Interview with Newbery Honor Author Vince Vawter
Get to know Vince…
Paperboy, a novel by Vince Vawter, has been named a 2014 Newbery Honor Book. The book was published in May 2013 by Delacorte Press, a division of Random House.
Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association, also named the book to its Top Ten list of books of historical fiction for young people.
Vawter retired after a 40-year career in newspapers, most recently as the editor and publisher of the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press. He served as managing editor of The Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988 to 1995.
The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the ALA to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The ALA also named four Newbery Honor Books for 2014.
In making the award the ALA committee called the book’s protagonist, known as Little Man throughout most of the story, “a sensitive and resilient 11-year-old boy who stutters.” Little Man “ventures beyond the familiar and finds his voice while taking over his best friend’s paper route. Set in the summer heat of 1959 Memphis, ‘Paperboy’ is a moving coming-of-age novel.”
The middle-grade/young adult novel also has been named an ALA Notable Children’s Book. The audio version has been named a Notable Children’s Recording by the Association for Library Service to Children and an Amazing Audiobook by the Young Adult Library Services Association.
Foreign rights to Paperboy have been sold in six countries to date.
In addition to dealing with the challenges of stuttering, the book offers glimpses into growing up in the segregated South and shows the boy’s struggles with bullying and parent relations. Much of the book is based on Vawter’s childhood experiences. He is a native of Memphis.
In retirement, Vawter lives with his wife and two dogs on a small farm in Louisville, TN., near Knoxville. For more information, visit his website.
Would you mind sharing an embarrassing moment?
As a person who stutters, every moment of one’s life has the potential for embarrassment. However, one incident I recall has an interesting difference. I was speaking at a high school graduation about my challenges and a young lady came up to me afterwards and said, “But you don’t stutter now, so what’s the problem?”
What world-changing event would you like to take credit for?
Michael Jordan and I made bald the new cool.
Where is the worst place to be stuck waiting?
I refuse to wait. I always have something with me to read, so I never wait. I just read.
If you were to start a new trend and be famous for it, what would it be?
The end of literary genres.
What great idea did you come up with, but never followed through on?
If I never followed through on something, it was not that great of an idea.
What is the worst movie you’ve ever seen?
Any movie with computer generated imagery (CGI). It’s cheating.
What odd habit or quirk do you have?
Extremely fast and extremely slow reading speeds.
If there were a national holiday in your honor, what would it be like?
Everyone would be silent and just think all day.
How do you feel about small talk? Love or hate?
Hate to an unhealthy level.
What celebrity—past or present—would you trust the least with a spare key to your house?
Tom Cruise. He might jump up and down on my couch.
What is the oldest thing you own? Where did you get it?
A pottery shard from the Middle East.
What do you consider your worst feature?
Shorts arms. Too short to box with God or anybody else.
Would you ever consider living with a tribe deep in the Amazon? Why or why not?
No. I might spoil their world.
If you could be a spokesperson for any product, what would it be?
Arm & Hammer powdered vacuum enhancer. No one should vacuum without it.
If your life had a soundtrack, what would it be?
Soundtrack from “The Big Chill.” Fits my late 60′s youth perfectly.
What do you get most enthusiastic about?
A sentence that doesn’t change after 100 rewrites.
If you went to a psychiatrist, what would he/she say you suffer from?
Delusions of reality.
If you were a farmer, what would be your most abundant crop?
I am. Muscadine grapes.
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
Never experienced one. My problem is over abundance.
Can you visualize a finished product before you begin a book?
Always, but it’s never correct.
Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?
The latter, for sure.
Is there a particular place where you feel most creative?
On deadline. A symptom of 40 years in the newspaper business.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
As in breathing, quitting is not an option.
If you were no longer able to write, how else would you express your creativity?
I can “think” a book.
What has been your greatest sacrifice that has enabled you to become the author you are today?
Occasionally I have had to withdraw from society.
What words of inspiration were given to you that you would like to pass along to others?
When in doubt, you are just where you need to be.
If you knew that you had only one last opportunity to express yourself creatively, what message would you want to convey to others?
Everything is turning out just as it should.
When did you realize that you had a gift for writing?
I wrote my grandmother a letter when I was 4. It began: “I wish you were here.” Maybe the best sentence I’ve ever written.
How do you balance your personal life and your creative endeavors?
I don’t try to separate them.
What is your typical day like?
Never had one.
How much of your own life is reflected in your work?
100 percent or more.
Do you have family members who like to write too?
Yes. Wife. Son. Daughter. Granddaughter.
What was your childhood like? Did your upbringing influence the way you write today?
Lonely. Only child. For sure.
How do you think you differ from other creative people in your genre?
I refuse to abide by genres.
Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If so, in what ways?
Not sure how to answer. My style changes with the weather.
When do you feel the most energized?
When a phrase lasts through 100 rewrites.
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