Jeanne Sager | Democrat
FORMER FALLSBURG ENGLISH teacher Andrew Neiderman will jopin a select company when he publishes his 100th novel later this year.
By Jeanne Sager
FALLSBURG It’s been 22 years since Andrew Neiderman walked out the front doors of the Fallsburg Central School building on Brickman Road.
And it isn’t just the building that’s changed.
Sure, the space where he once stored the books that opened the minds of hundreds of teenagers is now a wiring closet.
Sure, the desks where minds were once opened to a love of literature and film have been replaced with long tables filled with the gadgetry of a distance learning center.
But Neiderman isn’t a teacher anymore either.
He’s an author on the verge of having his 100th novel published.
He’s a novelist whose books have been remade for screens small and large most notably the Al Pacino/Keanu Reeves collaboration “The Devil’s Advocate.”
He is the ghostwriter for V.C. Andrews, the world’s best-selling book franchise.
He lives in California, where pitching movie studios is a regular thing. Where he’s been signed to rewrite the screenplay for V.C. Andrews’ first novel to be made into a movie a second time.
But, at his heart, he’s still a Fallsburg boy. And Friday, he came home.
Neiderman walked through the doors of Fallsburg High School for a rare speech in front of a high school audience.
Accustomed to speaking for writer’s conventions and library events rather than high schools, Neiderman was contacted by the Fallsburg Student Government Association President Steven Bennett several years ago with a request.
Please, would he speak to the Fallsburg students?
He is, after all, a veteran of the teaching ranks there he spent 23 years as English teacher, plus a lengthy stint as drama coach and even head of the wrestling team. He’s a graduate too, a member of the class of 1958.
OK, Neiderman said, if it works out that he’d be in town during the school year (his annual visits to see his wife’s family are usually during a time when kids are on vacation), he would come.
With meetings in New York for a new series he’s working on (he’s agreed to write some young adult versions of the traditional V.C. Andrews novels), Neiderman and wife Diane traveled upstate to where it all began.
Because Neiderman is very much a guy from Fallsburg. He talks the Catskills and the Borscht Belt out in Hollywood.
He likes to tell actors that he used to use their films when he was a teacher back in the day.
“Everybody is a product of where he was brought up,” Neiderman told the packed auditorium on Friday afternoon. “Because I was brought up here, because I went to school here, I am what I am now.”
In Hollywood, when he says the Catskills, it evokes memories.
“It harbors GREAT memories for millions of people, and you’re part of it,” he explained.
Brought up in the heydays of the hotels, Neiderman said when Fallsburg kids turned 14, they went to work in the hotels.
“In 10 weeks, we had to make what we’d live on for the whole year,” he explained to the kids.
“Most writers don’t do what I do,” Neiderman said of all his work out in California to get his books onscreen. “Most writers stay in their homes waiting for lightning to strike.
“But I came from Fallsburg,” he said to cheering from the teens. “We grew up hustling. Remember, we had to make it in 10 weeks!”
Taking questions from an audience that included not just teens but many of Neiderman’s old colleagues and students, even one of his old teachers, the celebrated author wasn’t shy about his experiences.
But he wasn’t boastful either.
With questions coming fast and furious about the celebrities he’s encountered, Neiderman said he’s learned one thing about celebrity that he wanted to share with the kids.
“The trouble is, we have all gone nuts with celebrity,” he noted. “Think about what they’re doing… is it worth it for YOU to be paying attention to them?
“Celebrity is worth only what you can do for people with it,” he added. “When they use my name and raise money for charity in my hometown with it… that’s celebrity.”