. In the end she had to face the evil within herself. I had to become Sybel to create her. Just as Sybel had to identify with the animals to hold them. The fun is becoming all of those strange things. I also had to become those animals to create them.

There is an interesting parallel between Sybel and me, and I didn't even realize it until I began thinking about something to say in a speech at the NCTE convention. ERLC 30 Sybel 's calling is like my talent to write. She couldn't control her animals until she could hear their voices. My character behaved the same way. As I listened to Sybel, I realized her vocabulary was very simple, but decided that was ok because after all it was her voice, not mine, that was important in the book.


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Another thing I've recently discovered about Sybel and me is that she is an out- growth of the restlessness of women in fantasy. I was impatient with females just being the traditional object of the hero's quest. Fantasy characters react to their world when you allow them the privilege. Sybel is rebelling against that tra- dition of heroines just being married to the hero at the end of the story. Sybel 's. In the end she has answered the question, "who am I.

V So of course the end is only the beginning. The animals still intrigue me. Their voices and characters became so fantastic, but they are all very common animals a cat, lion, falcon, swan, etc, I discovered each of the animals had an aspect of Sybel 1 s character. The boar's attribute, for example, is wisdom. That trait Sybel doesn't acquire until the end.

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But the cat, that witchy, dark character is shrewd and clever rather than wise, as Sybel when she is planning the war. The lion is worldly knowledge. He started out just as the color gold. His name came from the color and finally the attribute showed itself. I really enjoyed naming the animals.

The falcon's name came from those powerful claws. When he said with such fierce pride that he had torn people to pieces, then I knew his name had to be Tore. The black swan, the symbol of beauty and grace, is one of my favorites, but I also liked the gold and green dragon in his cave even though I didn't let him have much to say. Since he is the symbol of power, that seemed appropriate. The purpose of Blammor and Leralean remained obscure until the end. Then I realized they represented the fearlessness of self knowledge.

When Sybel loses this she is almost destroyed. Actually I didn't realize how tightly the story was struc- tured until after it was published. Then I realized the six brothers 1 characters are also reflected in the animals' attributes, just as Sybel f s. Then when I began to write, I learned I had to polish and polish a passage to get it right. I guess, I would say read everything you can get your hands on and when you begin to write, buy a big eraser. Oh, I don't think so. Then it would be one man — the director's — view. Fantasy can't be that static. Patricia McKillip aleo has three children's books in print and will soon publish her second fantasy for young adults.

Currently she lives in San Francisco. This boy was an athlete His parents had decided to pay tuition and send him to a private school be- cause he needed all the help he could get. When his father saw those shopping bags, he "hit the roof. M This man, normally a quiet gentle man, started to write a check for the chocolates, but he was too dis- turbed.

The son replied that it was the IAST thing he wanted to do. After a discussion the father promised that if the boy returned the chocolates to the school, he would write a letter supporting his son's decision. They agreed. The father drove the boy to school the next day, and as he walked toward tha door with his shopping bags, the man was suddenly apprehensive. Instead of driving on to his job at the newspaper office he sat and thought.. What did happen was not dramatic at all.

The boy turned in the candy, the brothers said, "fine" and the boy went to football practice rather than ringing door bells selling chocolates.

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But the boy's father was Robert Cormier and he couldn't stop thinking, "What if He didn't this time. His character just happened to be a young boy. He wouldn't come alive, but another character was taking form in Cormier's imagination and he was a firecracker. This character started out as the prototype of practical joker, a type Robert Cormier had never liked very much. Then he got the idea for the classroom scene when the furniture all fell apart.

Starting from there he went back and filled in. Archie was elevated from the practical joker to another level, and the book was underway. The author told his agent and editor that he was working on this idea, and he completed one third of it, but then he began to have doubts. Who was going to want to read a book about a kid who played football and wouldn't sell candy for the school? His agent had liked the idea and asked him to revive it, thinking this time in terms of a young adult audience. Cormier wasn't comfortable with nar- rowing his audience and agreed to start again, but writing it just as he would any novel.

