Newbery medalist aims at 'realism' for youngsters; Cynthia Voigt: family comes first
Cynthia Voigt's directions for finding her house were brisk, clear: Take the second Annapolis exit . . . turn right and go to the center of town, take three more turns, and you come to ''a brown and yellow house, with a scruffy yard.''Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
She laughed a lot over the telephone. She was direct, efficient but also funny, friendly, and warm. She sounded happy.
Mrs. Voigt, winner of the 1983 Newbery Medal for her book ''Dicey's Song,'' the sequel to her earlier ''Homecoming,'' could be 13-year-old Dicey herself as she opens the door. She's slight, almost bony, with a big smile, dressed casually in jeans, shirt, sweater, and sneakers.
Dicey is the elder sister who fights in ''Homecoming'' to find a new home with their grandmother on Maryland's Eastern Shore after their ''momma'' left them. She's the central character in ''Dicey's Song.''
We talked over the kitchen table, with children Jessica, 12, and son Peter, 5 (who wanted to be ''interviewed,'' too).
Cynthia Voigt is a loving, somewhat permissive parent, whose life centers on her family, teaching, and writing - in that order. She majored in English at Smith College, class of 1963, and has lived in Annapolis most of her adult life.
''I love teaching; I love little kids,'' she says, ''and while success is incredible after all the years of trying, success isn't going to alter my life.
''I'm not going to leave my family and hole up alone for two years writing,'' she says, ''and I'll continue teaching.''
How do fame and fortune feel? ''The fortune is easier to take, but the fame may make my life in Annapolis less easy than it is now,'' she comments. She grew up in Connecticut, in a well-to-do family of seven, and she emphasizes it was a happy childhood, full of family, friends, fun.
The awarding of the prestigious Newbery Medal, given for ''the most dintinguished contribution to literature for children,'' to a writer just beginning to be published is somewhat unusual. Voigt's first published book, ''Homecoming,'' was previously nominated for the award, and ''Dicey's Song'' is her second published work. Two more books are due for publication shortly.
Above all, she is pleased with the Walt Disney Productions plans to film ''Homecoming,'' possibly on location in Annapolis and the Eastern Shore next summer.
''It's going to be a good movie, and I think it will be good for adults also, '' she says.
''Homecoming'' has its detractors because of its 312-page length; it has been criticized for ''dragging'' in the middle (it was cut down from its original length by one-third). Both books are marketed by Atheneum Publishers in New York for the 10- to 13-year-old age group, but mature audiences seem to enjoy them as well.
The family will travel by train next month to Los Angeles, mainly as an educational experience for the children. In L.A. Mrs. Voigt will receive her medal and give a 10-minute speech at the American Library Association's annual conference.