Authentic and Transformative: Interview with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Closing out my Women’s History Month interviews with women I admire, a talk with my dear friend and co-author, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich.

I met Olugbemisola's words before I met her via a NJ SCBWI critique group. And I was flat-out floored by the voice. Reggie, the star of her novel 8th Grade Superzero, just about killed me with authenticity. Which was kind of a perfect way to get to know her, as authentic is just about a perfect word to describe her.

You’ll see. Read on.

You are an active member of the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) Movement, the Brown Bookshelf, and probably at least 43 other impressive organizations. Can you discuss what draws you to those organizations and how does the work you do there feed you?

Books! Are Awesome! I'm all about sharing the power and joy of reading. Reading is an act of expansion. Reading is, as is often said, a political act.  I grew up in a household where conversation about and action around social justice was a regular part of our lives; I worked as a literacy educator for many years, and know firsthand how vital it is for all readers to have "windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors," as Rudine Sims-Bishop once said.  We live in a system that ignores and often actively suppresses voices that don't represent the dominant culture, and my work with WNDB and The Brown Bookshelf is about amplifying the voices of underrepresented and marginalized creators and readers. In this country, we often seem to resist the radiance and power of the stories of the world, and I think that diminishes us. Reading, sharing, discussing, enjoying, grappling with literature that truly represents the multi-faceted world that we live in is such a wonderful opportunity -- I always want to be a part of celebrating and promoting that.

What draws you to the nonfiction subjects you write about? Can you talk about them?
Ella Baker once spoke about wanting all people to know that they had "something in their power they could use,” and I'm drawn to stories likes hers, along with Ella Jenkins, Lena Horne, Louise Bennett Coverley, Ida B. Wells, and Shirley Chisholm -- women who discovered a power within and used it to promote justice, to empower others.  Oh, and music -- I'm drawn to anything that has to do with music. And figure skating. And the early 90s New York Knicks. And tea.

We could stop here to discuss John Starks if you want.

Or I could ask what literary or other events or publications are you excited about this year or in the years ahead?

We have Two Naomis coming out in September -- I can't wait! It was so much fun, discovering these girls together. Collaboration taught me so much, about myself as a writer, about how different points of view can enrich a story, and about how wonderful it can be to have a writing partner to share the ups and less ups of the publishing business with. :) (Bad grammar, sorrynotsorry.)

I loved the way we could throw a (friendly) curve ball in our chapter and see how it was handled or ignored or thrown right back in the next. But more than anything, I felt like the luckiest reader because I got new chapters of your beautiful prose in my inbox on a regular basis.

I'm also very excited about my essay in The Journey Is Everything, edited by Katherine Bomer, an educator and writer whom I've long admired. The collection is meant to expand students' views on essay writing, to remind us of the power of essays to transform our thinking, expand our vision, foster all kinds of learning beyond the "5 paragraph formula.” I wrote for the first time about grieving the death of my mother, after her relatively short and intense struggle with MS. I was given the space to write without the goal of being "inspirational" or of "moving beyond" pain, but to write about what it means to be in the midst of it, to live in it. The act of writing in that way was a powerful one for me, and I hope that it can encourage students to think of writing as a way to live in and work through challenging times. Even in the process of writing the piece, I made new discoveries, and was transformed. That is one of the most beautiful and powerful things about the process of writing -- that transformation, along with the possibility to connect with oneself and/or someone else.

(For the record, I would like this image to be as large as the one above. But ineptitude keeps me from achieving that goal.)

(For the record, I would like this image to be as large as the one above. But ineptitude keeps me from achieving that goal.)

And that right there, that’s authentic. Because I never had the words to say it before, but “without the goal of being ‘inspirational’ or of ‘moving beyond’ pain." Yes. That. Exactly.

What a perfect note to end on. (Bad grammar, sorrynotsorry.)

 

Shana Corey on The Secret Subway, Pigs' Bladders, and of Course, Cadbury Creme Eggs

Continuing on with my interviews with women I admire, I bring you Shana Corey. I first heard her name when, in her role as Random House editor, she acquired my good friend Kim Marcus’s incredible debut novel, Exposed. And then I had the good fortune to present with her (and Marc Tyler Nobleman and Meghan McCarthy) at a New Jersey school librarians’ conference. Mostly, though, I admire her beautiful children on facebook. Believe me, days can be lost admiring them.

