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Fifth Graders Interview ‘Tuck Everlasting’ Author
By Tanjua Damon
Fifth graders in Karen King’s class at Reed Intermediate School added a second author to their author video collection this year. Tuck Everlasting author Natalie Babbitt answered the students’ questions over the weekend in her Rhode Island home.
Ms Babbitt was born in Ohio in 1932. She married Samuel Fisher Babbitt and has three grown children, Christopher, Tom, and Lucy. She is an author and illustrator for young adult books. Some of her works include Kneeknock Rise, The Devil‘s Storybook, The Search for Delicious, and Herbert Rowbarge.
This is the second interview this year the fifth graders have completed via videotape. In the beginning of the year Ms King traveled to New York City to interview Irish author Peter Sheridan. Ms King traveled to Rhode Island last week to interview Ms Babbitt with her students’ questions on video as well.
Ms Babbitt explained to the students that the worst thing about being an author is trying to work out a way to tell a story and the easiest thing is being finished. She also told the students that when she initially became a writer she would write every day sitting on the corner of her sofa. But now she does not write every day and finds it more difficult to do because she has an office with a computer.
“I used to write everyday. I think about it all the time,” she replied. “I don’t have any pressure on me to do it every day. I used to write by hand and then type it all out.”
The students had a lot of questions about her book, Tuck Everlasting, which was published in 1975. It is a story about a young girl named Winnie who meets a family named the Tucks in woods. The Tuck family has been drinking from a magical water source making them live forever. Ms Babbitt wanted people to think about their lives on Earth and how they live them as well as learn to deal with change whether it is joyful or sad, but find out what life has to offer.
“I don’t think I would change any part of it [Tuck],” she said. “It’s not that I’m pleased with the book so much. I’m pleased with how it turned out.”
Ms Babbitt explained to the students that before she begins writing a book she has to have much of it played out in her mind. She begins her process by knowing the ending first.
“I work backwards,” Ms Babbitt said. “I need to know how it is going to end.”
Ms Babbitt encouraged the students to make themselves go back to writing if they are struggling. She told the students there is no real cure for writer’s block accept to continue writing.
“Make yourself go and do the work,” she said. “It’s hard sometimes.”
Ms Babbitt told the fifth grades she felt she did most of her best work when she was in her 40s.
“Sometimes you do things better in life at certain times,” she said. “One thing about being a writer is it can be very lonely.”
Ms Babbitt has two novels she has written but were never published because her editor rejected them, which later she agreed with. She told the students that she has taken pieces of those novels and used them in other works.
“I’ve certainly stopped in a draft,” Ms Babbitt said. “It sometimes takes me years to figure out a story and see how it’s going to start. I don’t really start until I’m confident.”
Characters in Ms Babbitt’s books often are bits and pieces of people she knows or someone who has touched her life. The students had a lot of questions about the man in the yellow suit in Tuck. Ms Babbitt explained to the students that he was an actual person that she knew.
“It’s the only time I took someone directly from real life and put them in a book. I usually use bits and pieces of people I’ve known in my life.”
Ms Babbitt told the students that she was not thrilled with how the movie Tuck Everlasting was designed. She was able to go to the set and see filming of the movie. But she was never asked to give input on the plot for the movie.
“I didn’t like it at all. They made too many changes,” she said. “You can’t be objective. Movies are almost never like the book. But I’m glad it’s gone.”
Ms Babbitt told the students that she likes the book Alice in Wonderland.
“Lewis Carroll has a lot of fun with the language,” she said. “The best thing about it is it didn’t have any lessons to teach.”
The advice she gave to students about being writers was, “There’s only one way to learn to be a writer and that is to read as much as you can.”