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Sid Fleischman (1920-2010)

I have to delurk for a moment to say goodbye to Newbery Medalist Sid Fleischman, who died last week after celebrating his 90th birthday. I first met Sid at the SCBWI annual conference in Los Angeles in 2004, and had the honor of introducing him at his workshop on screenwriting. Sid's workshop was both informative and entertaining, but my duties of shepherding him to the event nearly had me in an apoplectic fit.

The light over Sid's podium blew out just before he was to speak, requiring me to frantically search for a maintenance staffer while Sid peered at his notes in the darkness. Then there were technical difficulties with the sound system and podium itself, but Sid was amazingly good-humored and patient with the delay. Finally, when came time for me to introduce him, I asked if Sid wanted me to read from the biography in the conference materials.

He looked at them and said, "No, this is all about my career as a book writer. Since this is a workshop about screenwriting, it should be more about what I've done in that field."

So we sat down for five minutes and wrote a whole new bio, from scratch, about Sid's equally impressive work for film--and five minutes was hardly enough time to cover half of it. After the workshop we went to the conference luncheon, where I discovered that SCBWI's new award for humor writing would be called the Sid Fleischman Humor Award.

Sid was a speaker at the SCBWI New England Conference in 2007, where he inspired us with his words and wowed us with his stage magic. I gave him an ARC of my book and one of the biggest thrills of my life was hearing from him that he enjoyed it and thought it was very funny.

Sid will be missed, but his talent lives on through his books and films. The Ghost in the Midday Sun continues to be the best pirate book I've ever read and The Whipping Boy defines the entire genre of stories about whipping boys. Does anyone else remember "The Bloodhound Gang" segment from 3-2-1 Contact on PBS? It blew my mind to learn that Sid wrote that as well! Sid also has a biography of Charlie Chaplin coming out in April 2010 from Greenwillow and at least one other posthumous book that I know of.

Sid Fleischman was my idol. I'm still in shock at his loss.