You may have been hearing her name lately because her book, The Secret Subway, is fantastic and getting all kinds of attention. Monica Edinger did a great Huffington Post piece on The Secret Subway. For lots of info about that amazing project you should really go read that. In the immortal words of substitute teachers trying to silence a noisy class, I’ll wait….

Welcome back. Please note that I have been unable to figure out how to size images on this blog and are a reflection upon my doofusness.

Now settle in and get to know Shana:


Tell us about your book launch and presenting at the Transit Museum this month!
Hi! This has been a fun month! The illustrator of The Secret Subway, Chris Sickles and I had been in touch while we were making The Secret Subway, but this was the first time we met in person. He creates each spread as a three-dimensional scene, sculpting the characters and building the sets--and then he lights them and photographs them. I was completely blown away to hear about his process and to see some of the behind-the-scenes pictures and puppets up close. I feel very, very lucky to have worked with him on this book and think he's pretty amazing. 

We had a launch party at my local indie, Bookcourt (there was cake which I strongly believe is the backbone of any event-book or otherwise) and then we had the fun of presenting at the NY Transit Museum--which is where I first got the idea for this book when I used to visit with my subway-obsessed children. Since then, I've been spending a lot of time visiting schools and talking with kids about the history of New York City and in particular of the subway. For some reason, these presentations usually involve a lot of discussion of the history of garbage. Also horse poop. You should come to one.


You’ve written a lot of great nonfiction books and so many of them are about strong women. Did you set out with that intent or did it evolve in some other way?
Thank you. It evolved naturally out of my interests. I tell kids (because it's true) that growing up I loved reading about Olden Day girls. Little House, All of a Kind Family, Betsy-Tacy. That evolved into me taking women's history courses in college and realizing that there's real history contained in those books--not a complete history by any means, but they are a look at the domestic and cultural history of specific demographics of women and girls in American history (also I learned that pigs' bladders make excellent balloons, and the price of broken soda crackers and what the inside of a milk truck looked like and other fascinating things). Anyway, as a young editorial assistant in New York (many moons ago), one of the most thrilling parts of my job was occasionally coming up with ideas that I'd pitch to authors for topics I thought would be good in some of our lines. However, some of the topics weren't right for what I was working on, and some of them were too close to my heart to ask someone else to write. And one of those, You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! became my first book.

Who are some of your favorite female fictional characters/why?
You ask hard questions! I'm not sure I can narrow this down. Betsy Ray (though she's not really fictional because she's so Maud Hart Lovelace) because she's a reader and a writer and a storyteller and a dreamer and just fun to be with. As a kid, I also loved Sara Crew for the same reasons, though am not sure she has quite the same hold on me now that Betsy Ray still does (I almost named my daughter Betsy). I love Ramona and Junie B. Jones because they make me laugh. I love Hermione because she's smart. I love LaVaughn in True Believer (one of my all time favorite books) because she's so heart-on-her-sleeve full of hope she breaks my heart. I love all three of the sisters in One Crazy Summer and its sequels because there is so much truth and honesty in every word the say they alternately make me laugh and break my heart on almost every page.

What’s next?
Well, I have the great pleasure of working with many wonderful authors as an editor, so that's the main thing I'm doing right now (Can I brag on them? So many stories I love-check out Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics! And Hilo! And The League of Beastly Dreadfuls! And The Enchanted Files! And look for Welcome to Wonderland, coming out this fall which I'm so excited about!). But I do have three books of my own out this spring-The Secret Subway, which just came out and is the little-know true story of changemaker Alfred Ely Beach and the first subway build in NYC--a pneumatic subway that was built in secret!  And then an early reader on Malala and one coming out in May on Hillary Clinton. I am in awe of people who make a difference in the world and think all three of the people in these books have made huge differences in our world in different ways. I am very excited about them!

And how do you find time to do any writing at all when really all you should be doing is staring at your three beautiful children?
Sometimes I send my husband out with the children so I can stay home in my pajamas eating Cadbury Crème eggs and working. Not that I'm doing anything like that right now of course. 

Thank you so much, Shana. I can't wait to see what you do next.

 

 

 

 

Cynthia Levinson: Stupid or gutsy? (spoiler alert: she's no dummy.)

You know what they say about Women's History Month, right? It comes in like a lion and then turns into a super-fast racehorse that charges toward April and if you don't hurry, you won't get to include all the interviews with women you admire.

