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If you're living under a rock, don't read Chris Crutcher. If you want to experience the "real" world, here's an author that is genuinely on the mark, candid, compassionate and won't sell his soul for the sake of critics.
Chris Crutcher
[ Interview January 2003 ] [Author Site ]
Chris Crutcher
Chris Crutcher grew up in Cascade, Idaho, and now lives in Spokane, Washington. He is the critically acclaimed author of eight novels and a collection of short stories, all but one chosen as ALA Best Books. In 2000, he was awarded the American Library Association's Margaret A. Edwards Award, honoring his lifetime contribution in writing for teens. In 1998, the National Council of Teachers of English named him the National Intellectual Freedom Award recipient for his unyielding devotion to free speech. Drawing on his experience as an athlete, teacher, family therapist, and child protection specialist, he unflinchingly writes about real and often-ignored issues that face teenagers today. His friend and fellow novelist Terry Davis wrote Presenting Chris Crutcher, a biography in 1997.
King of the Mild Frontier
(April 2003)
Ages: 13 Up


KING OF THE MILD FRONTIER: An Ill-Advised Autobiography

From trying to impress a member of the girls' softball team (with disastrous dental results) to enduring the humiliation of his high school athletic club initiation (olives and oysters play unforgettable roles), Chris Crutcher's memoir of the tricky road to adulthood is candid, disarming, hilarious, relevant, and never less than riveting. He vividly describes a temper that was always waiting to trip him up even as it sustained him through some of the most memorable mishaps any child has survived. And how did this guy (he lifted his brother's homework through the entire tenth grade) ever become a writer not to mention the author of eight critically acclaimed books for young people? The frontier may be mild, but the book is not. You will laugh, you will cry, you will remember.
--Greenwillow 2003

Whale Talk
Rage, abandonment,bullies, revenge,child abuse
Losing the truth, Anger Management, feelings, relationships
Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes
High school misfit
The Crazy Horse Electric Game
Understanding and Finding Human Dignity
On the Fringe
Includes a powerful and graphic short story from Crutcher inspired by the tragic events at Columbine High.
Athletic Shorts
Chinese Handcuffs
Chaos, Team Work, Friendship
The Deep End
Billy Bartholomew has an audacious soul, and he knows it. Why? Because it's all he has left. He's dead.

Eddie Proffit has an equally audacious soul, but he doesn't know it. He's still alive.

These days, Billy and Eddie meet on the sledding hill, where they used to spend countless hours -- until Billy kicked a stack of Sheetrock over on himself, breaking his neck and effectively hitting tilt on his Earthgame. The two were inseparable friends. They still are. And Billy is not about to let a little thing like death stop him from hanging in there with Eddie in his epic struggle to get his life back on track.

From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7 Up–This clever, spirited post-modern meta-narrative is a quick read that is bound to be controversial. It has no profanity, sexual acts, drug or alcohol use, or bloody violence but takes dead aim at censors who can't get past counting swear words or the notion of a gay character who is still alive at the end of a book....This centers around the use of Crutcher's faux novel, Warren Peece, in class and the community-wide uproar over it.
--Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA

Interview with CHRIS CRUTCHER (January 2003)

ETC: You've written eight novels and one collection of short stories. How have you seen your writing change through the years? And what has inspired that change, if anything?

Chris Crutcher: I think I've gotten better at the craft; at the lyrical part, the word choices. I can also tell a more complex story now than I could at the beginning, and am certainly more confident with different kinds of characters. Those are some of the things that happen naturally for any writer.

ETC: What are some of the books you've been reading? It's always interesting to know what a writer reads.

Chris Crutcher: I love Tim O' Brien. Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker, Anything new by Terry Davis, Chris Curtis, Will Weaver, Chris Lynch. Wally Lamb. Can't wait for another Pat Conroy novel. Anna Quindland is amazing. I'm reading "The Natural", about the Clinton presidency right now. I think there was a lot more to that guy than an overactive sex drive. It amazes me how so many people in this country don't want a smart leader. Oops. I was supposed to be talking about what I read.

