The Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature at Rhode Island College




- Chris Crutcher -


Chris Crutcher was born in Dayton, Ohio on July 17, 1946 to an Air Force family and raised in Cascade, Idaho, a small lumber and logging town. Chris was a reluctant reader and not a very good student in high school so no one imagined that he would become a writer. Indeed, his writing career did not begin until he was in his mid-thirties.

In the meantime he attended Eastern Washington State College (chosen for the color of their catalog--red) where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology/sociology, got his teaching certificate, directed a K-12 alternative school for inner-city kids in Oakland, California, and worked in Spokane, Washington as child and family therapist in a mental health center where his focus was on child-abuse cases. He is now a full-time writer and works with the Child Protection Team in Spokane.

Chris loves writing because of the connection he makes with his readers. He succeeds in combining humor with difficult and serious situations. Many of his stories have aspects taken from his own life and experiences. Being a distance runner and swimmer himself, sports are often a part of his writings.

His novels have earned him several awards. Chris is a well-respected young adult author with many devoted fans.

Chris Crutcher's novels and awards include:

Running Loose. New York: Greenwillow, 1983
- Best Books for Young Adult Readers 1983 (ALA)

Stotan!. New York: Greenwillow, 1986
- Best Books for Young Adult Readers 1986 (ALA)
- Best of the Best in Young Adult Literature (School Library Journal)

The Crazy Horse Electric Game. New York: Greenwillow, 1987
- Best Books for Young Adult Readers 1987 (ALA)

Athletic Shorts. New York: Greenwillow, 1989
- Best Books for Young Adult Readers 1992 (ALA)
- Best of the Best in Young Adult Literature (School Library Journal)

Chinese Handcuffs. New York: Greenwillow, 1989
- Best Books for Young Adult Readers 1990 (ALA)

The Deep End. New York: Morrow, 1992
- Best Books for Young Adult Readers (ALA)

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. New York: Greenwillow, 1993
- Best Books for Young Adult Readers (ALA)
- Best Book of the Year (School Library Journal)

Ironman. New York: Greenwillow, 1995
- Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 1996 (ALA)
- Best Books for Young Adult Readers 1996 (ALA)


Ironman, is an excellent book about a boy named Bo Brewster. In this book Bo learns a lot about himself. Bo has a few problems. He and his father do not get along very well and he takes his aggressions out by quitting the football team. Because Bo is so angry he is put into an anger management group that must attend before school everyday. While in the group Bo decides to run a triathlon so he is always training. While in the anger manaement group he meets his girlfriend Shelly, who also helps him train for the big event. Bo learns a lot while he was in the group. He learns that maybe his life isn't so bad.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

This is a story to give you hope. A teenage boy comes into his own socially, while his best friend, a burn-scarred outcast, has to deal with the most difficult crisis of her life. Her temporary solution is to be held for observation in a hospital mental ward. The boy realizes that the problem is too big for them to handle on their own and enlists the help of a sympathetic adult (against the girl's wishes.) With trust, love, and a great action scene the kids overcome there problems and we can see the possibilities for the future.

The Crazy Horse Electric Game

Willie Weaver is a boy who is forced to come to terms with an accident that disables him from playing baseball. After this accident Willie feels pressure from his father and himself to be the person he was. This pressure becomes overwhelming and he leaves and starts a new life. This story is very important because it tackles alot of issues that many Kids Willie's age can relate to him in some way. It is important that students have some type of role model that they can relate to. I feel that Willie sets a good example when he overcomes his disabilities to be a productive person. When he decides to get therapy so he can play basketball he shows that he can overcome a lot of adversity. All in all, I was very impressed with the way Crutcher tackled these issues and manged to make it a good book at the same time.

Interview Questions:

1.What is your favorite/least favorite book that you have written?

I don't have a favorite or a least favorite book. They all do what I wanted them to do at the time I wrote them. I get asked that question a lot, and it's the only answer I can come up with.

