All About Avi (Edward Irving Wortis)
Avi was born Edward Irving Wortis in 1937 in Brooklyn, New York to Joseph Wortis, a psychiatrist, and Helen Wortis, a social worker. When he was a year old, his twin sister called him Avi, and the nickname stuck. Two of Avi's grandfathers were writers, and one grandmother was a playwright. He recalls his mother reading to him and his sister every night, and going to the public library on Fridays.
Avi's parents transferred him from Stuyvesant High School to Elizabeth Irwin High School, a smaller private school, because he had a learning disability called dysgraphia, which caused him to reverse or misspell words. At Elizabeth Irwin High School he studied with a tutor, Ella Ratner, whom he credits for his writing success. Avi was determined at an early age to be a writer and he first tried to be a playwright and began writing for young people after his son Shaun was born.
Avi's first book, "Things That Sometimes Happen," was published in 1970, and to date, he has published 75 books. For many years he worked full-time as a librarian. He began at the New York Public Library and then took a job at Trenton State College in New Jersey. Avi lives in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife, Linda Cruise Wright Denver.
Books and Awards
Avi is an extremely prolific and well-rounded writer. He has written books for different age groups and in many different genres including early reader, picture books young adult books, fantasy, realism, animal stories, historical fiction, graphic novels, and mysteries. He's also been very productive in securing awards for young people's literature. To list a few examples, "The Fighting Ground," about the Revolutionary War, won the Scott O'Dell award in 1984 and another historical novel, "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" (1990), won a Newbery Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. He also won the Newbery Medal for "Crispin: Cross of Lead," which came out in 2002.
What We Can Learn From Avi
Avi is a shining example that with perseverance and passion, you can accomplish anything. Avi became a renowned writer despite his disability and never let his scholastic challenges stop him. For this reason, Avi enjoys visiting schools and bringing along his copyedited manuscripts so that students with learning disabilities can see that he, too, gets things wrong.
Avi on Writing
- "I think you become a writer when you stop writing for yourself or your teachers and start thinking about readers. I made up my mind to do that when I was a high school senior."
(From Avi's site.)
- "I enjoy writing and it is hard. But then it is hard for everyone to write well. I have to rewrite over and over again so that on average it takes me a year to write a book."
(From a 1996 interview.)
More About Avi
If you find this writer's story inspirational and want to learn more about him, Avi's website is the best source of information on him.