Banning Books in Colorado

Just an hour or so away from where I live, there’s yet another case of book banning in progress. A high school English teacher is under fire from some parents to change her reading list. Here’s a post from John Green (who has several books on said reading list) about it.

And here is the reading list in question:

Young Adult Fiction Elective Course (grades 10-12) Book List:

Feed by M.T. Anderson
Thinner Than Thou by Kit Reed
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Taken by Erin Bowman
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Will Grayson, will grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Paper Towns by John Green
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

To me, this list reads like a dream. Although I’ve always been a reader and even ended up majoring in English, I despised most of my high school English classes, in part because I had to read and discuss books that felt so far-removed from my life that I couldn’t relate. They bored me.

Now I’ve read nine of the books on this list – some as a youth and most much more recently – and each of those nine seems to me a whole lot more relevant and engaging to a high school-aged person than For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Furthermore, I can say with certainty that none of those nine are “profane, pornographic, violent, crass, crude, vile…” as the parents claimed. Some contained violence and profanity fitting the stories, but not more than what is readily available on TV and in video games. In fact, I’ve shared some of these books to my own high schooler.

I also have to wonder what these parents think they’re going to accomplish by challenging this teacher’s book list. If/when I manage to get published, I kinda sorta hope my book finds its way onto a banned/challenged book list. It’s a surefire way to raise interest and increase sales. Lord knows I’m chomping at the bit to get my grubby hands on those ten vile books I haven’t yet read.

Which leads me to wonder…. Maybe these parents are actually very smart. Maybe their kids resist reading, and they want to change that. Telling a teen – hell, telling anyone – he/she can’t do something is going to make them want to do that very thing…. Hmmm…. Crafty, parents. Very, very crafty. Hats off to you.

P.S. If like me, you want to express support for this Colorado teacher, here’s what John Green suggests:

“Please join me in emailing letters of support of the teacher at Strasburg who has heroically stood by her curriculum and stood alone at School Board meetings defending the books. It’s important to keep your letter as civil as possible, even if this kind of thing turns you into a giant squid of anger.

Letters should be addressed “To the School Board” and emailed to StrasburgYALiteratureCourse@gmail.com.”

A Likeable Character

Recently I submitted a manuscript to my critique group. I loved my story and I loved the main character, and I was anxious to get their feedback.

Let’s just say they didn’t feel the love. After sinking into despair for a few days and then revisiting the manuscript I saw why. I’d submitted way too early a draft to them. My story needed work, work, work!

And so to work I went. It’s a much better story now, and I credit my critique group for that.

But one thing has niggled at me. Some commented that my main character isn’t always likeable. And so I changed her. I made her spunkier. Less introspective and more active. And I’m worried that I’ve changed her in a fundamental way that makes her less the girl I want to write to.

As readers we have to feel that a main character is worth our time. We have to root for him or her enough to want to read their story to the final page. An easy way to show a character’s worth is to make them likeable.

When I was a little girl, I devoured the Anne of Green Gables books. I loved Anne Shirley as if she were my best friend. But I was no Anne Shirley. I wasn’t spunky and effervescent and unself-conscious. I was shy and withdrawn and watchful. I was not a particularly likeable child, and so I didn’t see myself in many stories, except as a side character. 

I’m not saying the quiet kids can’t learn a thing or two from all those fearless, charming heroines. Imagining ourselves into a different way of being is a powerful tool for change and growth.

But don’t we all deserve to be the main character once in a while? I’m not writing my stories for the feisty, fearless girls. I’m not writing to the popular girl or to the class president or the class athlete or the smartest girl in the room. 

I’m writing to the quiet girl sitting midway down the side row. She has a couple of friends or maybe none. She walks quickly from class to class, head down, holding her books like a shield across her chest. She gets good enough grades to escape notice but not so good as to gain any. She’s not anything extraordinary to look at, and she doesn’t offer anything willingly in class. She’s no talkative, redhaired firebrand. When you look her way, you might not even see her.

But this quiet, unobtrusive girl is fighting battles on the inside. With nobody telling her otherwise, she’s starting to think she’s not worth the space she takes up. And so, without any fuss at all, she is giving up hope. She is falling through the cracks.

