Walk Two Moons
Throughout her life, Sharon Creech has repeatedly embarked upon adventurous journeys. In her Newbery Medal Acceptance speech, she vividly recalls the car trip from Ohio to Lewiston, Idaho that she and her family took shortly after her twelfth birthday, a trip which became the basis for Salamanca Hiddle's long journey across the country in Walk Two Moons. Creech views writing itself as a kind of journey, filled with unexpected challenges and discoveries. Her most momentous journey, however, may have been her move from America to England in 1979. Creech had earned her bachelors degree at Hiram College in Ohio and her masters degree at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She was working in Washington, D.C. at the Congressional Quarterly and raising her two children by herself, when a friend wrote to her from the TASIS England American School in London, urging her to apply for a position teaching English at the school. Creech did, growing increasingly interested in and determined to become a teacher in England. When her interview went badly, Creech wrote the headmaster an impassioned letter asserting that she could indeed meet the demands of teaching at the TASIS School, despite the fact that she was a single mother. Convinced of her determination, the headmaster hired her. At the TASIS School, Creech met her future husband, Lyle Rigg, whom she married three years later.
Creech devoted most of her time in the ensuing years to her family and her teaching, but when her father died in 1986 and her children had left home, she began to write prolifically. She cited, in her Newbery Medal Acceptance speech, her realization of the brevity of our time on earth and her need to give voice to her father's stories. The stories and experiences which Creech had stored up since her childhood began to pour forth: the cross-country car trip, her childhood daydreams about her own distant Native American heritage, letters written and stories told by her father and mother, snippets of language from fortune cookies, and the characters and quirks of her family members. Creech wrote and published three books in England; Walk Two Moons, published in 1995, is her fourth book. In retrospect, in an interview with Teacher Librarian, Creech acknowledges that Walk Two Moons's Gram reflects the personalities of Creech's mother, grandmother, and sister, and that Salamanca contains the characteristics of Creech and her daughter.
Creech characterizes herself as possessing an indomitable sense of hope, faith in the power of the human spirit, and an openness to inspiration. In Teacher Librarian, she explains that she never knows the direction a book will take when she starts writing. Creech describes writing as a process largely beyond her control and utterly consuming: she crafts the characters' voices, but those "voices" then govern the unfolding of the book. These voices narrate the story to Creech, who, when composing a new book, is likely to become so absorbed in the stories going on in her head that she "put(s) the telephone handset in the refrigerator, or (her) keys in the microwave." Writing is not, however, an easy or glib process. Once finished with the draft of Walk Two Moons, for example, she revised it eleven times. Her extensive revision process often lasts one to three years.
Creech cites the phone call from the Newbery Medal Committee in 1995 as a major turning point in her life. She describes living for days afterward "on pins and needles," afraid the committee would call back and tell her they had made a terrible mistake. Indeed, the Newbery Medal has great power to transform an author's life as it guarantees the author to whom it is awarded not only fame, but sales and a long print life for the book in question, even more so than the Pulitzer. However, Creech's award generated controversy. She was an "unknown" in the United States, and some accused the committee of bestowing the award on Walk Two Moons because its protagonist is a part Native American girl. Critics dismiss the book for its unlikely plot twists, its too-easy message of hope and endurance, and its heavy-handed symbolism. At the same time, Creech stands by her proclivity toward stories of hope and humor, arguing simply that she is suited to telling such stories, while others are better suited to writing more realistic and serious stories. She explains that in writing such stories, she creates and is able to spend time in beautiful places with kind and interesting people. Creech's books offer her and her readers the chance to live in a world of hope and beauty.
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