ETC: You say you were not a devout student or a gifted teacher, and yet your books are polished and, in a sense, instructional. Do you think you could have been a better student and teacher if the expectations had been more flexible? Individualized?

Chris Crutcher: I think I would have been a better student if the education system had recognized my learning style and played a little more to it, and if teachers had known the importance of relating subject material to the individual student. I think I would have been a better teacher if I'd been a better student. Actually, I was a lot of fun as a teacher, I just wasn't competent in my subject area.

ETC: What do you think is the most common mistake educators make when it comes to dealing with kids who are considered "at risk?" And how can that error be avoided?

Chris Crutcher: I think they pay way too much attention to behavior and way to little to expression. Most kids in trouble get in trouble because they don't want you to see what they are afraid of, though that isn't the term they'd use. We pay way too much attention to things like "zero tolerance" etc. That's a behavioral term.

ETC: Is the previous question answered in part by the English teacher in "Whale Talk?" Is part of the secret to effective outreach the ability to listen and not judge?

Chris Crutcher: That's the only advice I can give anyone who works with adolescents. Don't judge and don't take it personally.

ETC: T.J., the protagonist in "Whale Talk" seems so completely three-dimentional. Was he based on a real person? Or are your character simply that real to you as you write them?

Chris Crutcher: They're that real as I write them. He isn't anyone in particular, but he has to have the characteristics he has for me to tell the story well; so he and I made a deal. He'd be three-dimensional and I'd treat him with respect.

ETC: Is there a character in any of your books that is autobiographical -- Chris Crutcher himself, though thinly veiled?

Chris Crutcher: Not really.

ETC: Speaking of autobiographical content, your new book, KING OF THE MILD FRONTIER: An Ill-Advised Autobiography, what inspired you to take such a literary departure? What made this the time to write about your childhood?

Chris Crutcher: Serendipity, mostly; looking for something different to do while I let the next story take shape. I did it mostly for fun.

ETC: The autobiography is both funny and poignant. How do you capture that balance as a writer? Is it an instinct you were born with, or has it been fine tuned with experience?

Chris Crutcher: I suppose it's both. The better you see the two juxtaposed, the better you deal with people and the better you're able to put people (characters) into your stories.

ETC: You've been very candid in your autobiography about some difficult lessons learned as a boy -- dealing with your temper and your mother's alcoholism. Was it difficult to write about such personal subjects?

Chris Crutcher: Not really. My mom was very open about her alcoholism once she got clean. She told people right out when they offered her a drink, and she talked to kids at school about it, just as she took her oxygen tank to the school when she got emphasema to show kids where smoking leads. She may not have changed any minds (and she may have) but she was right there talking about who she was and the mistakes she'd made.

ETC: Again, the new book is intensely humorous. And you've said that you considered stand up comedy at one point. Who makes YOU laugh? Who were you comedic inspirations?

Chris Crutcher: I see humor in almost everything, so it's not hard to make me laugh. I loved the old stand-ups. Alan King, Bob Newhart's old telephone comedy. I loved the Smothers Brothers, bought every album, mimicked them at school. A writer named Jean Shepherd probably had as much to do with my love of humor in writing as anyone. Mad Magazine was a favorite. I think Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, to name a few, are postive geniuses. I can't even come close to telling you all the things I think are funny.

ETC: "Athletic Shorts," your critically acclaimed collection of short stories has been one of your most popular books. Will there be any other short story collections?

Chris Crutcher: There better be. I made a contract with Greenwillow for one.

ETC: What's next for Chris Crutcher? Can you tip us off to any surprises? Insider secrets? Bombshell revelations?

Chris Crutcher: Naw, no surprises. Haven't you read the critics? Chris Crutcher is being Chris Crutcher again. They don't realize I'm so narcissistic I think that's cool. I may do another adult novel in the near future. If there are surprises they will be surprises to me, too.