Interview With Shana Youngdahl

by Robert Drinkwater

I had the pleasure of interviewing Assistant Professor of English, the faculty advisor to The Sandy River Review’s The River, and the director of the Longfellow Young Writer’s Workshop, Shana Youngdahl about her debut young adult novel As Many Nows as I can Get where we discussed her novel as well YA literature in general.

What inspired you to write As Many Nows As I can Get?

There were several different things that I was thinking about. The trigger event was probably that I knew a couple people in high school that I heard had died. And I couldn’t write poems about that. I knew that I needed to write a novel about them. It has nothing to do with the people that I knew, but I knew that it needed to be a YA novel.

What have you learned from writing your novel?

Well, I learned a lot about plot. Which isn’t something we think about poetry in the same way. It really forced me to think about long term stories and characters, and characters intentions in new and different ways.

What do you hope that readers will take away from this book?

Well, that’s complicated because they get to have that experience on their own. I would hope that one of the things that comes across in the story is that everybody makes mistakes. Everybody at some point in their lives makes some catastrophic mistake or nearly catastrophic mistake, and that doesn’t have to define you, it’s part of your story. It can change you, but it doesn’t have to define you.

What interests you about YA Literature?

What doesn’t interest me about YA literature? I think there are so many interesting conversations happening in the space of young adult literature right now about the importance of multiple and diverse voices about what it means to grow up in our culture now. I also think that there is a lot of experimentation going on in terms of the form of the novel. I also think that we’re not usually genre separated in bookstores because they don’t have enough room for that. There ends up being a lot of cross pollination in conversations between authors who write very different things that lends itself to a really exciting space. There are good reasons why it’s getting so much attention now.

Are there any books that you are currently reading and do you have any YA recommendations?

Right now I’m reading Julia Drake’s The Last True Poets of the Sea. It’s coming out in the next week. She is going to be in Farmington on October 7th at Devaney, Doak, and Garrett. I just read Samira Ahmed’s second novel Internment. Which is a great example of the resistance literature happening in YA literature right now, and I loved Julie Berry’s The Lovely War. There’s not a lot of young adult historical, but that is one of them and it is fascinating. It does a great thing with form. The speaker of the book is Aphrodite and she is telling this love story. American Panda by Gloria Chao is also really good, and I’m teaching Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi in one of my classes.

Shana Youngdahl’s book As Many Nows as I Can Get can be purchased on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/As-Many-Nows-Can-Get/dp/0525553851 and at DDG https://www.ddgbooks.com/book/9780525553854.

Other books mentioned:

Internment https://www.amazon.com/Internment-Samira-Ahmed/dp/0316522694

American Panda https://www.amazon.com/American-Panda-Gloria-Chao/dp/1481499106

The Last True Poets of the Sea https://www.amazon.com/Last-True-Poets-Sea/dp/1368048080

The Lovely War https://www.amazon.com/Lovely-War-Julie-Berry/dp/0451469933

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