When I was fourteen years old, I would go to school and slink through my days, trying desperately to escape notice. Then I went home and tried desperately to escape notice. Mostly I managed to stay under the radar, but when I didn’t it was bad.

One night everything hurt enough that I took a whole bunch of pills and went to sleep hoping I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.

I did wake up. I went to school, and there I got very sick, so they sent me home. That was all. No one noticed. No one helped me. No one knew.

I hope and believe that today those kids have more resources than I did. I hope people are noticing the quietly desperate kids and giving them the help they deserve. And I hope those kids are learning to speak up, not be ashamed of their pain. But in 2013, suicide was the third leading cause of teen deaths. That’s thousands of kids. Even more try and fail. Kids are still falling through the cracks. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

I made it though, and I do believe I’m a stronger and more compassionate person for it. However, I’m still quiet and more inclined to think than to act. Am I likeable? Only to a few people, but I know I’m worth the world to those few.

So when I write my characters, I guess I’m just not thinking of likeability.

I’m thinking of quiet, desperate girls who are worth a story too.

I’m not a conspiracy nut, but….

A couple of days ago we all learned that Wendy Davis, the Texas senator who filibustered to prevent the passage of a restrictive anti-abortion bill, fudged a fact or two in her personal bio. She was twenty-one when she divorced, not nineteen. Things like that.

Who cares? I don’t.

I care about how she votes in the senate.

When the Koch brothers are able to put up $12.3 million dollars IN ONE YEAR lobbying against environmental groups, opposing efforts to reduce human impact on climate change and fighting the development of alternative energy sources, why would I care about nineteen or twenty-one?

When the fracking industry has the money to buy primetime ad space aimed at convincing us that fracking is environmentally harmless, perfectly safe, and good for long-term job creation (none of which are true), why would Wendy’s nineteen or twenty-one matter?

And, when in 2010, the Supreme Court essentially gave corporations First Amendment rights by saying it is unconstitutional for the government to restrict corporate contributions to political groups, how can anyone care about Wendy’s age at the time of her divorce?

Problem is, Wendy Davis’ personal bio makes for a whole lot easier reading than does an article about environment or law-making or the economy. It’s a whole lot easier to track down the facts of one woman’s life and say, “There! See, she lied. Right there!” than it is to pinpoint the fact fudging and lies that go on every single day in the corporations determined to take control of the political future of this country.

It’s a lot easier to jump on the bandwagon of condemnation when you’re condemning one lone woman, and not an entire powerful political ethic.

So like I said, I’m not a conspiracy theorist but…

Aw, hell. Maybe I am. Because the more I pay attention, the more I picture this guy

Mr. Burnsand this guy

Jr Ewinglocked together in a room, plotting. Gleefully plotting.

Mslexia

So I should probably mention on here that in September Mslexia published a teensy excerpt on my YA novel Stealing Happy!!!

I’m reminded now because Mslexia tweeted about it. In September.

Yeah. Um. September. It’s November now. Middle of. I know.

I moved across an ocean last summer, okay? I’m….

That is all.

Wasted on the Young

Friday night I saw a local production of Death of a Salesman at Theatreworks in Colorado Springs.

Last time I had anything to do with this play was somewhere back in university when it so underwhelmed me all I remember is a professor droning, “LO-man. LO-man. Think about that name. LO-man.” So I didn’t go to the play with high expectations, and I wouldn’t have gone at all if my husband hadn’t already bought the tickets.

But I was blown away. Moved. Depressed. Enlightened.

And Arthur Miller wrote the first act in a day and half, people. A. Day. And. A. Half. As someone who is 16K craptastic words into Nanowrimo, this resonates.

So why, if it was so great this time, didn’t I think so the first time I saw it? I think it’s simply because I’m ready for it this time. At 20, I wasn’t Willy Loman yet. I wasn’t even Biff.

So why do they bother teaching that kind of literature to the very young? In high school we were forced to read The Stone Angel, a novel about an 80-year-old woman who’s looking back and making sense of her life. Lord, how I loathed that book.

But after high school I discovered Margaret Laurence for myself and fell in love. I’ve read each of her novels and short story collections at least twice. Every one of them. Except The Stone Angel. I haven’t been able to touch that one since Grade 12 English. Maybe it’s time to give it another try.

So what other experiences are wasted on the young?

