Robert Edmond Cormier was born on January 17, 1925 in Leominster, Massachusetts.He never lived any further than three miles from where he was born in Leominster.Cormier loved to travel and visited nearly every state.He was happiest at home with his family, which included his seven siblings; he was the second oldest and was very close with his older brother, Norman.He wrote his first poem at the age of 12 and knew then that he wanted to be a writer.He began his professional writing career by writing commercials for a local radio station.He married Constance Senay and had four children: three daughters and a son. Cormier first reached widespread success with the publication of his first young adult book, The Chocolate War, after which he became a full-time writer.Cormier often defended his controversial novels; once he even visited a city in Massachusetts that was going to vote on banning the book.Cormier published his first novel, Now and at the Hour, in 1960; it was written for adults, unlike his later novels which targeted teens and young adults instead.
He was a newspaper journalist for over 30 years and continued to occasionally write for his local newspaper, The Fitchburg Sentinel, well after he was able to financially support himself with his novels.Whenever he wasn’t writing, Cormier spent time with his family, watched movies, listened to old music, went for a walk, or, of course, read books.He was very dedicated to his writing and took few breaks and vacations. Even when he did, he would often end up reading or writing anyway.During his later years he would visit a few libraries daily in order to read and to meet other people he knew as well.In 1991, he published a memoir of his career titled I Have Words to Spend: Reflections of a Small-Town Editor.Cormier died at the age of 75 on November 2nd, 2000 due to lung cancer.
He was raised in the French-Canadian part of Leominster, and as a result several of the characters in his stories have French-sounding names.When it was initially published, The Chocolate War received mixed reviews from critics and other readers in his society; however, it eventually became his most acclaimed book.Many readers condemned his books, especially The Chocolate War, for their sexual imagery, violent content, and dark subject matter. Numerous readers today share the same opinion, believing it is not appropriate for young adults.Because of its content, The Chocolate War was the 4th most frequently banned or challenged book from 1990 to 2000, and the 3rd most banned or challenged book from 2000-2009.Though many readers found the content of his books inappropriate, reviewers lauded his works for both their content and his style of writing.Though a few did recognize his genius, most of his teachers at school criticized his early work.Even when he was young others looked up to him; Cormier was president of his senior year class at both Leominster High School and Fitchburg State College.While his publisher and his readers classified his later books as young adult books, he disliked the notion because he believed anyone, even older adults, could read his novels.While many teachers thought that his young adult books would teach students valuable lessons, many parents were opposed to the content of his novels and wanted to have them banned.World War II occurred while he was still young, which is why many factory jobs became available and why his family initially suggested that he become a factory worker.Many people at his time, initially including Cormier himself who was probably influenced by those that thought this way, believed that writers almost always come from wealthy families and that it was unlikely that Cormier, the son of a factory worker, would be able to become a writer.
He loved being in contact with the rest of society and encouraged them to contact him; he responded personally to every letter and phone call he received. Cormier even gave out his number in one of his novels when he used it as a phone number for one of his characters, Amy.Cormier observed the youth in his town and then wrote novels revolving around the problems that young people faced in a modern society.Many at the time compared his work to those of J.D. Salinger and William Golding, both of whom were publishing their material at the same time as Cormier published his own.Living during the Great Depression, Cormier said that initially part of the reason he never quit his newspaper job to write full-time was because it was a weekly pay check he could rely on.
The fictional town of Monument that often showed up in his stories was modeled after the Leominster, where he was raised and continued to live.Cormier retained bitter feelings, sometimes even evident in his writing, toward the church for many years when he saw his house burn down from a church window but was prevented from leaving and helping his family by those at the church.After reading his first poem in 7th grade, a nun told him that he was a writer; this inspired him and gave him confidence in pursuing a writing career.While he was a freshman at college, one of his teachers sent in a short story he wrote for class to a magazine without telling him; it ended up being published and earned him $75, beginning his story-writing career and inspiring him to continue writing stories.Having worked as a journalist, Cormier employed the same realistic, lucid kind of writing in his stories; his plots were often very realistic as a result as well.In addition to journalism, Cormier credited his commercial writing career as having helped him attain his “economy of style”- his unique writing style that characterizes his work.
When he was younger, he tried to imitate the style of Thomas Wolfe, though it was without much successAs a mature writer in his adult years, he sought to emulate the writing of Graham Greene, who Cormier referred to as his mentor.Authors whose books and writing influenced Cormier include Hemmingway, Saroyan, Brian Moore, John O’Hara, and J.D. Salinger.
