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Breakfast Serials Serve Up Fiction Fun

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Concerned that fewer Americans are reading for pleasure, Avi, a Newbery Award-winning author, founded Breakfast Serials, a re-incarnation of the serialized newspaper novel. Included: Information about the Breakfast Serials program.

Statistics show that half of Americans now are aliterate -- that is, they can read, but choose not to. Young people in particular seem to find little reason to drop the remote or video game and pick up a book, newspaper, or magazine.

Avi
That trend caught the attention of prolific author Avi, whose works include two Newbery Award winners. In 1996, Avi founded Breakfast Serials, a 21st century version of the serialized newspaper novel of years past, and recruited authors to write stories for the serialized format. Now more than 400 American newspapers publish Breakfast Serials, and everyone from young teens to adults are devouring the stories.

Besides contributing to Breakfast Serials, Avi continues to write books for adults and teens. He recently published his 50th book, CRISPIN, The Cross of Lead, an historical novel about a 13-year-old boy in medieval England. Avi recently talked with Education World about Breakfast Serials and his interest in writing historical fiction.

On his Web site, Avi writes that the name Avi was given to him by his twin sister when they were a year old, and it is the only name he uses.

Education World: What inspired you to get involved with Breakfast Serials ?

Avi: Serialized narratives have been a staple of American newspapers -- and the American public -- since the 18th century. They are an American invention. They lasted until the 1940s. Since I'm old enough to have read them as a kid, they made a big impression on me and I wished to revive them. That has now occurred; Breakfast Serials publishes in more than 400 daily and weekly papers.

EW: On average, how many Breakfast Serials' stories does a newspaper publish a year?

Avi: They usually do two, but often three. With a backlog of stories available, it is possible (a few newspapers do this) to publish year round.

EW: Are the stories written specifically for Breakfast Serials ?

Avi: Very much so. The form and style are unique to the publishing format, with specific narrative line. You cannot take just any story, chop it up into segments, and serialize it. The serialized novel is a distinctive literary form. The creation process is similar to trade book publishing. Story selection, revisions, editing, copy editing, and in our case translation into Spanish too, all are required. There also are illustrations drawn for each chapter of every story.

EW: What is your goal for the program?

Avi: Creating new readers by reaching, in particular, readers who can read, but don't choose to -- the aliterate. We also cross age lines -- we have masses of adult readers. We touch many who are outside or alienated from traditional book culture. We are -- as our motto states --Books Unbound.

EW: How can we encourage reading for pleasure?

Avi: Adults need to read more, and serve as role models. Kids need to have greater choices as to what they read in school. The pressure to read classics and "adult books" is often counter-productive. The way testing has come to dominate curriculum undercuts reading for pleasure.

EW: How do you select topics for your historical novels?

Avi: About half of my books are historical fiction. My choice of topic derives entirely from my interest and fascination with some particular aspect of history.

EW: How do you research your books?

Avi: By reading! Keep in mind that I am a former research librarian, and therefore find research relatively easy. I focus in on a topic and then begin to read. Since I read history for pleasure, I have a basic understanding of American and European history. My research for CRISPIN was the most extensive I've ever undertaken.

EW: How can writers make historical fiction relevant to today's teenagers?

Avi: Beyond all else you need a good story, one that moves with energy, tension, and rich emotion, with characters that seem alive. Do that and you can get readers to read about any topic!

This e-interview with Avi is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World

Originally published 10/02/2003; updated 12/05/2005


 

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