This interview is with the wonderful and fiercely intelligent Cynthia Levinson. I can't even count the many ways I admire Cynthia because I can't count very high, but she is a research fiend, the kind of person who provides a home for someone's, let's say nephew, when he's new to town and even when he's not. She writes wonderful books. And you could spend hours driving through states, talking with her, and wish the states were farther apart.

You're in for a treat.

What made you want to write about Hillary Rodham Clinton?

The short answer is that I didn’t. Next? 

OK, the longer answer is that writing a bio of Hillary Rodham Clinton for 8- to 12-year-olds wasn’t my idea, and when the editor asked me if I’d do it, I said I had to think about it. Which was either mind-bogglingly stupid or incredibly gutsy of me, since at the time I only had one book out. And what barely-past debut author turns down a contract, for crying out loud? This being Women’s History Month, I’m going with foolhardy, particularly since, when another writer had told me two months earlier that she was working on a bio of Hillary, I told her I’d be intimidated to do that. Then, when I decided to go ahead, still intimidated, I had to eat my words—and come up with about 50,000 more.

So, why did I decide to do it, after all? When the offer was made, I was in Washington, DC, visiting my daughter and her husband, who are close friends with a woman who was a speech-writer for Hillary when she was Secretary of State. She (the speechwriter, not the Hillary) kindly agreed to meet me for coffee, and, in addition to being enthusiastic about the project, she told me, “The Secretary is always saying, ‘Do all the good you can.’” This is the opening line of the Methodist statement of faith. How can you argue with that? I hadn’t yet decided to write the book but I knew that, if I did, I had a title. Also, even though this is Women’s History Month, I knew that I’d have a different slant on Hillary than most books, which focus, for good reason, on her feminism.

Another factor clinched the decision for me. Hillary lived across the hall from me her freshman year in college. I called two friends, who had remained friends with Hillary for many years, not only for their opinions but also for their support. I knew that, to write a worthwhile book, I’d need to rely on people with better memories than mine as well as some behind-the-scenes, kid-friendly stories. Their agreement to help and to enlist others not only made the job a smidge less intimidating but also made me realize that I might be able to write a book that no one else could. Then, to do it, I disappeared from the world for the next eight months.

But I’ve emerged. If you want to hear me talk about the book, I”ll be at the San Antonio Book Festival on April 2 and at the Brookline Booksmith on May 1. And everybody should look at this Reuters clip of interviews with fourth-graders after I talked to them about the book. The kids are brilliant.

You have written award-winning books about fascinating subjects--We've Got a Job and Watch Out for Flying Kids. What drew you to those subjects?

What drew me to We’ve Got a Job was mortification. And what drew me to Watch Out for Flying Kids was a need for balance. (It’s always good to answer a question about a circus book with a circus metaphor.)

I am not good at resizing images. Her book is not ENORMOUS.

I am not good at resizing images. Her book is not ENORMOUS.

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March is about four of the 3000-4000 elementary and high school kids who protested segregation, were arrested, and went to jail. I was a high school senior that year. Although I knew about the vicious police chief, Bull Connor, and his tactics of hosing demonstrators and setting dogs on them, I didn’t know that those demonstrators were children until I wrote an article about music in the civil rights period. When I learned that, I was so mortified by my ignorance that I decided to write a book. (As I said, either stupid or gutsy. Since I had no idea what was entailed in writing a whole book, I’ll go with both.)

Watch Out for Flying Kids: How Two Circuses, Two Countries and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community came about because I decided that, having written about segregation of blacks and whites in America, I should write about the troubles between Arabs and Jews in Israel. It only seemed fair. I was visiting Israel and was searching for what is called a co-existence project to write about. When I learned about an Arab-Jewish youth circus—Circus!—in the Galilee, I couldn’t resist.

Then, things came full circle (Latin root: circum, which is also the root for circus) when it turned out that the Galilee Circus has a partnership with a black-kid/white-kid youth circus in St. Louis. When the two troupes get together every other year, they’re a melange of black, Christian, rich, Muslim, white, poor, Jewish kids—truly (and it is all true) one of the most diverse and multicultural books around. Then, when war broke out in Gaza while the Americans were there, and violence erupted in Ferguson, MO, just after they returned, the book became all too relevant.

