Archive for April, 2011

Hannah Moskowitz Really IS Invincible

April 27th, 2011 by Terra | 7 Comments | Filed in Talking with Other Authors

I am not really sure when the juggernaut that is Hannah Moskowitz’s charm and pizazz fully bowled me over, but I’ll tell you it was fun when it did. And talking to her/interacting with her/watching her ever since has continued to be one constant beachy picnic on the most spectacular coastal day you can imagine–topped off with a mouthful of cotton candy. And no sand in your pants.

To prove it, check out this interview about her most recent book, Invincible Summer, among other things.

And to double-prove it? Enter our giveaway. Leave a comment on this post about your WORST summer moment, and we will send the truly worst one not just a copy of Invincible Summer, but also a copy of my newest book The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, due out next week. (US only please. Ends Friday 4/29.)

TEM: Having grown up in a family of only sisters, Invincible Summer is FASCINATING to me: the relationship between Noah and Chase, yes, but also their relationship with their sister, Claudia. What differences do you observe/know about/think about in brother vs. brother, sister vs. sister, and/or brother vs. sister connections? (And, specifically all of them in Invincible Summer.)

HM: I don’t have any brothers either, which makes it all the weirder that I write about them all the time. I did grow up very, very close to a small group of male friends, and I think that I had a relationship with them that was very sister/brother in a lot of ways–and also brother/brother, because they never really did treat me differently from how they treated each other. I didn’t want them to.

Honestly, all of my sibling relationships are so highly fictionalized–I have one sister, but our relationship is nothing like any of them in the book . . . maybe very slightly like Noah and Chase’s but VERY slightly–so whether brother/brother or sister/brother or sister/sister, it was all from scratch in my mind.

I think in Invincible Summer it’s less an issue of gender and more an issue of age order, which has been true in what I’ve seen with me and my cousins, who I grew up very close to, and in a way were an extended set of siblings. You’re close with the ones that are a little older and a little younger than you, and the ones that are a lot younger than you, in a different way, but it’s harder to be close with the ones that are in that in-between stage. Noah and Claudia hardly interact at all. Gideon and Claudia are very close, despite the big age gap, because Gideon is next in line after Claudia and that’s just how things are. Gideon is two steps down from Noah, and the two of them are very close

Chase is the anomaly, because Chase wants to hold onto everyone so tightly. That’s his point, really.

TEM:  My sisters and I always had a rule about not sharing boyfriends. That’s been broken, of course, but in Invincible Summer, when Noah and Chase share Melinda, it doesn’t seem like such a huge deal to either of them. Why not?

HM:  I think because Noah would let Chase get away with murder, really. And I don’t think his relationship with Melinda was ever as serious as Chase thought it was. I wouldn’t call her the girlfriend of either one.

TEM:  And speaking of Melinda, I just want to hear you talk about her some more—I mean, I feel like I want a whole spinoff book based on this girl.

HM:  Melinda Melinda Melinda. She was tough to write. I’m still not sure if I did her justice. I know now that I wish I could go back and give her another scene at the end, but maybe that’s how I’m supposed to feel. Her storyline doesn’t get nicely wrapped up, and her ending isn’t harmonious with the boys’ ending. She just keeps going on her own. She was never really with them. I think what Chase said about his family’s relationship to summers–that everything important happens to them in these summers–was never true for Melinda. Summer was always a break for her. She wasn’t sitting around waiting for them over the winter. And then, you know, The Very Bad Thing changes that. Because how could it not, really.

TEM:  There are some Very Bad Things that happen in Invincible Summer. Were some harder or easier to write than others? Some more distant? Others closer to the bone?

HM:  None of it has happened to me. But yes, the Big Bad was very hard. In the first draft, it and the aftermath were both so sparse, because it was very hard for me to write. It got fleshed out and really more and more vivid with every draft.

The original reason I wanted to write Invincible Summer the way I did was that I wanted to be able to make bad things happen and then immediately cut away. So you see big moments, and then you don’t see them again for a year. I wanted to skip over the initial reactions to things, because everyone knows them, and go straight to the part where you’re walking on very tentative new ground.

TEM:  And speaking of bones . . . your first (published) novel, Break, is about a boy on a mission to break every bone in his body. I’ve been curious—what sort of research did you have to do for that? Any personal bone-breaking?

