I have been reading the most delightful book – Twerp by Mark Goldblatt. We were fortunate enough to talk to Mark about his anti-bullying middle grade novel, a novel that Mark didn’t even know was middle grade or about bullying.
Mark is a political writer by trade (www.markgoldblatt.com) and Harper Collins approached him about writing an ebook based on his political commentary columns. They liked his work and ordered a paperback book – 50,000 words please. And as any writer knows when faced with a deadline you’ll sometimes come up with the most unlikely of distractions. While working on this juggernaut Mark started drawing sketches about things that happened in his childhood and soon found himself writing a story with a 12-year-old narrator. That’s how Twerp was born.
Twerp is the story of Julian Twersky, a normal kid growing up in New York in 1969. When Julian’s English teacher assigns him to write a diary it helps Julian develop empathy for others. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s a really great read. The book consists of little sketches of incidents in Julian’s life all leading up to the one incident that he wants to talk about the least but that is the entire reason his teacher assigned him the journal in the first place. Mark never envisioned it as an anti-bullying book, just as a long confession of a kid developing a conscience.
In fact, Mark is hesitant to call it a bullying book. He’s worried that our society is defining bullying down. There’s a difference between teasing and bullying and some teasing is bonding. You tease back and forth with your friends. The book definitely has this teasing among Julian and his group of friends and it also has the other extreme – some very clear, not okay bullying.
As a writer, I was interested in hearing about Mark’s writing process and I must say it’s really unique. He tries to write 2 pages a day (not unique yet). He won’t stop writing until he knows what the last sentence is he’s going to write for the day (a little more unique). But then – he doesn’t write it. He memorizes it and writes it down the next day (there it is). This motivates him to write because he’s afraid of forgetting the sentence and typing something he’s already written helps put him in the right mindset.
Mark treated us to a reading from his next book – a sequel to Twerp. But what are you doing still reading this blog? Go check out the book!
Main Takeaway: Mark admitted that when the words middle grade novel were mentioned he got up in his head about what he was writing. He thought he was writing for adults. In the end, he realized he should just write the novel he wanted.
Personal Takeaway: I feel totally vindicated now in reading all the “kids” books that I read.
Inappropriate Takeaway: Mark admitted that nothing in the book is completely invented and now I really really want to know the truth behind the Twerp. Especially one rather unfortunate tale of our narrator’s first date that nearly broke my heart. Read the book!