The research entailed two trips to St. Louis, two more trips to Israel, four translators, and my trying out wire-walking, trampoline, juggling, globe, silks, and trapeze, at all of which I was a complete doofus, and I have the videos on my website to prove it. Also, lots of hair-pulling. (If you were a teenage, Arabic-speaking contortionist, would you want to spend your time Skyping with an elderly Jewish American lady instead of going to the mall for falafel?) So, though bruised and bald, I’m proud of the book.

By the way, there’s a ton of information about these books—how I researched and wrote them, interviews with the main “characters,” videos of them, background info, teacher guides, curriculum tie-ins, reviews, presentations—on my website.

Who are some of your favorite female characters and why?

There are so many! I’ll give you an oldie but goodie and a newbie but baddie. 

The first is Ramona. I mean, how can you not love Ramona? Of course, come to think of it, a reason she’s so lovable is that she’s not so good; she’s an amalgam of mischief and benightedness. But she’s relatable and well-meaning and funny and spunky. So, even though she doesn’t always act good, she’s good for kids to read about.

On the other hand, there’s Olive Kitteridge. This isn't a kids book. But she has an unpleasant, even nasty streak that makes her almost creepily realistic. I’m not sure what that says about me, and I don’t want to know.

If you were told to write a nonfiction book about the woman of your choice, whom would you choose?

I WAS told to write a nonfiction book about a woman, Hillary Clinton. Oh, but wait, she wasn’t my choice—at least not at first. I’ve been afraid someone would ask me to write about Elizabeth Warren, whom I also know, but I wouldn’t choose her, either.

For sheer goofiness yet accomplishment, I’d go for Irma Rombauer, who concocted The Joy of Cooking, because, as I recall, she gives recipes for field-dressing a deer and roasting a pig in a pit. If I can try wire-walking, I’d have to try those, too. Or maybe Margaret Mead because I’d have to go to Samoa. How about a female elephant? I’d love to get inside an elephant’s POV.

Actually, an editor asked me if I’d write a biography of the woman who was the first… well, if I told you, I’d have to kill you. And all your readers. 

You have two books coming out next year--The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist and Fault Lines in the Constitution (with some guy named Sanford Levinson). What can you tell us about them?

The Youngest Marcher is a picture book (my first!) about a nine-year-old girl who protested in Birmingham, was arrested, and spent a week in jail. And it’s all true. The book also includes a recipe for Audrey’s favorite dish, Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter. The illustrator is Vanessa Brantley Newton, who has done a very careful and sensitive job. The pub date is January 2017.

Fault Lines in the Constitution, which I’m writing with a guy who is my husband, takes that revered document to task, showing how it is the root cause of many of our current political problems. Think Electoral College, gerrymandering, even the Senate. Most of us take these features (which are really bugs) in our system for granted. But they came about through haggling in an overheated room in 1787, and we’re still suffering the consequences. Each chapter begins with a story—all but one of them true—that is kind of horrifying and that connects directly back to a section in the Constitution. This could be the first book about the U.S. Constitution that gives kids nightmares. It will be out in time for Halloween—I mean for Constitution Day (everyone knows when that is, right?) in 2017.

See what I mean? Cynthia Levinson is irresistible. And gutsy.

Katie Dersnah Mitchell: Teen/Reference Librarian, Amelia Bloomer Project Chair, All Around Badass

Social media's funny. Hilarious! No, just funny.

There are some people we feel we know well, despite having never met them. Facebook friends can take on the weight of real in-person friends. And some people are just such all around badasses online that we have to get to know them better.

So it's Women's History Month. (What did you all get me?) And I decided I'd interview women I admire. For some, I wanted to get to know them better. For others, I wanted YOU to get to know them better.

And I'm feeling so SMART for choosing to start with Katie Dersnah Mitchell because she is a person you and I both needed to know better. And her description of serving on the Amelia Bloomer Project (AMP) is absolutely delicious. And she's smart. And a total badass. Read on, friends.

How did you come to serve on the Amelia Bloomer Committee?
I first heard about the ABP list when I was in library school. We had to investigate some of the other awards of the American Library Association Youth Media Awards. I was so impressed with the list and started following the ABP Facebook page. I knew Angela Semifero, one of the co-chairs for the 2012 and 2013 lists, from Michigan Library Association committees. I mentioned to her that I was interested in applying for the committee and when applications opened for the 2013 Committee she let me know and I applied. I was thrilled to become a voting member for that year.  