HM:  I’ve never broken a bone! I looked up the medical stuff, but I also read a lot of patient reports. That was what really interested me. I must have read a hundred stories of people talking about bones they’d broken and what the pain was like. That was what I really wanted to know. How to talk about it, what words to use. And even once I had a clear idea in my head of what it was like, it was hard as hell to figure out how to phrase it myself.

TEM:  Growing up in the Gulf Coast myself, the New England coast always seems so exotic to me. There are beachy things that felt familiar in the setting of Invincible Summer, and other things that were not. What are some of your favorite details, both from the book and where you grew up?  (I love your Invincible Summer Illustrated, btw.)

HM : Thank you! I don’t ever name the beach in Invincible Summer, because it doesn’t really matter, but in my head it’s the beach I’ve spent the summers at my whole life–Bethany Beach, Delaware–and Chase’s family actually lives in Maryland. Just like me. :)

The entire setting in the book and all the weird details are all real. The small things. My friend who has the beach house across the street from mine is super excited that there’s going to be sex in her bed, because…well, that’s Melinda’s house. All the drama centered around building the dune is real. Also the renters always move the furniture.

The one thing I didn’t use in Invincible Summer that I wish I had is cracking crabs on the balcony. That’s one of my absolute favorite parts of the beach. I don’t know why I didn’t work that in.

TEM:  More about family: has your family read Invincible Summer? How did it feel, giving it to them? Any strong reactions? (I will say that I was very nervous to give The Summer of Firsts and Lasts to my sisters. I knew people would associate the characters with each of us, even though they aren’t the same at all, and that was kind of weird.)

HM:  My sister is cool about my stuff because she’s been reading it since I’ve been writing, so she learned a long time ago to disconnect it from real life. Not so with my parents, who I think are constantly afraid people are going to think the parents are based on them. And they’re always trying to figure out where I got ideas and what things are based on. It’s kind of frustrating and it’s hideously embarrassing. I always say that having your parents read what you write is like having them see you naked. It’s just so weird.

TEM:  Camus plays such a huge role in Invincible Summer. Why him? Why these quotes? And how did you find them all—random or purposefully?

HM:  Purposefully. I’d started reading Camus very enthusiastically that spring, when I was seventeen, and he just seemed like the perfect philosopher for teenagers. And there’s something inherently summery about him, something sticky and hot and dry, like in The Stranger or The Plague or Summer in Algiers or the memories in Return to Tipasa, which is the essay the Invincible Summer quote comes from. When the idea for Invincible Summer fell into my head, it did so all at once, in some crazy soup of Death Cab for Cutie and Camus, and there wasn’t any way to extricate him from it. And Melinda just seemed such the type to want to teach people about philosophy.

TEM:  There are four summers in this book, but what would one “invincible summer” contain for you?

HM:  It would have to be with my family, absolutely. And it would involve a lot of walking around downtown, in the little shops, eating candy, playing in the arcade. But also a lot of time in the ocean, feet buried in the sand, just me.

TEM:  Lastly, you are so generous with your time and energy (doing this interview, for example). How do you manage all that, on top of writing, and college

I’m really bad at it, to be honest. I love doing interviews and blogging and networking. I know it’s a chore for some people, but I absolutely love it. And I love writing. And . . . I hate college.

I’m in a theater group on campus (we put on The Rocky Horror Picture Show!) but that’s my only school activity, and really the only time I hang out with real people besides my family and my roommate. And college is…rough. I should be doing homework right now. I always should be doing homework. But a lot of times I write instead. Or sleep instead. Or stay up all night writing and then sleep instead of going to classes. This obviously isn’t ideal, but I always feel bad when people think that I’m a superhero because I’m a writer and a good student. I’m not a good student. I’m just a student.

It’s important to me that none of my teachers or classmates know that I write, too, so that means keeping a certain distance from people until and unless I become good friends with them, and it means I don’t really have an excuse for why I haven’t finished the book we’re reading for class or why I can’t hang out after rehearsal. But it’s important to me to keep my real life as separate from this as I can.