The entire Cormier family became involved, especially a sixteen year old daughter and the eighteen year old son who hadn't sold the chocolates. They gave ad- vise about language. They voted to publish it as it was making no changes that would destroy the integrity.

Random House published it in The teenage girls serving coffee in the shop across from the news- paper office tried to help. If I could wait until two o'clock there was a busboy 32 who had read the book The couple who ran the general store next door to the newspaper office knew Mr. She wrote down the title. When I went on up to Robert Cormier's office, he seemed surprised that I had come all the way from New York to talk to him, and he was glad there was going to be a Teacher's Guide.

The local library had bought a dozen copies, and the book had sold copies in hardback at the local bookstore, making it a best seller in Fitch- burg, but he thought most of them were purchased by family, friends and friends of his four children. There were 36, people in Leominster and 38, in the' adjoining town, Fitchburg. He had heard a rumor that it might be taught next fall in a Fitchburg high school class. The material dictated that.

I thought Archie and Jerry would have to have a confrontation and Jerry would have to lose. As it began to take shape, there were just too many characters to be seen from one point of view. Archie became more than the practical joker, so then Emile Janza crept into the plot, and I became in- trigued with Obie I tried something I hadn't done before.

I saw it as a screenplay with scenes shifting rapidly. That seemed to call for shifting viewpoint I even changed in the middle of paragraphs. I wanted a forward thrus t. For example, I should have liked to do more for Obie. Poor guy, he wanted to be an athlete, wanted to have something to be proud of at home, but instead all he had was the gang.

As I said, I had trouble bringing Jerry to life. One of the earlier editors who saw the book wanted me to change the plot and have him win, but I knew that couldn't happen. He wasn't a winner. In the first version, he didn't even get in a good punch.

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Then I changed it and let him have one real crack at Emile, but of course that backfired on him too because then he had to realize he had sunk to Emile f s level. Fabio Coen, my editor at Random House made some suggestions that added strength and shored it up a bit. For example, I had over dramatized Brother Leon's appearance at the fight. I showed him draped in a cloak. Caesar fashion, I'm afraid. We toned that down some. An author must fall in love with his characters, I think. I finished it; it was ready to go, and then I redid the whole thing. My wife declared that revision hap- pened because I could not bear to say goodbye to that old man.

I did really love him. He was in the Poor House, but had worked all his life here in the Leominster comb shops I did too, when I was young. He was a wonderful character. I would still like to do more for Obie, but I haven't really thought about that. My 18 : old daughter is emotionally involved with that one. As can see, we are a reading family.

I am certainly a living example that they can make it if they work at it. I was trying to describe a great big old ornate orian house. I wrote 'a great big white birthday cake of a house. For example I wanted to show the sterility of Jerry and his father's tionship.

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When they were preparing their supper, I said 'the casserole slid into oven like a mailbox, 1 I think that suggests it all. Twenty years ago, Ann Barrett—a Houghton Mifflin editor— liked one of my books, invited me down to Boston and took me to lunch at the Parker House. What a thrill a young writer. She couldn't convince her house to buy my book, but she did put n touch with the Curtis Brown Agency who did, so I always remember her.

Oh, I shall stay here where I was born and have always lived. The lame is to protect my family's privacy especially my daughter Renee 's. She is joy Then he walked to the window, looked down on the street below and said, "There i thousand novels right here on Main Street. The reader cannot help but want to if she is the model or the observer of the new life style of women. For instance, iX. The 'idea 1 perhaps originated from this situation, but I hardly knew the daughter in real life and had to imagine or compose her out of other people I know.