Without giving away any committee secrets, can you talk about what the discussion and selection process was like at the ALA midwinter meeting?
I adore the ABP committee process. We are a committee that works by consensus, not a majority vote. Reaching consensus is an incredible process. Books are nominated throughout the year by voting members. We also solicit field nominations and a reader is assigned to each title. When we get closer to Midwinter, we have a straw poll and are able to vote yes/no/maybe/not read. This is to make sure all books have a majority number of readers and to take a pulse of where we are as a committee. When we do our first vote at Midwinter, titles that have gotten all yes votes are automatically in consideration for the Top Ten and we do not discuss them. This means we often don’t discuss the most explicitly feminist books, which is kind of funny. (Believe me, we do talk about them at dinner and on breaks!) Then we have to reach a consensus of the whole group (of dedicated readers) on the remaining titles.  
One of the most fascinating and empowering things about our committee is the care with which we nominate books and our discussions. We know that any nominated title was nominated by a valued committee member, so discussions are always respectful. But we also discuss topics that can be very challenging and personally difficult to discuss. I am always amazed at the integrity, empathy, and depth of our discussions.

Books are nominated by committee members.  We ask publishing houses to send us titles, both nominated and ones that they think may fit our criteria. Members also actively look for books that have a strong feminist message. We utilize ARCs, egalleys, and visiting bookstores to search for titles. Our criteria is very specific that the book must have feminist content, which means there needs to be personal or global agency or empowerment or a clean example of how a situation/topic does not promote gender equality.

Who are some of your favorite female fictional characters and why?
I have two go-to characters for this question. My most favorite book series in the world is the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. The books follow Betsy Ray (who is a thinly fictionalized version of young Maud) from kindergarten through her first years of marriage. Although these books might not seem overtly feminist, Betsy is a smart, intrepid, and wholly relatable young woman at the turn of the last century. Her personal development, at such a pivotal point in our nation’s history, has always inspired me.

Betsy cover.jpg


The other is Kit Tyler from The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Kit is such a complex character, on the surface a young woman of privilege who is concerned with finery and her personal agenda. However, Kit is also escaping the potential of a forced marriage, a young woman who enjoys learning and personal independence, and a female caught in the circumstances of her time and place in history. Her friendships with outsiders, her desire to help Prudence learn to read, and her growing understanding of her extended family are all so wonderfully executed and developed. Add in that the book was published in 1958 and you have one remarkable piece of literature!

If you were told you could write about the woman of your choice, whom would you choose?
Susanna Madora Salter. She was elected as the first female mayor in the United States.  There remains the history/myth that she was put on the ballot as a joke. She was a locally known leader in the temperance movement and lived in town, making her eligible for nomination.  It appears that several male non-temperance citizens had her name put on the ballot without her knowledge. When this occurred, she was visited by a delegation that asked if she would be willing to serve her community if elected. She won by a ⅔ majority and served for a year.  She held her head up when she was the aim of misogynist “pranksters” (read: jerks!) and paved the way for many women in our nation’s history.  

If you could boss someone into writing a nonfiction book about the woman of your choice, whom would you choose?
Billie Jean King and Hedy Lamarr.  Billie Jean, because she is a living hero who has never been given her due as one of America’s greatest athletes and feminists (undoubtedly due to the fact that she is a lesbian).
Hedy Lamarr because she is primarily remembered as a “sexy” actress. Her acting career was great, but even more importantly, she was one of the foremost pioneers of wireless communication.  Use a cell phone?  You better be thanking Hedy!!

What book and library publications/happenings are you excited about in the year ahead?
Ok, I shouldn’t give away any titles that I am considering, but haven’t yet read; but let me just say that I am THRILLED with the feminist content I have seen coming from our publishing houses.  I am also very excited about the intersectionality of feminism and race and gender identification that is getting published.  Trans experiences with feminism are very important to me. I truly support the #weneeddiversebooks movement and I love how that is bringing feminist stories from many different experiences.

Personally, I am super excited about The Rose and the Dagger, the sequel to the compulsively readable The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.

Isn't she the best? Thank you so much, Katie, for taking the time to stop by the blog.

 

Free memory!

Big things are happening! And I’m planning a big give-away, so stay tuned, teachers and librarians!

San Diego beach in February. What a treat!

San Diego beach in February. What a treat!

