Robert Lipsyte

How did you become a writer?

I was a fat kid and in elementary school I started writing stories in which skinny kids died horribly. I discovered that stories were a way to control or at least contain my world. I still feel that way. After I lost my weight, around 14, I kept writing because it was the most satisfying part of my life. Still is.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.)

My parents were public school teachers and encouraging. That became a pattern - teachers in middle school who let me write crazy sci-fi (what else did I know about besides aliens?) and high school and college teachers (and Gay Talese in the NY Times sports department) all of whom patted me on the butt and said, "Get into the game, big guy, you can do it."  A little encouragement is all you need - your imagination enlarges it. As for writers - John Steinbeck when I was a kid. I loved his compassion, social conscience, story-telling.

When and where do you write?

At home, in de-basement, often sparsely dressed, early, lots of coffee. First drafts of fiction in pencil on yellow legal pads, next drafts and all else right on the computer.

What are you working on now?

My memoir, An Accidental Sportswriter, just came out in paperback and it's led me back to more sportswriting, for The Times and for online mags, Salon, Slate and Daily Beast. Also, my first middle grade novel, The Twinning Project, comes out in October, 2012 (Clarion) and I'm on the sequel, pencil and pad so far.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Not yet. Remember, I started my professional career in the press box, boxing and baseball, on deadline, and if I choked I'd be dead meat. I make outlines, know what I'm going to do, but I love to write, I live to write, and being blocked would be like being unable to breathe.

What’s your advice to new writers?

One - READ. Sounds obvious but it's amazing to me how many new writers don't read enough, and don't read as writers, looking for examples of how other writers handled transitions, character descriptions, etc. the same way young athletes watch pros at work. Two - REWRITE. Also obvious, but there's too much satisfaction with the first draft, which is never as good as it could be.

Robert Lipsyte, a long-time sports and city columnist of the New York Times, is the author of a recent memoir, An Accidental Sportswriter. His first middle grade novel,The Twinning Project (Clarion) is due out October, 2012. Lipsyte was a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and for the NBC Nightly News. In 1990, he received an Emmy as host of The Eleventh Hour, a nightly PBS public affairs show on WNET in New York. He won Columbia University’s Mike Berger Award for distinguished reporting in 1966 and 1996, and in 1992 was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary.

His books also include Dick Gregory’s autobiography, Nigger, and SportsWorld: An American Dreamland. In 2001 he won the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in Young Adult literature. His YA novels includeThe Contender, One Fat Summer, andCenter Field. He lives on Shelter Island, NY, with his wife, Lois B. Morris, a writer, and their dog, Milo.