Jim Murphy wins 2013 Anne Zarrow Award
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, February 10, 2013
2/10/13 at 3:58 AM
Jim Murphy's first book occupied years of his life and ultimately came to occupy some 1,500 pages.
The only problem was it wasn't as good as Murphy wanted it to be.
"I had spent months and months trying to revise this novel," he said. "And the more I worked on it, the worse it became.
"One day, I was sitting in my little office and I heard the sound of the garbage truck coming up my street," Murphy said. "I picked up this huge pile of paper and took it outside, set on top of the garbage can and went back inside. Then I went back inside and listened as the garbage truck hauled it all away."
Fortunately for Murphy - and for the thousands of readers who have read and enjoyed the more than 30 books he has published - he already had a new project for a nonfiction book in manuscript form.
"I've written fiction since then, but the nonfiction has always received the most attention," Murphy said. "I don't really have an idea as to why these books have taken off, other than the fact that the most successful books are the ones that I was really interested in the subject.
"When you spend a year or two researching a subject, and you're still fascinated by it, that's a good indicator that what you're doing will appeal to others, as well," he said.
Murphy is the 2013 recipient of the Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers' Literature, presented by the Tulsa Library Trust.
He will be in Tulsa on Aug. 23-24 to receive the award and to take part in related activities, including presenting the awards at the Tulsa Library's annual Young People's Creative Writing Contest awards ceremony.
He is the 22nd recipient of the award, which consists of a $7,500 cash prize and an engraved crystal book. Previous winners include S.E. Hinton, Madeleine L'Engle, Lois Lowry, Avi, Kate DiCamillo, Louis Sachar and Jacqueline Woodson.
"Pretty nice company to be in," Murphy said.
Murphy has won two Newbery Honor Book awards, was a finalist for the National Book Awards and in 2010 received the Margaret A. Edwards Award in recognition of his lifetime of work from the Library Journal.
His books include "An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793," "Blizzard! The Storm That Changed America," "A Young Patriot: The American Revolution as Experienced by One Boy," "The Great Fire" and "The Long Road to Gettysburg" (1992).
Murphy's most recent books are "The Giant and How He Humbugged America," about the hoax created around the Cardiff Giant, and "Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting."
Murphy recalls being "just an awful student" at the parochial school he attended in his native New Jersey.
"It got to the point where the nuns were telling my mother she should take me out of their school and put me in public school," he said, chuckling.
His attitude toward school changed when he entered the sixth grade, and a new teacher focused on some basics that "allowed me to catch up," Murphy said. "Then I had a teacher in the seventh grade who really loved history, and that appealed to me, as well."
Murphy said he spent the summer before his eighth grade year reading constantly - "Mom would set me loose in the adult section, and I would read just about any book I could take down."
Murphy would also try his hand at writing stories and poetry, but it wasn't until he landed a job as an editor for a publishing firm that he began to think seriously about writing.
"First of all, I loved my time as an editor - I did it for seven years," he said. "I enjoyed working with authors, helping create and shape their ideas, working with them on their manuscripts.
"But then I realized the people I was working with were getting lots of nice reviews and pretty decent royalty checks, so I decided to give it a try," he said. "I remember thinking that I didn't want to wake up one day when I was 65 and regret not trying to write a book."
He laughed and added, "And I'm 65 now."
Original Print Headline: Murphy wins 2013 Anne Zarrow Award
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478