Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
In May of this year, I got to meet one of my writing idols, Laurie Halse Anderson. I discovered her books years ago, when my son, who we’ll call The Possum, was only about four. We had spent so much time in bookstores over the years that The Possum had become an excellent book browser by age four. He could out do me. So, while he browsed books in at a local children’s bookstore, I wandered bored. I assumed there was nothing for me to do.
I struck up a conversation with a bookseller, Liz. Liz should have reminded me of a stereotypical librarian – small glasses, whitening hair, a passion for books – but she is not anything like the shushing, stern librarian I knew in grade school. (The librarians I meet nowadays seem to be about breaking those stereotypes). Liz is warm and has a great ability to sense what books will appeal and finds the best about every book.
When I asked Liz if she had anything for adults, she looked me over and then grabbed Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson’s debut novel. What I discovered, when I went home and read it, was that the world of young adult literature had changed from the time I read it as a child. It had become voice-y; it had become an arena for authors to push what was acceptable in literature, both in terms of content and in terms of form.
Two days later, my son and I were back at the store, only this time he had to drag me out, clutching 3 more YA books. Speak snared me. I started reading YA, and lots of it, listening to many of Liz's recommendations. And, now of course, I see it was what got me writing YA.
When I heard that I could meet Laurie Halse Anderson at a reading she gave at the Loft, I pulled every string I could think of to make sure I wouldn’t be just another face at the back of the signing line. One of the Loft’s staff, who has known me for a while, picked up my excitement instantly and suggested that I introduce Laurie instead.
When Laurie arrived and we were introduced, (“Halse, rhymes with Waltz – Halse”), I had to work hard not to gush. But I was rewarded for my self-control because I got to listen to her, not myself. I learned that Ms. Anderson is generous, freely giving me advice on my second book fears and agreeing to an interview, which will be featured on the More on Mondays blog on Monday, August 31.
She looked as I expected: she is slender and seems gentle in her tone. Then when she read to her audience (and make no mistake, it was her audience), she rejected the mic in favor of a strong voice, engaged the audience (answering all their questions, but asking a few of her own) and demonstrated a level of respect for the many students who came to see her.
Most heroes pale upon meeting. Laurie Halse Anderson did not.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Recently, I was sitting in at Harvest Moon Café with a member of my writer’s group who was complaining about tweets that go something like this: “Swati is eating apples” or “Swati is tired.” Other tweets, he told me, are valuable, such as “I just posted a new blog.” He objects to the idea that every thought someone has needs to be expressed, that it needs to be shared, and that by writing it down, we imply that eating apples is inherently interesting.
As someone who has written those status lines on facebook and who loves reading others’ similar stati, I disagreed. I do like hearing that my cousin, who I only see once every two years, is making posole. It is the only way I have to enter her daily life. I am, like most of us, separated in physical distance to most of the people I am closest to. Twitter or facebook transform that which has disconnected us (a computer in a solitary room) into a source of connection.
Then again, I’m a writer. I love all sorts of communication. And for me, communication is connection.
In this inaugural blog, I’m questioning why should I write this and whether anyone should care if I’ve eaten apples, or even the more inherently interesting experiences like auction day for my contract (more on this later). And I remind myself that this blog is a form of connection to anyone who wishes to read. Whether it’s a blog, a short story, or even a novel, I write to connect, to reach across the distance.
So, welcome to my blog. I hope that you’ll come again to the blog, just to reach back.
I promise not to mention all my culinary delights. This blog will be focused on my writing, the life of a writer, and the process of publication. I will also be featuring interviews with authors, usually young adult authors who have had some sort of influence on me.