People can be mean. What a happy note to end the interview on. ;)

To save Hannah, I will actually end the post with the seven songs that have been in my head upon waking in the last week:

“Sorrow,” by the National
“Song to the Siren,” by This Mortal Coil
“She Wants to Dance with Me,” by Rick Astley
“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” by Monty Python
“Shake the Disease,” by Depeche Mode
“Strange Condition,” by Pete Yorn
“All the Way,” by Ladytron

Long Live Ron Bayes

April 21st, 2011 by Terra | 6 Comments | Filed in Writing and Reading

This past weekend I went to my college reunion. Partly I went just to see old friends and visit one of my favorite places in the world, but I also went for a special celebration of the work and influence of my Poetry/Creative Writing professor, Ronald H. Bayes.

At the special Writer’s Forum ceremony on Saturday night, there were a lot of people sharing a lot of memories about Ron. He’s quite a memorable guy–in his demeanor, in his talent, his achievements in poetry, and his ability to teach–so that wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was that the thing I felt most grateful to him for that night, involved flash cards.

My freshman year, I took a Modern Poetry class with Ron. I had picked St. Andrews pretty much for the famed Creative Writing  BFA there, so I was really eager to make an impression on the head of the department. So eager, in fact, that I was one of only a couple freshmen in the class–surrounded by some of the coolest seniors and juniors on campus. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement.

In the first week of class, Ron explained to us that aside from a paper, our grade would be determined by our attendance and also a major exam at the end of the semester, upon which would be questions about the poets we covered in class. We’d need to identify them by the time period in which they lived, titles of their poems, and styles of their writing, plus any other special anecdotes Ron threw out during lectures.

Determined that I would do well on this exam and prove my worth–in a burst of discipline I had not previously expressed before–I then set about dutifully creating flash cards for every poet as we covered them. Dates, what poems we discussed in class, tidbits Ron through out in lecture, stylistic identifiers . . . everything. I took meticulous notes, filling the index cards with my tiny handwriting. In the weeks leading up to the final, I quizzed myself on them religiously. By the time I sat down to take it, I could tell you the birthday and at least three significant poems and contributions of James Dickey, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, H.D., Ezra Pound–you name it.

Needless to say I was the only one to make an A+ on the exam.

It isn’t a very romantic story, I guess. And certainly not poetic. It’s not the kind of thing I think they were looking for at this ceremony, and it’s definitely not the most glamorous story I can tell about Ron. But it stuck out to me this weekend, because of how fundamentally important the lesson was: that being a poet, and studying poetry, requires not just passion and interest, but discipline and focus, sometimes over a long period of time. Sometimes the success of writing doesn’t come from a strike of inspiration from the blue, a sparkly dream that follows you into waking, or some gin-sodden conversation of genius, but instead from something as banal and gruelling as a stack of overstudied flash cards.

Thanks Ron. For this and more.

Songs in my Head Upon Waking This Week:

A song by Low that I don’t know the name of.
“Wherever You Will Go,” by Creed
“Love My Way,” by Psychedelic Furs
“The Final Countdown,” by Europe
“Single Ladies,” by Beyonce
“Things Will Change,” by Daniel Clay
“Never Gonna Give You Up,” by Rick Astley

All Kinds Of Things to Say About Poetry!

April 13th, 2011 by Terra | No Comments | Filed in After the Kiss

Including being countdown-to-The Summer of Firsts and Lasts month, April is, as we all know, NATIONAL POETRY MONTH! All month long people across the country are celebrating poems, poets, and poetry in a variety of different ways.

And I am too!

This week, for example, you can see my new videos, courtesy of Chronicle. I talk about writing for teens, I talk about writing a novel in poems, and I even read some poems from After the Kiss.

But I’m not just making an appearance on my own website! I had the distinct pleasure of meeting “Miss Print” while in New York for the NYC Teen Author Festival in March, and she and I had a great interview that will be running on the 15th. But she has got a great poetry entry every day this month, so you should be checking her out no matter what!

Meanwhile here are the poems songs that have been in my head upon waking this week:

“Made Up Love Song #43,” by the Guillemots
“Final Fool” (mashup of “Finally” by CeCe Peniston and shoot I forget what else!)
“Sweet Georgia Brown” (that Globetrotters song)
“Postcard to Nina,” by Jans Lehmon
“Terrible Love,” by the National
“Come On Eileen,” by Dexys Midnight Runners
“Falling Slowly,” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova