When and why did you begin writing and illustrating children’s books?
In 1965, while I was a boxing reporter for the New York Times, I wrote a novel, “The Contender,” about a teen-aged Harlem high school drop-out who finds discipline and confidence learning to box (without becoming a great boxer.). Ursula Nordstrom, who was inventing the genre at Harper & Row, made it into a YA novel. The reaction from readers, the sense that I had touched lives, was thrilling, to this day far surpassing the reaction to my adult fiction, non-fiction, and journalism. It’s why I’m still writing middle-grade and YA fiction.
What is the principle inspiration for your books or illustrations?
I keep wanting to reach back and tell that fat, uncertain, bookish 13-year-old boy I was to hang in there, it’s going to work out if he just keeps reading and punching.
If you had to choose, which writer and illustrator would you consider a mentor?
I’ve had great editors as mentors – Ursula Nordstrom, Ferd Monjo, Charlotte Zolotow, Robert Warren, Ruth Katcher, and now Dinah Stevenson – and two towering YA writers as role models – Robert Cormier and Judy Blume.
What do you want young readers to learn or take away from your books?
That reading is fun.
Did you have any formal writing or art education, if so, where?
I was an English major in college, I have an M.S. in Journalism.
Which of your published books is your favorite and why?
I love them all for different reasons –to cite a few, “The Contender” was the first, “One Fat Summer” (soon to be a movie) was the most autobiographical, “Raiders Night,” was the toughest, and “The Twinning Project,” is the newest.
Learn more about Mr. Lipsyte and his work at his website by clicking here.