Savitz, Harriet May 1933-
SAVITZ, Harriet May 1933-
PERSONAL: Born May 19, 1933, in Newark, NJ; daughter of Samuel and Susan (Trulick) Blatstein; married Ephraim Savitz (a pharmacist; deceased); children: Beth, Steven. Ethnicity: "Jewish." Education: Attended Upsala College and Rutgers University. Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Home—412 Park Place Ave., Bradley Beach, NJ 07720. Agent—Curtis Brown Ltd., 10 Astor Pl., New York, NY 10003.
CAREER: Writer. Philadelphia Writer's Conference, writing teacher; University of Pennsylvania, guest lecturer in English literature; holds workshops in novel-writing; helped organize workshop at Philadelphia's Free Library for the Blind to sensitize the media to the needs of the disabled. Very Exciting Education Program (VEEP), member.
MEMBER: National League of American Pen Women, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Children's Reading Roundtable (Philadelphia, PA; cofounder, 1965).
AWARDS, HONORS: Nomination for Dorothy Canfield Fisher Memorial Children's Book Award, 1971, for Fly, Wheels, Fly!; The Lionhearted was listed in University of Iowa's Books for Young Adults, 1975–76, as one of most popular books read by teenagers; Outstanding Author Award, Pennsylvania School Library Association, 1981; nomination for California Young Reader Medal in the high school category, 1983–84, for Run, Don't Walk; received recognition for Wheelchair Champions, in celebration of the International Year of Disabled Persons.
(With M. Caporale Shecktor) Peter, and Other Stories (juvenile), John Day (New York, NY), 1969.
Fly, Wheels, Fly! (juvenile novel), John Day (New York, NY), 1970.
On the Move (juvenile novel), John Day (New York, NY), 1973.
The Lionhearted, John Day (New York, NY), 1975.
Wheelchair Champions: A History of Wheelchair Sports, John Day (New York, NY), 1978.
Run, Don't Walk (juvenile novel), Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1979.
(With Michael Syring) The Pail of Nails, illustrated by Jane Mary Sorosiak, Ottawa Hills Press (Ottawa Hills, OH), 1980, published with illustrations by Charles Shaw, Abingdon (Nashville, TN), 1989.
Wait until Tomorrow (juvenile novel), New American Library (New York, NY), 1981.
If You Can't Be the Sun, Be a Star, New American Library (New York, NY), 1982.
Come Back, Mr. Magic, New American Library (New York, NY), 1983.
Summer's End, New American Library (New York, NY), 1984.
The Sweat and the Gold (history of regional wheelchair sports competitions in the United States), Very Exciting Education Program (Norristown, PA), 1984.
Swimmer, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1986.
The Cats Nobody Wanted, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.
Remembering Jennifer, Bastei (Leipzig, Germany), 1991.
Firefighter, Bastei (Leipzig, Germany), 1991.
The Bullies and Me, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.
A Girl's Best Friend, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
Growing Up at Sixty-Two: A Celebration, Little Treasure Publications (Atlantic Highlands, NJ), 1997.
Messages from Somewhere: Life after Sixty, Little Treasure Publications (Glen Mills, PA), 2002.
Dear Daughters and Sons: A Tribute; Three Essays on the American Spirit, Little Treasure Publications (Ocean City, NJ), 2003.
Also author of works for Science Research Associates reading program and Lyons & Carnahan readers. Contributor of short stories to collections, including Short Story Scene; also contributor to Encyclopaedia Britannica. Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Philadelphia Inquirer, Denver Post, Scholastic, Boys' Life, Children's Friend, and Ranger Rick.
ADAPTATIONS: Run, Don't Walk was adapted and produced as an American Broadcasting Co. "Afterschool Special."