Last week I had the great pleasure of traveling to the California School Librarian Association’s annual conference in San Diego (WOOT!) to accept the California Young Reader Medal for Brothers at Bat. I also visited kids at Hedenkamp Elementary in Chula Vista. Holy cow, was it all dreamy good fun.

Hedenkamp students, including Vikram, to my right, who introduced me at the conference.

Hedenkamp students, including Vikram, to my right, who introduced me at the conference.

The incredibly gifted and generous Jennifer Nielsen was also in attendance at the conference, accepting the award for her middle-grade novel The False Prince. You should have seen the people lined up with STACKS of her books. I signed some books too. And some baseballs. And one peanut. (Part of the incredible centerpieces. And requested by a thirteen-year-old boy, because who else needs a signed peanut?)

In baseball news, pitchers and catchers report this week. Spring training games next month. And my book, The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton, illustrated by Steven Salerno, hits the shelves on the 29th. I’m celebrating with a big give-away. Lucky winners will get their own 8 GB hard drive, furnished by USB Direct! My memory is not the thing it used to be, so I'm all in favor of more memory. These beauties will be loaded with the curriculum guides that go with my books, including a new one I commissioned from the great Natalie Lorenzi, who created the previous three (for Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?, She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, and Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team). And there will be a free Skype classroom/library visit as a grand prize.  

If you want to be sure to NOT miss the big announcement of the giveaway, check back next month or if you’re as forgetful as I may on occasion be (see above re: more memory), send your email address to Audrey at audreyvernick dot com and I’ll let you know once the post is up.


a long visit

There's a good chance I'll be back to blogging soon. Could happen.

This photo has nothing to do with our talk but isn't it awesome?

This photo has nothing to do with our talk but isn't it awesome?

Until then, I stopped by the wonderful James Preller's blog. We had the kind of talk you have when you meet someone at a conference and wander away from all the workshops and spend a ridiculous amount of time in the lobby, becoming familiar with each other's work habits, successes, failures. Pull up a seat and join us over there.


What We Read

Like a lot of kidlit writers, I read a ton of children's books--picture books, middle grade and young adult novels. I also read a lot of adult fiction and memoir. I have no grand plan--just a huge mess of a to-read pile, sprawling throughout several rooms in my house.

But it seems like the books in my pile have been talking behind my back. Conspiring. I can almost hear them. "She hasn't been terribly productive." "Do you have any idea when she last wrote?" "Do you mean wrote something good or just wrote? Because there was a Costco list yesterday but it didn't have a lot of depth or promise." If you've ever read that great short story by Dave Eggers, imagine those voices as the judgy squirrels' voices. If not, just enjoy the very idea of judgy squirrels.

sick-in-the-head.jpg

When I purchased Judd Apatow's new book, Sick in the Head, I expected to be entertained. But Apatow's interviews with comedians (including the first one, with Jerry Seinfeld, conducted when the ballsy Apatow was fifteen years old and the follow up, thirty years later) have been so intelligent and insightful. For reasons I don't remember, I'm simultaneously reading Poking A Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers, by Mike Sacks, which has been equally thoughtful. Combine those two with the other book I'm reading, Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, and wow. My brain! My writing soul! The loud concert of ideas in my brain!

My rediscovered drive to get back to that novel I started! (Shhh. Don't hold me to that.)

I still have a long way to go in each book, but I kind of want to thank my books for this simultaneous messy, meaty read. They have gotten my attention. My reading--right now, at least--has a pretty clear connection to what I'm going to do in my writing life. Even though I won't be choreographing a single dance or performing stand up any time soon (despite the moans of disappointment I can imagine hearing right now), these loud ideas and philosophies are herding my thoughts in a new, interesting direction.

It probably won't come as a surprise that Twyla Tharp is exceedingly invested in every step she takes. I love her description of the cardboard box she keeps for each project, its name hand-lettered in marker, into which she places every single bit of research and inspiration as well as two index cards, on which she has written her initial impulses, as reminders. The best comedians are equally focused and open and earnest about their craft. That isn't a surprise--comedy is not easy--but I am so grateful for a glimpse into the processes of Albert Brooks, James L. Brooks, Harold Ramis, Jon Stewart. (I am still trying to figure out how Eddie Vedder worked his way into this book.)

Maybe it's time for you to listen to the books in your TBR pile. They may be trying to tell you something.

Clever, insightful blog stuff coming soon.