As part of the Crash Into Me tour with Albert Borris, author Ellen Hopkins is stopping by with a fantastic, meaningful post about her interactions with Albert.
One of the things I enjoy is mentoring other writers, often at writers’ conferences. I first met Albert Borris at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency’s Big Sur conference. The format is group and one-on-one critique, followed by revision and more critique. As a faculty member, I led a group critique where Al read a portion of a very early draft of what would become Crash Into Me.
The manuscript was rough then, but the characters were well-drawn. Turned out Al Borris was a counselor at a New Jersey high school. He knew these kids, because he worked with kids like these—kids with less than perfect lives. Kids who chose the wrong direction. Kids who had considered, and even tried, suicide.
Over the course of the next several years, I had the privilege of seeing “Mr. Borris” work with his kids. He invited me into his high school to talk to them about my books and the stories behind them. We even did an onstage reading of Crank. So I got to know Al really well. What impressed me most was the way he greeted every student in a very large high school by name. Always with a smile that invited them to come to him with their problems. And they did.
I also got to watch the evolution of Crash Into Me, from a very rough draft to the highly polished version you will read now. First Al’s agent, and then his editor, asked for revision after revision. A less dedicated writer might have called it quits, but Al Borris is one of the most dedicated people I know. He accomplished everything they asked for, and more.
He also returned to the Big Sur conference, this time with a new project. Crash Into Me was already a victory; it was the camaraderie of other writers he sought. He looked fabulous. Fit. Healthy. And off every morning to roller blade by the ocean. It was a great conference, but driving home to Nevada brought me through a huge blizzard and I was stranded for a couple of days. When I finally made it, Facebook was buzzing about Albert Borris, who had suffered a massive stroke. I seriously could not believe it.
His family and friends formed a strong web of positive energy and love around Al, who was touch and go for a while. When it became clear he would live, no one knew how much function he would regain. His body was strong and recovered fairly quickly. But the part of his brain that manages speech was damaged. It took many months for him to be able to type even the simplest email messages, letting us know he was not about to give up.
Today, he still struggles. But he has not given up. That same dedication he had for his students, and his manuscripts, he now offers to his readers. I hope you’ll read Crash Into Me with this understanding. And keep sending positive energy his way. We need another Albert Borris book very soon.