When I was a senior in high school, I kept a diary, the only time I have really done so. On March 28, 1955, (I was seventeen) an entry reads; “Well, I finally said it out loud. I intend to stay with the theatre. In the theatre, one can be everything in the world—write—that’s for me. I had a great idea for a new play…”
This was my announcement that I intended to become a writer, a playwright. I did write plays, not very good ones I hasten to add. That said, my first professional publication was a one-act play that won a play writing content as the University of Wisconsin, where I was a college student. It was subsequently published in a national magazine. There was an off-Broadway production of a play in NYC, and at one point, someone did indeed wish to do a Broadway production of another play. Nothing came of it. In time, making no progress, I gave up the play writing, and turned to writing books for young people.
That said, if one takes the time to look at my work, one can see aspects of my playwriting embedded in my many novels for young people. There is an enormous amount of dialogue in my books. Moreover, the books are often structured theatrically, with a beginning, middle and end, which often be defined clearly, rather like a three act play.
Books like Nothing but the Truth, derive from a form of theatre, what was called “Living Newspapers.” One my books, Who Was that Masked Man Anyway?” is nothing but dialogue, and is, I think the funniest of my books. Punch with Judy is about a theatrical event. The Book without Words could, I think, easily be turned into a play.
A few years ago, I was asked to write a one-act play, which became part of an anthology of one-act plays by Newbery winners. The volume is called Acting Out.
One of my principal editors once told me, “You have never stopped writing plays.”