Naptime. Definitely. Since my kids were little more than babies, I’ve fought with them to take the occasional midday nap. And I still remember hating kindergarten naptime myself. But now? Oh, to nap. To sleep. Perchance to dream…. There are days when the thought of a nap is all that gets me moving in the morning.

School. I’ve spent enough years fielding “WHY do I have to go school?” to suspect it’s simply wasted on the young. It was on me. I would have been better off if, once I’d learned some basic readin’ and figurin’, I’d gone to work chopping wood for the next fifteen years. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was ready to learn. And now? If someone ordered me to spend six hours five days a week in a purpose-built setting getting taught things I didn’t know? For free? With clubs and music and art too? And silent reading and library time and study hall? And, and naps? Did you say naps? Oh, yes. Yes. Yes, please.

Travel. The first time I saw the Rocky Mountains I was 15 years old, driving west across Canada with my family. I couldn’t have cared less. Seventeen years later, I drove through them again, and I got it. Now I travel with kids. I want them so much to look up. See the world. Notice its beauty. Just… look up. Guess what? They couldn’t care less.

Give them fifteen years.

An Interview with Amy Fellner Dominy

Amy Fellner Dominy lives and writes in Phoenix, Arizona. Her books humorously capture the struggles of the early teen years: learning how who you are veers off from who you thought you were, exploring your possibilities and your limits, and testing out friendship and love.

OyMGAudition & Subtraction

What attracts you to writing about teens and tweens?

Well, for starters, it’s such a wonderful / horrible time of life, isn’t it? Talk about drama! I still have my journals from that period of time and on nearly every page I was euphoric or devastated—and often both. I fell in love constantly, had my heart broken regularly, fought with my friends, struggled with my place in my family and started to see the world in a different, more independent way. I know lots of people say they just want to forget their middle school/early high school years, but not me. I think that’s where many of us begin to figure out who we are and who we want to be. Those are such interesting questions—I feel as if, in one way or another, those are the questions I’m trying to answer in every one of my stories.

Tatum (the MC of Audition & Subtraction) plays the clarinet. Do you play the clarinet as well? If not, how did you make this aspect of her character authentic?

I did play clarinet in middle school and all the way through college marching band. In fact, I actually began college on a clarinet scholarship. But I was a lot like Tatum in one other important way: I didn’t have natural ability. I had to work really hard at the clarinet and eventually I just didn’t have the talent to continue. I really drew on my insecurities as I wrote the book and hopefully that helped make Tatum more real (and relatable) to readers.

Which comes first for you, plot or character?

It’s kind of ironic because we often pick up a book based on the plot blurb we read on the back cover. But I really believe it’s character that makes us love a book (or hate it) and it’s character that matters most. I’m not exactly sure which comes first for me because ideas form in messy complicated ways. But I do know that even if I set a character off on an adventure, the adventure only moves forward when the character takes action. And then, from the action, comes the plot. So, it’s hugely important to know the characters before the story can move forward.

What can your readers expect next?

I’m really excited about a new project I’ve just finished up. In the past, I’ve created high stakes for my characters, but the internal kind. In other words, Tatum and Ellie were making decisions that would determine the person they would become, but the world wasn’t going to end. In the YA novel I’m finishing up, it’s life or death. Literally. The book is called DETOURS and it’s a kidnapping-roadtrip-love story with a deadly twist. I hope it’ll be ready to submit in the fall.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Donald Maass‘s book Writing the Breakout Novel in preparation for a writing workshop in September. It’s very good, by the way. No matter where a writer is in their career, I always think there are new things to learn (and things you once knew but need to be reminded about.) I’m getting ready to start Book 4 of Game of Thrones (so addicted!) and in YA, I’ve got A.S. King’s newest at the top of my TBR pile.

You can learn more about Amy and her novels on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Books for Kids about Moving

When we left the US, my kids were 9, 6, and not-yet-born. We’re returning with a 15-year-old, a 12-year-old, and a nearly 6-year-old, each of whom will be facing the emotional and physical upheaval, all the challenges and changes associated with leaving here and starting somewhere new. New schools, new people, new rules, new climate, new almost everything.