I am writing both about myself as a child and my own two daughters who are now five and eight. I think one of the interesting things about having children—and having them definitely was one of the factors that encouraged me to go into writing for them — is seeing bits and pieces of your own childhood come at you from the other direction. It often" seems to me that I can tell when a particular writer for young people has children. When he or she does, the parent figures tend to be more sympathetic.

Per- haps being a parent wakes one more aware of the inherent difficulties in the role. I'm disturbed by the fact that in so many books the parents are the villain characters, responsible for everything that goes wrong in the child or adolescent's world — or they are vague sweet shadowy figures, no more real than the 'villains.

I've thought of writing sequels to some of my books, partly because as a child I enjoyed series books such as the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace and the Melendy Family by Elizabeth Enright. Several people risked after the book was published if I'd intended them to have a lesbian relationship. Frankly, I don't think I had resolved the issue in my mind and since the children in the book were 12 and 5 it seemed to me possibly they wouldn't be av 2 of the issue themselves.

The sequel I've thought of would take place several year:. At that pcint 1 think she and her mother could discuss this more frankly. I see the mother as someone who, though a lesbian at a certain point in her life, is somewhat tentative about it, especially in relationship to her children. The mother's feelings about revealing it would be a part of the story, not just the daughter's reaction. I do carry situations around in my head, often for several years. It's not al- ways clear to me why a particular group of characters form themselves in one's mind in a particular way, but once they do, it's hard to get rid of them except through writing the.

Then they leave you alone. But my starting point is usually a situation rather than a charac- ter. I like the idea of caking a conventional situation and standing it on its head, as it were. They both have this kind of irony as writers and that appeals to me. For in- stance, in WOLFMAN you could say I started with the situation of an unwed mother and her daughter, but really I started with the idea of an unwed mother and her daughter who, instead of feeling oppressed and cast down by her role in society, would con- sider herself privileged.

So it was the reversal of the usual that appealed to me. I've just written a teenage novel in which the girl, who isn't a virgin, has to try to seduce the boy who is. I guess the humor in these reversals is what appeals to me. At that time I'd been 35 o ERLC writing short stories for 10 years and the idea of tackling something as? Also, I'd been studying Russian literature and my idea of a novel was a giant page thing.

So I decided I would force myself to type 10 pages a day— I always compose on my typewriter--, 5 days a week until I reached page Then I retype it and show it to an editor. With others I've had to do revisions of varying magnitude, I'm always willing and interested to revise a novel upon the suggestion of an editor.

I don't have any feel- ing about anything being sacred as it stands. For me, the advantage of the 10 page a day method is that it enables me to over- come the self doubts which in my case start creeping in almost as soon as I start the first page. All those inner questions, about is this any good? So by forcing myself to just go on and at least have a finished manuscript to present to someone, I overcome these doubts. Naturally, I would love to be a person without such doubts, but that doesn't seem very likely. It enables you to be- come involved with the characters and their lives rather than to stand back and say, 'What a wonderful sentence.

Since I enjoy writing dialogue, I tend to use it pretty often. The issue of third and first person also interests me. In my short story writing years I wrote exclusively in the third person, and basically it still appeals to me because it has a certain detach- ment. But in doing it I felt I gained a certain freedom. There is a confidential, natural ease to the first person which is appealing, rather like talking to a friend. Since then most of my novels have been in the first person, but I still feel my real love is the third. The political or cultural event which has influenced me most as a person and as a writer has been the women's movement.

Possibly it's made me overly sensitive to certain things when I read. Especially with writing for children, I can't put aside the unspoken implications of many books with their slighting attitudes to women or girls. Even if the book is well written, these attitudes disturb me.

I think the whole issue of women's lib in relation to writing is a complex one. It isn't simply a matter of writing a book about a little girl who wants to get on the boy's baseball team. Such books often have assumptions which are, to me, ragingly sexist and far transcend the apparent theme. I think it's a matter of looking afresh at attitudes to all female characters in a book, not only to the girls who are the center, but the mothers, the sisters, the aunts.