His most popular novel and the one that led to his other young adult books, The Chocolate War was inspired when his son refused to sell chocolates during his annual school sale despite being told to do so.He was inspired to write I Am the Cheese, anotherone of his popular novels, after reading about the U.S. Witness Relocation program. In order to deal with his father’s death, Cormier wrote his first novel, a story about a dying man trying to hide his pain from his family.His mother encouraged him to write and didn’t criticize his works when she read them.His father had to serve on jury duty 25 miles away from where he lived one time, and Cormier asked to come along; he found a job opportunity as a commercial scriptwriter in the new city, allowing him to begin earning money as a writer and discontinue working as a shop or factory worker in his old town.Since his father worked at a comb factory, Cormier was initially encouraged to do the same and he worked there during his early years; however, his family understood that it was not the job for him and encouraged him to write afterward.Cormier was influenced by his kids’ activities, actions, way of speaking, and adolescent lives when it came to writing his young adult novels; his own writing style and stories depicted these.Because he was very thin, had poor eyesight, and had a series of illnesses like pneumonia, he was spared from serving in World War II.
His novels were unique in that they demonstrated great realism in the various aspects of the adolescent life and the topic of growing up, unlike the novels of other authors which frequently depicted a more idealistic lifestyle and ending.His novels usually deal with darker themes and topics than those of his contemporaries, including abuse, drugs, sexuality, corruption, extreme isolation, vengeance and many others that he saw in the lives of young adults but that fellow young adult authors largely left out and replaced with a happy ending.Cormier’s stories are known to be especially suspenseful and shocking, with each of his novels containing individuals surprises of their own. His writing is also known to have the quality of being quite vivid.His works have been praised for having complex plots that are revealed and developed in a very clear manner.Cormier’s stories were often written in a way that mimicked the speech of modern teens, taken from the speech patterns and conversations of his children and their friendsHis stories have been marked as extremely original, each one distinct from each other and from those of other authors, especially since they broach new and unusual topics that set his writing apart.Cormier wrote unique novels in which the protagonists usually did not win.
Cormier wrote about whatever he wished and didn’t limit himself or his writing to what all his readers would call pleasing or expect to see, thus creating distinctive stories that remain controversial to this day. In fact, two of his books are on the ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000-2009.Some of his novels are considered to be classics in young adult literature due to their timeless themes, including I Am the Cheese which won the 1997 Phoenix Award for best book to not have won a major award twenty years earlier.Cormier’s novels teach his young readers many valuable lessons about the real world; for example, his usually unsuccessful protagonists are meant to show that we aren’t just entitled to “happy endings” but that we have to work to achieve themHe wrote novels that all kinds of teens and young adults can relate to and appreciate because he focused on the problems young people face in modern day society. These books appealed to large audiences because even though they were labeled as young adult fiction, he intended them to be for people of all ages.Cormier wrote fifteen young adult novels and books as well as three adult novels, all of which continue to entertain readers today.Cormier was also an excellent columnist, writing a human interest column for a newspaper that won the K.R. Thompson Newspaper Award. He was also awarded the Best Human Interest Story of the Year Award twice by the Associated Press in New England
His books After the First Death, The Chocolate War, and I Am the Cheese won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for giving insight into the experiences and emotions of young adults’ lives.He wrote novels that have appeared on the best young adult books lists of the ALA, The New York Times, and the School Library Journal.I Am the Cheese which won the 1997 Phoenix Award for best book to not have won a major award twenty years earlier.Cormier was also an excellent columnist, writing a human interest column for a newspaper that won the K.R. Thompson Newspaper Award. He was also awarded the Best Human Interest Story of the Year Award twice by the Associated Press in New EnglandRobert Cormier, often considered the most important American writer for young adults
If you’re looking for a happy
ending, you’ve got the wrong author…
Born on January 17, 1925- Leominster
First Poem-Age 12
Wrote radio commercials
First young adult book-The ChocolateWar
Newspaper journalist for over 30 years
Rarely ever stopped writing
Visited libraries to meet people
Published I HaveWords to Spend: Reflections
of a Small-Town Editor
Died on November 2nd, 2000
The newspaper Cormier wrote for
Raised in French-Canadian region
The ChocolateWar received mixed reviews
President of his senior class
Society classified his books as young adult
Factory worker duringWWII
Loved being contacted
Observed the youth in his town
Compared to Salinger and Golding
Lived during Great Depression
J. D. Salinger WilliamGolding
Monument modeled after Leominster
Bitter feelings towards church
Wrote his first poem in 7th grade
College short story sent to magazine
Journalism contributed to realistic writing
ThomasWolfe GrahamGreene Hemmingway Saroyan
Brian Moore JohnO’Hara J.D. Salinger
His son inspired the The ChocolateWar
I Am the Cheese inspired by U.S.Witness
Greatly influenced to write by parents
Writing influenced by his kids’ lives
Poor health spared him from serving in army
Known primarily for :
Focus on adolescent life
Distinct Writing Style
Didn’t restrict himself to readers’
Some novels considered classics
15 young adult novels, 3 adult novels
MargaretA. Edwards Award
BestYoung Adult Book
ALA, NewYorkTimes, and School Library Journal
Best Human Interest Story of theYear
MargaretA. Edwards Award PhoenixAward
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