An Interview with Jerry Spinelli about Loser
Where did you go to school? Was it anything like John W. Satterfield
Elementary School or Monroe Middle School?
I attended Hartranft Elementary in Norristown, PA. It resembled
Satterfield Elementary only in the broadest sense. I do remember one or two
classmates who seemed to incite the others' disapproval. As I wrote the
graduation chapter, I pictured the so-called "all-purpose room" where
mine took place, but the resemblance ends there. The teachers in the story do
not resemble my own, nor did we have a field day.
Are there any of your own school experiences that you used in the book?
If so, could you tell us about one or two?
There probably are, but I can't remember any offhand. When I went
looking for Zinkoff's experiences, I think I found them on the other side of my
own coin. For example, Zinkoff is slow, I was fast (50 yard dash champion of
Norristown grade schools); Zinkoff is awkward, I was athletic; Zinkoff gets one
A, I got lots. If Zinkoff had been in my class, I probably would have thought he
was a loser too. Despite the A's, I had a lot to learn.
After a difficult day at school, how did you make yourself feel better,
or how do you make your children feel better?
There was always a sport to play after school, so that distracted me
from bad times. And I could always "escape" on my trusty
green-and-cream Roadmaster bicycle.
What qualities do you most admire in people, and what is the quality
you most admire in Donald Zinkoff?
I admire people with the courage to be themselves. I admire people who
value other people. I admire people who don't give up. Zinkoff is all of these.
One day, when he is walking the streets of his town, Zinkoff
"feels the picture he lives in has been tilted." Do you ever feel like
Oh sure, many times. I dare anyone to grow up and not feel tilted now
Zinkoff loves to laugh. What things make you laugh the most?
Kids, especially when they don't even know they're being funny.
At the beginning of Loser you thank all the people who helped you write
the book. How do other people help you write?
It's not that anyone else actually sits down at the computer with me
and helps me write, but people do furnish me with ideas or information or their
own inspiring lives.
Did you always want to be a writer or, when you were Zinkoff's age, did
you want to be something else like a mailman?
Like Zinkoff, early on I wanted to be what my father was: a printer.
Then I wanted to be a baseball player. I decided to become a writer halfway
through high school.
What would you say to someone who felt nobodyness;' who feels that
they are the leftover' kid when the teams are picked?
I say a funny thing happens if you just hang in there: time passes,
perceptions change, and "nobodies" become somebodies.'
Do you miss your characters when you have finished writing about them?
Do you miss Donald Zinkoff?
I usually love my characters, but writing a book can be hard work, so
I'm happy when it's over. I'll never miss Zinkoff, because now that I've created
him, he'll always be with me.