2. How do you come up with ideas for your books? Do you write about personal experiences?

I come up with ideas from ANYWHERE. They can come from news, from TV, from personal experiences, from other people's experiences. The fun of being a fiction writer is that an idea can become anything when run through your imagination.

3. How do you sturcture information for your books? How long does it taketo write a book?

I'm not sure what you mean by structuring information. I start with an idea, think about the characters I want and start to write. It's a pretty free-flowing process, get the idea, and see where it takes me. It takes me however long it takes to write it. This last one has been going almost three years, though some of that is because I've been working on different projects. Usually it takes a little under a year from the time I start to the finish of a good first draft.

4. Who or what do you read? Who has influenced you?

I read Tim O'Brien, Pat Conroy, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, plus a lot of current stuff. I'm influenced every time I pick up a good book and get sucked in. The first book that really influenced me was TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I'm sure there are others, but I'm influenced by any good story.

5. When did you first want to become a writer? Why did you choose young adult genre? How long did it take you to first get published?

I'm not sure when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was an adult, however, probably in my late twenties or early thirties. I was lucky enough that when I actually sat down and started writing around the age of thirty-five, to find an agent and get published very quickly. I had an agent a week after I sent out my first manuscript. I didn't choose the YA genre. I didn't even know it existed. I just told the story I wanted to tell and sent it out. I have some adult stuff out there, and there will be more, but I like stories about teenagers because it's a part of my life I remember well.

6.How did sports infuence you life? You seem to use atheletics in all of your books. How does it affect your writing?

I was raised in a town of fewer than a thousand people. A very small high school. Everyone (boys only back then) played sports. I include them because they were such a part of my life. Writing a book is much like playing sports. It takes great focus and tenacity. It takes practice. The more you pay attention to the preparation, the better the product.

7. The ending of The Crazy Horse Electric Game was great! How do you know how and when to end a story such as Willie's?

That was a tough one. I actually wrote two endings; one where he stayed at home and one where he left. I had put so much tragedy into the family, that the ending I chose seemed more real. I didn't want to sugar-coat it and I wanted Willie to prevail whether his family did or not. I get a LOT of comment on that ending.

8. When you begin a story do you think of the character first, or do you come up with an issue such as abuse or drugs and create a characer around that?

It can work either way. It kind of depends on what motivates me. It's easier if I come up with the plot first, because that holds a story together. If I have a plot, then I can "try out" the characters to see how they do. It's harder to come up with characters and say, "what should I put this person through?" though I have done that. I don't usually think of an "issue". I think of events.

9. What kind of feedback do you get from your readers? What do you feel is the most rewarding part about writing?

I get a lot of feedback that says readers have strong ties to my characters, that I know what young people are thinking, which is nice because it's been a long time since I was one. When people say they've learned something about friendship, or that they are going to be more careful how they treat people, or that my characters seem like friends, I am humbled. That is the most rewarding part, aside from the ability to make a living at it, which is very freeing. I get a lot of personal responses.

10. What book do you believe sends the strongest message to young adults?

The same message as to adults; that we are responsible for everything we do, that if we pay attention we can influence our own lives. Though we may not have control over all that happens to us, we have control over what we do about it.

I hope that is helpful. Good questions. CC

Reaction to Interview:

We were very pleased with our response to the e-mail interview with Chris Crutcher. In fact, he was e-mailed on a Tuesday and by Wednesday he had already responded back. He answered the questions as if we were all sitting there talking to him. He answered the questions very throughly. He seemed like a very down to earth person. Just like any normal guy. We were very impressed with his maturity and the fact that he took our questions very seriously. Chris Crutcher was very excited to talk to us and we found that it made it very exciting to talk to him. We were really impressed that he was so reall and easy to talk to. We really like the way that he thought that kids make their own decisions and they have to learn to deal with them. All in all we all we very pleased with the results of our interview.

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This web page was last updated on: 21 June 2007

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