by Jo Cooper

     Gloria D. Miklowitz has written picture books, nonfiction books, short stories, and screenplays, but she is best known for her "problem novels" for teenagers.
     Miklowitz sold her first book in 1960 and has been writing two or three books a year since then. Three of her novels have been made into television specials; The War Between the Classes won the Emmy for Best Children's Special in 1986. Another Miklowitz novel that has been highly acclaimed is Did You Hear What Happened to Andrea?, which concerns the emotional trauma and recovery of a young rape victim.
     Contributing writer Jo Cooper interviewed Gloria Miklowitz at her hillside home in Southern California.
Jo Cooper:What do you like best about writing?
Gloria D. Miklowitz: I like the feeling of accomplishing something of value because my books have an impact on young people's attitudes.

Tell me about some of the letters you've received from readers.
Miklowitz: I get many letters from readers, but several stand out. "Your books brought compassion and understanding of the subject of rape," came from several rape victims who read Andrea. A girl in Michigan who read Close to the Edge wrote to say I'd probably saved her life. It stopped her from committing suicide.
     I know I'm making an impact when I get letters from non-readers that say, "I never read a book. I had to read a book (as an assignment), I read your book and I couldn't put it down."

What do you like least about writing?
Miklowitz: When it isn't going well, when it doesn't work, you have to stick with it. That's the worst. The research is fun. Getting started is kind of an adventure. The middle of the book is always the hardest.

Why is that?
Miklowits That's where you have to develop all the complications of the problem and very carefully lead in a direction toward the end. It's easy enough to come up with the opening problem and know how you're going to solve it in the end, but the middle is the part you really have to struggle through, because it's the dark tunnel to the end.

Do you feel there is tough competition from other media; televison and movies, for

Miklowitz: Kids watch television,. But if they're going to read, the kind of books I write address their concerns. For example, The Day the Senior Class Got Married deals with a young couple who want to marry as soon as they graduate from high school. Secrets Not Meant fo Be Kept concerns child abuse in a nursery school. Both are page-turners, and readers look for my other books because of that.

What made you write After the Bomb and its sequel, After the Bomb, Week One?
Miklowitz: I'm very fearful of nuclear buildup. I hoped that by showing how awful it would be if even one city were nuked, I would help young people to
never even been kissed. I didn't know lips weren't really hot.
     Feelings are universal. I've felt love, I can describe that. I've felt all the emotions that I write about. You call up those feelings so you can write about somebody else.

Your stories are very vivid, and the characters are easy to identify. with. Do your reader's sometimes think they are true stories?
Miklowitz: Yes. A man sitting next to me at a dinner party once asked me (referring to Andrea) if I'd been raped. I answered, "No, and I've never been an AIDS victim (Goodbye Tomorrow), nor have I ever attempted suicide (Close to the Edge), nor been a cult member (The Love Bombers)."
     I empathize with people as
a writer. As a child, I always liked to imagine how other people lived. I'd sit on the New York subway and study people, and wonder from their faces and their dress, what was going on in their lives. I think I still do that.

Do you eavesdrop on people's conversations?
Miklowitz: Oh, definitely, when I can. My sons have accused me of going too far sometimes. It's just an irresistible need to know. I'm not judgmental. That helps me with my relationshiip with young people. After I speak in a school, two or three students will always shyly come up and hang around until everyone has left and then tell me secrets they wouldn't tell anybody else.

Your own children are grown;
  realize how important it is for them to speak up for negotiations rather than building more bombs.

People always tell young writers to "write about what you know." Some sixteen-year-olds have never really been in love, or felt deep pain in their lives. Can young people write about themselves objectively?
Miklowits: Sure. They can write about their feelings. They can write about their families and what goes on in their lives. Their subject could be love of a sister or brother, or concern about the world. It could be friendship.
     I don't remember what the first story I ever wrote was called, but it had to do with a girl whose "hot lips met his." My father read it and laughed. I'd

  how do you keep in touch with how young people feel?
Miklowitz: When I feel a real need to reacquaint myself with what young people are thinking and doing, as when I was writing Goodbye Tomorrow, I arrange to speak at a school and to talk with students afterward. I often ask very pointed questions; "What do you argue about with your parents? What do you talk about on dates? Where do you go? What are your concerns" What do you wear?" I sit in the cafeteria and take notes on how students are dressed and what they say to each other.

Do you have a rigid writing schedule?
Miklowitz: Yes, I try to write four to five hours a day. In addition, I teach a private writing class, spend time on research for each book (for Andrea I volunteered on a rape hot line), and, of course, I have a home and family to care for. I also do a lot of speaking at teacher or librarian conventions.
Have you had any particularly interesting experiences speaking before students or teachers?
Miklowitz: Sometimes I'm treated royally. For example, a school in Taft, California, prepared for "Gloria Miklowitz day" for a whole year. When I arrived I was astonished to find life-size papier-jmaché animals in the hallways depicting characters in my picture books. The PTA presented me with a full-size quilt they'd made. Each square was a copy of a drawing about my books by one of the children.
     My most interesting trip was to Barrow, Alaska, on the Arctic Sea. The temperature was 30 to 40 degrees below zero. The schools there are bult on stilts because the heat would melt the ice pack. the elementary, junior, and high schools are connected with walkways so no one has to go outside, and at the end of the day, the teachers exercise by jogging around the halls. It was a beautiful frozen wasteland, and I enjoyed my visit very much.

What plans do you have for this year?
Miklowitz: I have four books coming out this year, plus a short story in a major collection of short stories, and I'm working on a new book.

Have you ever tried adult novels, or do you intend to?
Miklowitz: It's hard to move form the children's market to the adult market, but I may try someday. For now I'm happy to write for teenagers. They like my books and I like them.

Did you want to be a writer since chidhood?
Miklowitz: I nearly flunked first grade. My mother had to coach me every day before school because I was a dreamer. But by high school I wanted to be a writer, and became editor fo the school paper.

Are you still a dreamer?
Miklowiotz: Aren't we all dreamers? Writing especially requires that you stretch your imagination to live lives you've never lived, in places you've never been. How wonderful to live so many dreams.

from Gloria Miklowitz, October 12, 1987
Dear Jo,
      This is the first chance I've had to thank you for the nice article you did on me. It was a pleasure meeting with you and I appreciate the chance to have seen the interview before you sent it out.
      Congratulatons to you and I hope you see many more publications in the future.
Best wishes,

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