For most people, speech impediments are nightmarish, causing awkwardness or embarrassment even in short conversations.
For novelist Vince Vawter, however, they are source material.
UT's Center for Children's and Young Adult Literature partnered with the Knoxville Public Library to bring Vawter, author of the Newbery Medal winning children's novel "Paperboy," to campus Monday night.
"Paperboy" is set in Memphis, Tenn., and follows an 11-year-old boy named Victor who struggles with a stutter. Victor pitches for his baseball team, and he does well when he doesn't have to speak to people. But in the summer, Victor takes over his friend's paper route and must learn to communicate with some of the not-so-easygoing customers.
"Talking for everybody is not so easy," Vawter said. "It's pretty complicated if you really think about it."
The story is largely based on Vawter's own experiences as a child with a speech impediment. Growing up in Memphis, he said he had a very difficult time with the disorder. He said he wrote on his typewriter because he felt that, although it was difficult and even painful to speak aloud, he could always get the right words out on paper.
Vawter said because he based the protagonist off himself, the writing process brought up some very painful and emotional memories.
"There is a lot of my life in this book," he said.
Vawter even told the audience that as he was writing the novel, his family noticed his speech seemed to be getting worse, almost as if he was reverting back to his days in Memphis as a lonely 11-year-old with a stutter.
"I still have a speech impediment," Vawter said. "But it doesn't stop me, and I think that's important."
Vawter said all the characters of the novel were based off of people from his past except for one man, whom he said he based off his 65-year-old self. Vawter said he wanted there to be a character that helped to foster the growth and development of the 11-year-old protagonist.
However, Vawter readily admitted the novel didn't have the kind of resolution children's novels often have.
"I won't make it a fairy tale," he said. "Victor doesn't miraculously stop stuttering at the end of the book."
Alyssa Perrone, sophomore in marketing, said she was pleased with the genuine nature of the author's presentation and writing.
"I really enjoyed Vawter's presentation," Perrone said. "He was so sincere, and I felt like his personal connections to the book brought the story to life."
Perrone plans to give "Paperboy" to her newborn nephew when he is older because of its motivating content.
"It was inspiring to know he still struggles with his speech impediment but gave a very meaningful and well-delivered presentation tonight," Perrone said.
Miranda Clark, director of CCYAL****(include this acronym in the first section of Vawter article, otherwise people won't know what it stands for), heard of Vawter through mutual connections who continue to sing praises of his first novel "Paperboy." She spoke highly of both Vawter and his writing.
"We look for authors like Vince Vawter," Clark said. "And we look for books like 'Paperboy.'"
Early Monday morning, Vawter got news that "Paperboy" had received the Newbery Medal Award.
"It was such a wonderful honor that we were able to listen to his story the day he was awarded such a prestigious title," Clark said.
A humble Vawter said it'd been "quite a day."
"It's certainly been a lot of fun."