When I face any challenge or change in life, I turn to books. Sometimes it’s purely for escape and other times it’s for answers, advice, or ideas of how to cope. So I’m making my book list. Here’s what I’ll be checking out at my local library or buying:

Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst. This is for the 4-8 crowd, and it consistently comes up with great reviews on lists of books about moving. Like Alexander, my daughter is adamantly opposed to moving, so I hope this book will offer her a relatable character and potential upsides to moving.

Moving by Fred Rogers. Written for preschoolers, this one may already be a little young for my daughter. But it’s by Mr. Rogers. Nuff said.

The Moving Book: A Kid’s Survival Guide by Gabriel Davis. This is non-fiction, which will appeal to my 12-year-old son. It looks to be for the 8-12 crowd, making it a little young for him, but WRITER ALERT!! There is a serious dearth of books about moving written for adolescents and teens!! Quick, write some more!! The book deals with both the practical and emotional aspects of moving. Again, this one appears on many moving day lists.

Moving Day by Ralph Fletcher. Written as a series of poems by a 12-year-old boy who is facing a move, this one also may be a little young for my own son. It seems to focus on the emotions associated with saying goodbye to the old rather than on those hello to the new. 

The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve been pushing these books on my 12-year-old for years because I just know he’d love them. He’s an outdoorsman, born to camp, fish, climb trees, and cook over an open fire. At this point, he may be a little old for them, but I started re-reading the series about a year ago and fell in love all over again. And man, that family is tough. When they move house, they MOVE HOUSE. They don’t have Skype or email or phones or plane tickets for visits home. When the Ingalls say goodbye to their grandparents in the big woods, it’s a forever goodbye. Kind of puts my own pain into perspective.

Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume. School Library Journal says this is for kids in grades 6-10. Tony is 13 and dealing not only with a family move, but also with the onset of puberty. This might hit close to home. I’m curious to find out if this book, first published in 1971, stands the test of time. I think it will. After all it’s by the incomparable Ms. Blume, writer of books kids need to read.

The Year My Parents Ruined My Life by Martha Freeman  Sixth grader Kate moves with her family from California to Pennsylvania, and hates everything about her new life. She makes a disastrous trip by herself back to California, and (not much of a spoiler) makes peace with the change. As she should. As you want your own kids to. The reviews are mostly good. I expect it will be relatively light-hearted and fun to read.

Military Kids Speak: Celebrating the Way You Think about Being a Military Kid by Julie Rahm. I’ve tended to stay away from military books. Although we used to be a military family, I’ve never been good with the rah-rah, it’s all for the greater good, sacrifice and stiff upper lip stuff. However, this book intrigues me. It starts with a collection of essays written by military kids aged 10-16. They discuss the tough stuff about moving all the time, but also the perks. The second half of the book is a collection of interviews with famous former military kids. Role models! Of which I am not one. I can’t even quite fathom what it’s like to be my oldest son, who at 15 is facing his seventh move. He’s lived in four American states and four countries. I didn’t even fly on a plane until I was 19.

Club Expat: A Teenager’s Guide to Moving Overseas by Aniket Shah and Akash Shah. Another non-fiction offering, this book is written by a couple of teens who have traveled the world with their family. The reviews are positive, and it sounds like a decent offering for my 15-year-old.

The Year My Life Went Down the Loo by Katie Maxwell. 16-year-old Emily is forced to move with her family from Seattle to a small English village for a year. This mirrors – sort of – what we did two years ago, and I’m pretty sure my own teen (13 at the time) would have related to the title if nothing else. It sounds like a funny, lighthearted, upbeat read, and sometimes when you’re going through a tough transition, that’s precisely what you need. Escapism is good. 

So what did I miss? Do you know any great books for dealing with moving?

An Interview with Patrick Freivald

Patrick Freivald, is a high school teacher, a beekeeper, and author of zombie apocalypse/high school novel, Twice Shy and its sequel, Special Dead. Patrick kindly agreed to answer questions about his writing and reading for me.
twiceshy(Special Dead comes out July 12th)

What are you working on right now? What’s next for your YA audience?

Right now I’m working on a supernatural thriller that stars the leader of a team of augmented human beings trying to bring down a cartel boss whose drugs cause euphoria, superhuman strength, and homicidal mania.

