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Welcome to Tangerine, and be careful

By HOLLY ATKINS
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 18, 2002


Wonders of Florida
Homespun authors

* * *

Wonders of Florida: What's so wonderful about our state?Sink holes, muck fires and deadly lightning strikes -- wonders of Florida? Yep. Some would also say they are three good reasons to move to a nice, safe state -- like Ohio, maybe.

But not if you're Edward Bloor. When this kind of weird science is the stuff of daily living, you do what comes naturally -- write about it.

Young adult author Edward Bloor's novel Tangerine bursts with the bittersweetness of our state. Although set in a fictitious town, Tangerine will have you nodding along as you read about familiar Florida wonders.

High school football fanatics dreaming of life as Florida Gators. Killing frosts that wipe out a family's citrus grove in a single night. Things that are as much a part of Florida life as palm trees and sandy beaches.

So, join me as I chat with Ed Bloor about Florida, writing and one of my favorite topics -- books.

I guess a good place to start would be for you to tell us a little bit about yourself.

Bloor: I was born in Trenton, N.J. I played soccer there from the time I was 8, up into college. I graduated from Fordham University in New York and lived in New York, Boston and England before moving to Florida. (Paul Fisher, the hero of Tangerine, and I both look at Florida as outsiders, although I have now been here for over half my life.) I taught middle school language arts in Fort Lauderdale. That's where I met my wife, Pam. She still teaches middle school language arts here in Winter Garden, a small city northwest of Orlando. We have two children -- Amanda, 15, and Spencer, 10.

photo
Edward Bloor
Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?

Bloor: Writing has always been a part of my life. Even at a very young age, I wrote plays and stories to amuse my family and friends. I can vividly recall when my seventh-grade teacher challenged me to write and put on a series of silly commercials in front of the whole school. They were a big hit. I was suddenly popular, and I have pursued a career in writing ever since.

Who were your favorite authors growing up?

Bloor: My own reading as a child was consumed by the Chip Hilton sports stories by coach Clair Bee. As I recall, they were all basically the same: Chip and his friends would encounter some obstacle to winning the big game; they would overcome the obstacle, and then they would win the big game. Only the sports changed. Still, I loved them.

Why did you select Florida as the setting for your novel Tangerine?

Bloor: Our part of Florida is in a state of transition between the old citrus economy and the more diverse economy that has replaced it. The destruction of the citrus groves all around me was the inspiration for Tangerine, my first young adult novel. That story is about both the people who are moving out and the people who are moving in.

I still have a full-time job, as an editor of reading and language arts textbooks at Harcourt School Publishers. Part of my job here is to read young adult novels. I realized one day that I could write them as well as read them.

Do you have any advice for kids who want to become writers?

The best advice for kids who want to be authors is to write what you know. That's what I did with those silly TV commercials years ago. And that's what I did with Tangerine, with its mix of soccer, middle school life and Florida citrus towns.

My second novel, Crusader, incorporated some of my other Florida experiences. It is set in Fort Lauderdale, in a high school (I taught high school English very briefly) and revolves around a series of sinister happenings in a mall (I worked in a South Florida mall that is very similar to the one in the book). Crusader is aimed at an older teenage audience. It therefore has darker issues, and a little more attitude.

I have been very fortunate with these two novels. I've had the opportunity to travel all over the United States speaking to teachers, librarians and students.

Tangerine has won young reader awards in six states so far. What has struck me during these visits is that people in other states look upon Tangerine as a science fiction novel. They cite its deadly lightning strikes, killer mosquitoes, sinkholes, muck fires and so on as wild flights of fancy.

People who live in Florida, of course, realize that these things are the staples of the nightly news. They're what we're used to. They're what we call normal.

Are you working on a new book right now?

My new novel is titled Story Time. It is set in an unnamed city. It's a departure from the first two novels in that it is part ghost story and part satire about educational testing. I hope it will be published in the spring of 2003. After that, I am turning my attention to the year 1940 with a novel titled London Calling.

I hope to keep writing, and to keep writing in this young adult market for as long as they will have me.

Kudos from kids and critics

Here's what Chris Williams, a sixth-grader at Southside Fundamental School in St. Petersburg, had to say about Edward Bloor's Tangerine: "I read this book because I heard from someone that it was a good book. Actually, it was some kid telling his mom that, so I just read it. What I liked about the book was that it kept you in suspense. It keeps you guessing throughout the entire book. I couldn't put it down because I always wanted to know what happened next. I also liked the feeling of the characters. That book made them come alive. I would really recommend this book to any kid (or adult) who wants a good book that keeps them in suspense and is also funny and exiting to read. I really liked the book Tangerine."

Wonders of Florida

Introduction and previous chapters


NIE
Note: Bloor was featured as a Publishers Weekly Flying Starts author in 1997; Tangerine was named a 1997 American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, an ALA Top 10 best book, a Horn Book Fanfare Book, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and an Edgar Award nominee.

- Holly Atkins, a National Board Certified Teacher, is the language arts department head at Bay Point Middle School in St. Petersburg. Atkins, who has been a resident of St. Pete Beach nearly all her life, has been an instructor at the Poynter Institute's Writers' Camp and is the proud teacher of local and national award-winning student writers.

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