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George Plimpton Provides a Night on the Town for The Writer from Philadelphia

Publication Date: 2014-08-31

Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature, by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta, Candlewick 2014

Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature offers a wonderful story about Jerry Spinelli.

One evening, as Spinelli and his wife, Eileen, watched an auction on their local public television station, an interesting item came up for bid: a night on the town with actor, editor, journalist, and author George Plimpton. Jerry spoke of how inspiring it would be to spend time with a famous published writer like Plimpton. Then he sighed and went to bed. That's when Eileen got up, checked their meager savings account, and phoned in a bid. They ended up winning the auction.

Plimpton had planned to take the couple to a Broadway show and then send them on their way. But when he found out that Jerry was an aspiring writer and that Eileen had spent almost all their money on the evening--$425!--leaving only $5 in their savings account, Plimpton was mortified. He decided it make it a "literary evening," and arranged to take the couple to the well-known retaurant Elaine's, a frequent haunt of New York City writers.

[At Elaine's], Table after table was filled with literary bigwigs: Kurt Vonnegut, Jill Krementz, Irwin Shaw, Peter Stone, Dan Jenkins. Plimpton guided Spinelli from table to table, introducing him as "the writer from Philadelphia."

Buy the book to read about Jerry's encounter with Woody Allen.

I have my own Jerry Spinelli story. Invited to make a presentation at a teacher professional development institute in the Philadelphia area, at the last minute I heard institute leaders in a dither. Jerry Spinelli was a last-minute addition to the program but none of them knew anything about him and didn't know how to introduce him. Having just read his new book, I volunteered to make the introduction.

I told the audience how fortunate they were to hear from the author I was sure would be the recipient of the next Newbery Award. I held up a copy of Maniac Magee.

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