Monday, November 15, 2010

Craft Analysis: Seer Of Shadows by Avi

About The Book: In Avi's "Seer of Shadows" this prolific writer takes us on a chilling journey of mystery and gives an insiders view of what photography was like when it first began, something that many of us know little about in this digital age. 
Favorite Line:"It was as if, having always believed coal was black, I now began to see it as white" (Shadows,106).

What Others Are Saying: “.  .  . In perhaps [Avi’s] best work yet, [he] has created a truly chilling tale that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned and the lights are turned out.” -Children's Literature
"This tale proves that the time-honored ghost story, capably researched, well-paced, and fusing the Gothic elements of mystery, madness and romance , can still thrill in the hands of a skilled craftsman." -Kirkus Reviews

Log Line: "It’s the tale of a boy who has been taught that there is a scientific explanation for everything and who then confronts something that is beyond reason. While at its heart is the world of photography, most of all The Seer of Shadows is—I hope—a creepy ghost story." See his essay on the book here.

First Five Pages:  Avi crafts the setting, introduces his main characters and their desires and opens his creepy plot in only two pages. An incredible feat for even the most gifted writer. 

Other Observations: His extensive research is evident in the details about early New York in the 1800's and photography at that time. Each chapter if fast paced always ending with a sentence that leads to the next chapter like mini-cliff-hangers.

Writer Info

Who: Edward Irving Wortis better known as Avi was born in 1937 and has gone by the name Avi since his twin sister gave it to him when they were children in Brooklyn. He writes in several genres and forms always working to find the best way to tell the story. He has written novel length comic books, stories all in dialogue and one completely told through weekly installments in newspapers.

When: He started his interest in writing in high school. "I think you become a writer when you stop writing for yourself or your teachers and start thinking about readers." "I wanted to prove that I could write"

Challenges: Avi has Dysgraphia which made him a poor writer as a child. He uses a word processor and needs absolute quiet to work.

How: His process begins with a rough draft of the story. This generally takes a year and he often has several going at the same time. Then his favorite part begins, the rewrites. He is very invested in the collaborative process of bringing a book to print. Avi does extensive research for all of his books, reading everything he can about where and what and often going someplace. (As he did for the Crispin series going to England and France.) 

First Book: Things That Sometimes Happen  1970

Day Job: Librarian for years, although he now writes full time.

Marketing Strategy: Author website, Blog, school visits, conducts Skype visits to libraries, book clubs, and classrooms. "I think it is very important for me to hold these kids in front of my eyes. They're wonderfully interesting and they hold me to the reality of who they are."

Advice To Other Writers:  "Rewrite! No one ever writes anything well the first time. The first draft cannot be the last draft. (I rewrite my work fifty-sixty times- or more). Here's a tip: read your first draft, and if you think it's good, you are in trouble. But, if you read it and you see it's not that good, you are in great shape, to get going. The more you rewrite the better your writing will be." 
See his Six Secrets To Good Writing here.

Have you read any of Avi's books? What are your favorites and why?


  1. He rewrites fifty to sixty times? Holy CRAP!

    I've never even heard of him. I'll have to check him out.

  2. No I haven't read him! 1970?! Wow what a career!

  3. That's a lot of rewrites. WOW! Gotta check out a writer that wants to get it right!

  4. You are so awesome! I gave you an award on my blog! Check it out. :)



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