How to pronounce Jack Gantos: gan-tose (to quote the author, the second syllable rhymes with verbose)
Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, and Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book.
Jack was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and grew up in nearby Norvelt. When he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day.
The seeds for Jack's writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister's diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers' lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories. While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack's career as a professional writer.
Jack continued to write children's books and began to teach courses in children's book writing and children's literature. He developed the master's degree program in children's book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children's book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.
This biography was last updated on 10/01/2011.
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Jack Gantos reflects on his childhood experiences growing up in Norvelt and explains how they influenced his novel Dead End in Norvelt
Dead End in Norvelt is a wild combination of autobiography and fiction. And when you read it, you kind of want to know what's real. Are the nosebleeds real? Did you really almost shoot Miss Volker? How did you make that combination?
When I was trying to parse the real life with the fiction I had to add some features. But I added them on top of a really good foundation. So, like the nosebleeds - yeah, I had these vicious splashy nosebleeds which I was kind of famous for with big wads of paper sticking out of my nose. And the town is real, the whole Eleanor Roosevelt history is real, and then all of the history that's referred to is real. So how do you make that fit together? Then you have to construct - that's where the fiction comes in. You construct the plot. But Miss Volker was a real character. That's not her real name but that was her town role.
Are your parents in real life the way they come across in the book?
My parents really are that divergent. My mother was from Norvelt and she believed in those Norvelt values. That neighbors help neighbors, and you...
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