Sometimes you'll read a book where the mother works and you'll think great. But often by the end of the book it will have been made to seem as though the mother's working is some kind of evil which has destroyed the lives of her children. But I'm not only concerned with the female characters we are pre- senting to our young people in their books. I'm concerned with fathers too. I'd like to see more books in which fathers take an active role in the lives of their children, not just in playing sports with them, but in a more intimate basic way. Today I feel many more fathers are doing this so it's really a matter—as it is with other issues too--of books catching up to life.

We are still far behind reality in what we decide to present to children, and this is a pity. I see lists of recommended books for children and adolescents and often these books are almost exclusively fantasy, fairy tales, folk tales. I think I understand The real world frightens many people today. We are living, perhaps even more than in earlier times, in an era of changing values and many people are afraid to deal with these changes in books. They feel children need and expect fixed values, certainty.

I think children are not fooled by false certainty and I think they aren't going to go back to fairy tales either. They need books which confront some of these new things, even if the outcome isn't always the most reassuring. Not that escapist books of any kind don't have a place for children just as they do for adults, but I'd like to see.

I chose to become a writer because writing gave me pleasure of a very special kind. Painting was the only other activity which came close, and until I was in my late teens I wasn't sure which field I would go into, I was never sure I could make an actual profession out of it, and started getting a doctorate in Russian so I could teach and, perhaps write on the side. In a rather uhliberated way I decided I could rely on being supported by my husband and I should take a chance at doing what I most wanted to do. I found it hard doing two things at once—going to graduate school and writing.

Pos- sibly they drew too much on the same energies. For me writing is probably most akin to acting. That is, when I write I feel I am becoming another person and I have the--to me--exciting sensation of transcending my own identity. When you write, you can be a different age, a different sex. There are virtually no limits to what you can attempt. In 'real life 1 I was and still am to some extent a fairly shy, repressed person.

Through my characters I express things that I wouldn't have the courage to outside of my books. Often I reread my books and am filled with admiration for these outspoken, iconoclastic women, I'm so much more aware in myself of my cringing, insecure side, though at the same time I feel these outspoken characters do stand for a part of me which exists, but doesn't al- ways come to the surface. I had grown up on what I now see as a very shel- tered environment — liberal politically, open to new ideas, etc.

I thought the whole world was like this, or at least even if intellectually I realized it wasn't, I had never met people who thought very differently from me. Now, of course, due to the angry and hostile letters my editors or I have received about some of the things I've tried to put into my children's books, I'm aware how different things are in most of the country. There is a very strong repressive tide, I can't tell how much stronger or less strong it is now than it was a few years ago, but there is no doubt it exists, that it does have an influence on sales of books and so on, I still feel, though, that I have to write the kind of books that interest me, and thus far I've felt that there have been enough people, even if they aren't a majority, who believe in the kind of thing I'm trying to do, who say, in effect, keep it up so that I feel just- ified in continuing.

But it is definitely a problem. It's easy to be forthright on behalf of ideas in general, but when it comes to your own books, you feel much more vulnerable. You always wonder if perhaps the book just isn't good, not that it represents ideas which some people find threatening. I feel that in fifty years many of the taboos about sexuality which I think do exist now will have vanished.

The last to go are the ones involving books for younger children. I think that at this moment teenage books are just beginning to break through some of these taboos. Often my books are called 'books for young adults' but really they are for younger children, more like 8 to 12 year olds. They are foisted on teenagers because if the book has a controversial theme, people will ac- cept it more easily for a teenage audience than for a younger one.

An editor, I once heard speak, suggested that libraries should not be separated according to books 37 9 ERLC for children, books for teenagers, books for adults. She felt all books should be mixed together on the same shelves. Possibly this would create some confusion, but I felt her basic idea was sound. When I write a book in which the main character is 11, I don't want that book to be one which only an 11 year old can enjoy.