My next YA book, Special Dead (Twice Shy, book 2) comes out July 12th from JournalStone Publishing, and Blood List, a thriller I co-wrote with my twin brother about a serial killer who’s trying to save his father’s life, comes out in November. I’m just finishing up a nasty little Christmas horror story for a charity anthology, too.

Have you ever been required to tone down the horror element in your novels for your YA audience? 

I haven’t toned down the horror elements in my novels for YA readers. YA readers are smart, and they want books that are smart. YA horror readers want books that contain horror, and horror by definition is horrific!

How did you come up with the idea of a zombie high school student?

The idea for Ani came from a comment that a reader made on FlashFictionOnline.com about my short story, A Taste for Life. The comments have long-since been deleted, but he said something to the effect of, “You know Zombie fiction will have come into its own when you see zombies in high school romance.” I laughed and thought, “Challenge accepted!”

Do your students know you’re an author? What’s the funniest thing a student has said to you about your writing?

My students do know I’m an author, and many have read and enjoyed Twice Shy. The funniest thing I’ve heard from a student (who didn’t know I was there) is, “Ugh. Why would anyone write that?” I guess she wasn’t my target audience.

The fun thing about Twice Shy is that different people get very different experiences from the book. Some find it touching, others tragic, others think it’s hilarious–and I think that’s wonderful.

Aside from Stephen King, who are your favorite authors? 

Asking me for a favorite author is like asking me for a favorite book or a favorite food… I can’t just pick one. I’m a fan of Peter Straub, Robert Jordan, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry, Sebastian Junger, J.A. Konrath, David McCullough, George R. R. Martin, Jeff Strand, Peter Clines… How much time do you have? I just finished NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, and it wasn’t perfect, but it was excellent. David Moody’s Autumn series is fantastic.

What are you reading right now?

 I’m currently reading Forever Man by Brian W. Matthews — it’s fantastic — and I’m lucky enough to have an advanced copy of Steel Breeze by Douglas Wynne, which I’m reading as soon as I hit the last page of Forever Man.

You can find out more about Patrick on Goodreads or Facebook. 

What I’ll Miss

Soon I will leave England, and I am sad. I’ve lived here for two years, and in that time I’ve barely scratched the surface of seeing and doing everything there is to see and do, and what if I never get to come back?

I don’t want to go!

Well, I do. But I don’t!

But I do. So I am.

There’s so much I’ll miss. I’m going to miss hearing my five-year-old daughter, who speaks mainly in an American accent, read to me in a British one. She’s attended a year of preschool and a year of primary school here. It’s hilarious to hear her mixing the accents and words, but that’s going to disappear fast once she’s back in North America. She’ll stop saying zebra with a short e. She’ll forget she ever called herself a “silly sausage” or a “clevah guhl.

I’m going to miss hearing her call out to other tiny people with ridiculously old fart names like George, Harriet and Imogen.

I’m going to miss walking around my village, seeing cottages older than anything in North America nestled right up next to new construction. I’ll miss cathedrals next to shopping centres.

I’ll miss driving on the left and roundabouts. I’ll miss walking everywhere and feeling safe. I’ll miss gun control and sensible healthcare.

I’ll miss Cambridge right down the road and London only two hours away. I’ll miss day trips to thousand-year-old Anglo Saxon burial sites.

I’m going to miss hiding my grin when my 12 year old asks for a rubber to erase his maths mistake. I’ll miss going to his football matches. Although I might do the pretentious thing and keep calling it football. I’m sorry but it just makes more sense as a name

I’ll miss having to catch myself before I say pants. They’re trousers. Trousers is a great word. I never want to say pants again. Unless I am in fact talking about underwear. I’ll miss the slang. Skiving and scupper, blimey and crikey, twee and prat. I’ll miss the fabulous comedies on the telly.

There’s so much more. I’ve barely settled in and begun to make this village home. It’s not an easy place to call home when you’re not from here. In two years I haven’t reached that comfort level here where I think of this place as home.

But it’s in England. The home of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and so many of my favorite writers. And every day I’m here I see the possibility of it becoming MY home get a little more real.

I’ve made good friends here and so have my children. Making friends is never easy for me, and as with every move, it took me a while to stop being constantly lonely. But then suddenly I wasn’t. I had people who I care for a little bit more every day. It hurts to say goodbye to those friends, to the ease of seeing them in person regularly. I’ve moved a lot through my adult life, and I know that friends, real, in-person, huggable friends, are a lovely necessity.