SIDELIGHTS: Harriet May Savitz once told CA: "I find that my books walk into my life. My father had a laryngectomy. A young boy at the shore wants to commit suicide. The two join together for Wait until Tomorrow. A gifted young man I know becomes injured in a hit-and-run accident and is left in a coma. An artist friend travels about the world seeking adventure. They come together in Come Back, Mr. Magic. I belong to a neighborhood watch program and am stunned by the crimes against the elderly. I speak at schools where there is no dress code. The two come together in If You Can't Be the Sun, Be a Star. I walk down the boardwalk and talk to a fellow stroller. He tells me he is a second-generation survivor. I ask, 'What is that?' There is a devastating flood in a mountain town nearby. Someone gives me the news clippings. I move the flood to the shore and include the second-generation survivor of the Holocaust, and we have Summer's End.
"For five years I researched The Sweat and the Gold, bringing the real people into the story. All the disabled who have inspired me in fiction take their places in this nonfiction book.
"Sometimes I just stand somewhere, sit somewhere, walk somewhere, and I feel it—the book. It's around me, and if I look carefully, listen intently, and let myself feel its presence, the book introduces itself. 'How do you do,' I say. 'Let's get on with it,' it answers. From that moment on, there is no other world."
Savitz based her book Fly, Wheels, Fly! on factual material drawn from her association with the Central Penn Wheelers, a group of paraplegics in the Norristown, Pennsylvania, area. Members of the organization play basketball and compete in other sports, all from their wheelchairs.
Savitz more recently told CA: "The characters in my books were survivors. They were tested, and they didn't surrender. Many of the characters were in wheelchairs. Some were blind. Always, they had dignity and, always, their actions changed their world and the world around them. They made a difference. They used their pain in a positive way. I learned from the disabled, and I am grateful I did. I learned patience and perseverance, and though they might not like me to refer to such an attribute, I learned courage.
"When I turned sixty years old, I was faced with a major cancer operation. A year later, my husband passed away. I was able to deal with the first, unable to cope with the second. I turned off my computer and didn't turn it on for over a year. There was no reason to turn it on. It was silent inside my head. There were no characters speaking to me. There were no ideas struggling to the surface. For the first time in my life, there was silence deep inside me and stillness, as if no one lived there any more.
"I joined a support group and sat for six months, listening to others and their pain. While I listened, I remembered my days writing about the disabled, my journeys with them, the battles to be heard, to be understood. I thought about the double amputees returning from Korea, the prostheses leaning against the doorways of their motel rooms. While I remembered, I listened to the encouragement from the group, and I felt the support. I believed at the time that I would never write again.
"Then one night, I heard a voice coming from inside. It was a different voice than I had heard before, not the children's voice from which I had written, but an adult voice. The voice gave me five essays the first night, and five the second, and five the third. They came out in the same style, the same length in words. Each night more essays would come, though I had no thought of them during the day and, often, I would be frightened that I would lose that voice and again be faced with the silence, the stillness. But that didn't happen. Instead, the essays came during the days also, and I was writing again. The essays would pile up, and they would be the story of my return to life and my view of it. These essays would form the book Growing Up at Sixty-Two.
"I also began writing a book called If I Knew Then: Reminiscences of a Writer. In it, I speak about writing newspaper and magazine articles, how they came about, what inspired them. I hope that, through this book, I can help new writers find the way to discover the subject of their own articles and essays. The first chapter is titled 'Don't Be Afraid to Begin.' If I have any advice for writers, it is that. Do not be afraid to pick up the pencil, grab the sheet of paper. Don't think you need to have a computer or a typewriter. You can write on anything with anything. Do not let doubts get in the way; toss them away. Toss the good sense away. Toss the rational thinking away. It doesn't make any sense, so don't try to make sense of it. Just write—because it feels good, wonderful, necessary, exciting, satisfying. Begin—now."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
National Federation of the Blind Magazine for Parents of Blind Children, winter-spring, 1997.
Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2002, review of Messages from Somewhere: Inspiring Stories of Life after Sixty, p. 90.
Trailblazers of the 21st Century (documentary film), Third Wish Productions (New York, NY), 2002.