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To me it's a book seen through an eleven year old's eyes, but I'd like it to have the complexity and subtly of an adult book. In short, I see my children's books as being about children, not just for children. I know many writers for children say, in effect — I won't write about this because a child won't be interested in it.

One example I've been given is: I won't write about adults because children don't want to read about them. I don! I see most experiences as being ones in which we, adults, children, men and women are all involved and it's this broader interaction which is my concern. There is the eccentric f antasy. Interviewing Richard Peck, I could avoid all those pitfalls. We were born on opposite sides of the same Central Illinois cornfield; I learned to swim in Dreamland Lake; and we both taught English at one time.

We naturally started talking about books and kids. I am still surprised to find books I wrote for pleasure reading now a part of the curriculum. What it says is we are reaching out for a curriculum. When it began it bothered me. I thought kids might be trapped in the present forever, but they read everything, and that is as it should be. I believe every student should pass an exam in Latin grammar, but that isn't traditional. It never was that way. I also believe kids should pass a reading com- prehension exam before they are advanced, but that has never been either.

As a teacher I wasn't traditional at all even though my students almost demanded that I be. I wanted them to experiment with writing styles. They wanted to do book reports. Even when they wrote poetry it was post e. Search for more papers by this author. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access.

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Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Get access to the full version of this article. View access options below. You previously purchased this article through ReadCube. Institutional Login. Log in to Wiley Online Library. Purchase Instant Access. View Preview. Learn more Check out. I try not to do the same thing over and over—and if I do reuse an idea the fake betrothal, for example I try to use it in quite different ways each time.

Many of you write with recurring characters in your stories. How do you keep track of what your characters have done to ensure that your storyline stays true? I keep lists of characters and places and key descriptions. But on the whole I am a "head" person—I keep everything stored in my brain. If I am not sure of a detail, then I have to go rummaging through the previous books to check. But it is, of course, hugely important to keep the details consistent. My books Slightly Tempted and Slightly Sinful not only are related but also run concurrently. I had to get both plots and sets of characters to converge at a certain time and a certain place the same scene occurs close to the end of both books.

That meant keeping very detailed time lines for each book. I did not want one group arriving at the appointed place a whole month ahead of the other group! It is part of the fascination of the job! Do you visualize your characters as anyone in particular? A celebrity or a significant other? No, never. My books are purely creations of the imagination. Though I do have a mental picture of my characters, it is not as anyone I know. I remember once grimacing when told by a reader that she pictured one of my heroes as an actor whom I disliked.

But that of course is the privilege of the reader. We all see things differently with our different imaginations. How wonderful to work in a medium in which so much personal freedom is allowed both writer and reader—unlike film or television. If you write historical romances, how do you do your research? In great bulk at the start, reading both history and contemporary sources.

But since most of my books have been set in the same historical period the Regency , I am constantly adding to my knowledge. And there are two great e-mail loops of Regency fanatics to which I belong. What the people on those loops do not know about the Regency period is not worth knowing.

Everyone is very willing to share expertise. I am British by upbringing. This is a huge advantage to a writer of historical fiction set in Britain. I have an intuitive feel for what people would do under certain circumstances or feel about various issues, and how they would speak. I spend a month there each year to soak up atmosphere.

Level with us — how easy or difficult is it to write a love scene? I think of them as love stories. They are emotional experiences, bringing together as they do two people who are quite separate entities to the point at which they commit their lives to each other in a deep love relationship. Sex is a crucial aspect of such a relationship, and so it is important to me not to leave the reader outside the bedroom door, so to speak, and thus remind her that she is not one of these characters but a reader holding a book. I love writing love scenes. I look forward to them.

I never write them for titillation purposes. My love scenes are an integral part of the love story, the moments at which the passion of the growing relationship is at its most intense—either negatively or positively, showing what is wrong with the relationship or what is right.

Love scenes are as much as emotional experience as a physical—perhaps more so.