I just don’t know how to put a positive spin on the fact of leaving them behind, the probability of never seeing them in person again. I don’t know how to make that okay. Not for my children and not for myself.

I’m leaving. And soon these particular people whom I have grown to love will be memories, Skype faces, emails. This place will be photographs, an address I struggle to remember.

I hope that in leaving we’re moving to a place that will become home in the way I long for. Real, permanent, watch-my-friends-get-old home. But right now, what I know is I’m leaving here. THIS place. England. This temporary home with its wonderful words, infuriating roads, and abysmal yet lovely climate. I’m leaving THESE irreplaceable people.

It’s time to go. It is. But I’m a little bit heartbroken right now.

An Interview with Jennifer Gooch Hummer

I read the fabulous YA novel, Girl Unmoored, last summer and fell in love with the main character Apron, her story, and author Jennifer’s gorgeous way with words.

Girl Unmoored

Tell us about Girl Unmoored.
Girl Unmoored is about a teen girl growing up Maine who is drowning in a sea of grief after the loss of her mother. Until she meets Jesus. Not the real one, of course, but the actor who plays him in Jesus Christ Superstar. Mike and Apron and Mike’s boyfriend, Chad, become Apron’s new family and in so doing save her.

Apron is thirteen years old in 1985, when AIDS hit mainstream awareness. Did you sit down to write a story about an eighties teen?
No. I started writing the beginnings of this book when I was ten years old. It took until I met my real-life friend Mike, to find Apron’s story. I had her character all along, but I needed more than just Apron’s heartbreak at her mother’s death. I met Mike in the late 80’s which was just when the AIDS epidemic hit America.

What is the writing process like for you? Do you know where your story will go from the beginning? In other words, are you a plotter or a pantser?
For me, the toughest part of the writing process is the first draft. I live in fear of the blank page. So I allow myself to do what the great Anne Lamott always prescribes to other authors: write the worst first draft you could possibly write. Then, once I have the horrid first draft, the real writing begins.

I’ve read that next up for your readers is a middle grade fantasy. Can you tell us about it? 
Yes, middle grade fantasy is next. It’s a fairy-ish tale that will be a trilogy. Writing a fantasy was much different than writing contemporary fiction. I’ve learned so much about the importance of story world with this project. Writing about a place I’ve actually stood in, smelled and breathed is second nature. Writing about a completely made-up world that’s never existed in anyone else’s mind but mine really tested my dedication to the story.

Where do you get your inspiration? How much of Apron, Mike and your other characters are drawn from real life?
When people ask me this question about inspiration, I can never come up with the right answer. Whatever it is that inspires me to write, or an athlete to compete, or a painter to paint, is kind of magical I think. I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. Always. I have three daughters and a husband and I dedicate myself to them completely. But I have to write and they know it. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t have to write… all that time I could have to do other things. But after three days away from writing I’m lost and confused. The world is weird; writing is my safe haven.

What are you reading right now?
I can’t read fiction when I am writing or even rewriting a book. I just don’t want someone else’s storyline to creep into mine. So I read memoirs or nonfiction. But when I’m in between projects or awaiting notes, I read YA. I was a script reader for many years so I can read a book faster than I can make dinner. And I have a book blog so I am lucky enough to get books before they are published for review.

What authors inspired you to become a writer yourself?
Judy Blume was my first favorite author. That dates me, but unless you were in that era you can’t understand how crucial she was for us. She was the only author any one of my friends ever wanted to read outside of required reading. Next came Hemingway. His sentences read like music, his cadence is perfect. And now I am in awe of David Sedaris.

If you could take only one book to a desert island, what would it be?
Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue. Derivations of words and language and story mesmerize me. I just absolutely adore “the story” and all the elements within it.

The Avon Ladies in Girl Unmoored made me laugh out loud. How did I come up with them?
My best friend Jessica and I really were Avon Ladies exactly like Apron and Rennie. We went on search missions to find anything packaged in any of our mother’s make-up drawers or our families junk drawers. Then we would go door-to-door with our products, rain or shine. We mapped out good customers and steered clear of the bad ones. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.

You can find out more about Jennifer at her official website: jennifergoochhummer.com