Robert Cormier was born in 1925 in French Hill, a French-Canadian neighborhood of Leominster,
Massachusetts, and has lived in Leominster all his life. The second of eight children, Robert
enjoyed a happy childhood in the nest of his close-knit family and community. His family provided
him a haven from the outer world. Cormier didn't fare well in the streets of his neighborhood,
where ballplaying ability counted for more than his love of books. He attended St. Celia's
Parochial Grammar School, where some of the nuns gave him a terrible time. When he was in
eighth grade, he watched in horror from his classroom window as his own house caught fire
and burned. His teacher refused to let him go to see if his family was safe until he had said
the requisite prayers. This incident enraged him for years afterward.
One of the nuns, however, made a remark that changed the way he thought of himself.
His seventh-grade teacher read one of his poems and told him that he was a writer. He believed her,
and continued to think of himself as one. Later, a teacher at Fitchburg State College was so impressed
with one of Cormier's stories that she submitted it to a magazine; it became his first published work.
After college, Cormier went on to write commercials for a local radio station, and soon switched
to newspaper work. He was a writer and editor at the Fitchburg Sentinel for 23 years, where
he won three major journalism awards. He later wrote short stories for popular magazines such as
McCall's and the Saturday Evening Post. Cormier married in 1948, and despite his
own childhood experiences, he and his wife sent their four children to local parochial schools.
Cormier's first three books were moderately successful, but in 1974 The Chocolate War
launched him into the young adult market where he has had tremendous success. Cormier still lives
in Leominster and still writes for young people-and often directly to them, answering the numerous
letters his young readers have sent him over the years.