Robert Munsch's confession that he has struggled with alcohol and drug abuse has set off a tsunami of support for the popular Canadian children's author among friends and colleagues in the publishing industry.
"Ninety-nine point nine of the e-mails we've received have been in support of Bob," said agent Don Jones, responsible for booking Munsch's appearances in Canadian schools. Although a 2008 stroke slowed the author's pace, he still plans to make dozens of appearances this spring and fall, according to Jones.
"One hundred per cent of the live shows are a go," Jones said. "There hasn't been any question at all on refunds or anything else."
Since the interview, according to a family spokesman, Munsch has decided against further talk about his problems in public.
But both the author's Canadian publishers issued their own statements of support for the author as he recovers from addictions that he described openly in a weekend interview with Global Television. "When I was drinking, I would sometimes drink too much and do stupid things," he said. "And one of the stupid things I did was use cocaine."
Munsch, 64, added that he first used cocaine five years ago and is now seeking help through Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. In a brief "Note to Parents" published on his website, the author said he has been diagnosed as manic-depressive and obsessive-compulsive, describing them as "challenges that have led me to make some big mistakes."
Canada's so-called King of Kidlit, often described as the best-selling Canadian author of all time, said that he has attended various 12-step recovery programs for 25 years, and has succeeded only due to the support of friends and family who are familiar with his demons.
"I hope that others will also understand," he added. "I hope that everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges."
Rick Wilks of Annick Press, who published Munsch's first story in 1976, was quick to down play the potential career damage the author courted with his confession. "His personal issues are ones I'm deeply sympathetic with, and they've never gotten in the way," Wilks said. "We've had an incredibly successful collaboration with him and continue to do that."
Monday, the Scholastic Corporation issued a statement saying it is "proud to be [Munsch's]Canadian publisher and to distribute his books in the U.S. and around the world," one of which it plans to launch this fall. "Robert is also a man who has faced substantial personal challenges in his life and who is working hard to overcome them," it said. "All of us at Scholastic support him in his recovery process."
Munsch is scheduled to embark on an 11-city tour of the Prairies this month and next, beginning Tuesday at the Conexus Art Centre in Regina. Few expect he will encounter hostility.
"Quite honestly, I don't think anything is going to happen," Wilks said. "The point is, he's clean now. He can continue to do what he's done, which is to work on his stories and to perform. He's had so much to overcome. I'm trusting that the public will respect him enormously."
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