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Banning Oz: Wicked Writers Discuss Book Challenges

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For the past century, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has faced book bans and challenges. In modern times, the revisionist novel Wicked and its hugely popular musical adaptation have faced similar censorship around the country. Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and Winnie Holzman, bookwriter of the musical adaptation Wicked, come together for a chat about the cultural significance of the Land of Oz and why such popular stories face backlash.

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Winnie Holzman is the writer (with composer/ lyricist Stephen Schwartz) of the international hit musical Wicked, now celebrating 20 years on Broadway. After graduating from Princeton University, she studied with such luminaries as Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim at the NYU Musical Theatre Program. Her first musical, Birds of Paradise,was produced off-Broadway, directed by Laurents.

Her screenwriting career began on the groundbreaking TV drama thirtysomething. She later created the memorable TV series My So-Called Life,starring Claire Danes. Her non-musical play Choice will be produced this spring at the McCarter Theatre. Winnie recently completed both screenplays for the film adaptations of Wicked, and is currently on strike in two unions.

Photo courtesy of Showtime

Gregory Maguire is the author of a number of novels for children, eleven adult novels, and several short stories, picture books, essays and reviews. His adult novels include Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the WestSon of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz, the four volumes of The Wicked Years, and all four New York Times bestsellers, as well as national bestsellers Confessions of an Ugly StepsisterLostMirror MirrorThe Next Queen of HeavenAfter AliceHiddenseeand A Wild Winter Swan. His most recent adult novel is The Oracle of Maracoor (2022). The Witch of Maracoor is expected in October 2023.

Mr. Maguire is a national figure in children’s literature education. He was a professor and associate director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College, 1979 through 1986. From 1987 until 2010, he was codirector and founding board member of Children’s Literature New England, Incorporated, a nonprofit that focuses attention on the significance of literature in the lives of children. He writes occasionally for the Sunday New York Times Book Review, the Horn Book Magazine, and other journals. Furthermore, he has served on the National Book Award jury as well as the Caldecott Medal committee of the American Library Association.

Cheryl Davis is the general counsel of the Authors Guild. Prior to joining the Guild, she was a partner at the firm of Menaker & Herrmann LLP, where she specialized in intellectual property and wrote a number of articles and made presentations about how artists can protect their intellectual property.