Interview with Jaed Coffin

By Robert Drinkwater

On Thursday February 27th, Writer, Jaed Coffin will be visiting UMF in The Landing at 7:30pm. He is the author of A Chant To Soothe The Wild Elephants, a memoir about the summer he spent as a Buddhist monk in his mother’s village of Panomsarakram , Thailand. His latest book Roughhouse Friday chronicles the time he spent in Alaska as a boxer and won the middleweight title in a barroom boxing show in Juneau.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

That’s a tough one. I usually think good stories begin with some original revelation, but I know that when I tell the story of how I became a writer, I’m kind of making that moment up, because really it was a very gradual process. Anyway, I remember one Saturday afternoon my senior year of high school, sitting at my kitchen table in the empty house I lived in with my mother, staring at a yellow legal pad, very aware that all my friends were up to no good, killing the afternoon at a house down the street. I remember realizing that if I could just start writing a story like the ones I read in English class (we’d just read Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce) then my life would be quite different. So I got to it, and wrote for maybe two hours straight, and when I was done, the house seemed even quieter and the daylight had faded a bit, and I looked down at the legal pad with several pages filled up…I don’t know. That was a very powerful moment that I still remember, about devotion to one’s art and not running away from the sometimes scary impulse to be alone and make something. 


What made you want to write Roughhouse Friday?

I have a list of about fifteen different reasons in my head. To keep it simple: the year(s) I spent living in Alaska filled up that pivotal time of my early twenties when I knew I needed to leave behind the familiar world of Maine and New England and force myself to change in some fundamental way. I also knew–albeit diffusely–that there was a part of my personal history (relating primarily to my parents’ separation, my mother’s heritage, my father’s influences) that I needed to see more clearly. To find that clarity I needed to leave town. In many cases, good stories are built on an arc of change. This first year in Alaska, fighting in bars: I knew even then that I was going through some major changes in the way I understood my life, and so writing this book was my attempt to document that change, or at least put a name on it. 


How would you describe your experience writing Roughhouse Friday?

Writing Roughhouse Friday was pretty brutal. I thought I was going to just write a very interesting story about rural Alaskans fighting in bars, with me as the guide/interloper. But something at the center of that story kept messing everything up, and I went into a kind of creative paralysis and ultimately my first publisher dropped the book. The publisher wanted to know my family history and place that history at the center of the story–I remember the editor said something to the effect of “it looms so large” over everything else–and I just didn’t know what that story was. So then I had to sit with the total (expensive) failure of that, and kind of look myself in the mirror and say, “Ok, time to tell that story whether you like it or not.” So I did it. I had no idea this experience was coming for me, and articulating some very complicated feelings I had toward my father was one of the most emotionally unsettling things I’ve done. I’m just glad it’s over. 


What advice do you have for writers? 

Be nice to your parents, because it’s very likely that in order to find time to write, you might need to live at home while all your friends are starting their more important-looking lives. Also, there’s so much craft advice out there but for me it’s really simple: pay attention to what you love, and then copy it with your own material. 


Are you currently working on any projects? If so, what?

You know, I never understood why people used to say “I’m not ready to talk about my next project.” When other writers were cagey about what they were working on, it always seemed kind of precious to me. But now, I’m in that place where I just don’t want to tell anyone what I’m thinking, because I’m worried that I might jinx the story, or have to own up to something that isn’t what I planned to do. So, yeah, it’s a secret. How mysterious!

You can buy his memoir Roughhouse Friday on Amazon for $15.79.

Interview With Michael Johnson About His New Biography “Can’t Stand Still”

By Robert Drinkwater

Michael K. Johnson is Professor of American literature at the University of Maine at Farmington. His primary research areas are African American Literature and the literature and culture of the American West. He is the author of Black Masculinity and the Frontier Myth in American Literature (University of Oklahoma), Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos: Conceptions of the African American West (University Press of Mississippi), and, most recently, the biography of African American singer Taylor Gordon, Can’t Stand Still: Taylor Gordon and the Harlem Renaissance (University Press of Mississippi). He is co-editor (with Kalenda Eaton
and Jeannette Jones) of New Directions in Black Western Studies, a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of American Studies, and he is also co-editor (with Kerry Fine, Rebecca Lush, and Sara Spurgeon) of an anthology of criticism, Weird Westerns: Race, Gender, Genre, which is forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press. He is a former President of the Western Literature Association.

Tell Me About Taylor Gordon.

He was a spiritual singer in the 1920’s. He was born in Montana in 1893 and he moved to New York eventually. He wrote an autobiography called Born To Be that was published in 1929. So, I guess to say who he is, is that he is a singer and songwriter. His period of fame was during the 1920’s into 1930’s.

What Made You want to Write About Him?

The area that I work in is African American Literature and I’m interested in black writers who grew up in the American West, and I don’t have to go too far into that topic to find Taylor Gordon. In Born To Be , the first third of his book is about his life growing up in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. I just found his story to be astonishing in so many ways. There are so many weird things that happened. He became associated with John Ringling of Ringling Brothers Circus, because John Ringling was looking for an available hand in Montana and Taylor Gordon was around and it managed to get that leading into a job offer and travel around the country. That’s actually how he got to New York because Ringling was stationed there.

How would you describe your writing process?

This is a biography and I found this much more difficult than doing literary criticism. With literary criticism, there’s a book, and I basically write about it and it’s very focused on that one thing. With a biography, I sort of had to keep in mind with everything, from 1893 to 1971. I had to keep track of all those details. Once I got up to speed, I was fine. It was a different sort of experience than writing about a book because I can pick that up after not writing about it at any point during the semester, but with a biography, it’s harder to that because I had all these pieces of paper that at some point had to be in my head. If I took two months off, a lot of errands would need to be get done. I don’t have any special techniques or anything, I just get up and do it.

What did you learn from this experience?

I learned that just because you think that there’s nothing there, that doesn’t mean there’s no reason not to look. I continually found information that I didn’t know. For instance, I did not know that Taylor Gordon was involved in radio broadcasting, but I began finding all of these listings kind of like how there are listings of T.V. programs. It was like that with radio broadcasts. Another thing that struck me was that there are projects out there that people don’t know about because they don’t think there’s anything there. A lot of things that seem non-existent just haven’t been looked for. That’s another thing, if you’re learning about the African American west, a lot of people think that there’s not much there, but once you start looking, you begin to start finding things.

What projects are you currently working on?

There are two things. Taylor Gordon had a sister, Rose Gordon and she lived her entire life in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. My original concept for a biography was to write about them both. However, I realized that if I did that, then this book would be too long. Also, the direction of their lives ended up going so differently, so I’m going to do a biography on her life. She made a living writing for the local newspaper and she’s a really interesting person. The other thing that I’m currently working on is about weird westerns. A weird western is kind of like The Walking Dead, so sort of like these hybrid genre stories like Westworld. That’s what I’m currently working on right now.

You can buy Can’t Stand Still from Barnes and Noble here.

Interview with Elisa Albert

By Robert Drinkwater

Writer Elisa Albert will be visiting UMF on Thursday, November 14th in The Landing at 7:30pm. She will be this semesters last visiting writer. Albert has written three books: How This Night is Different, a collection of short stories published in 2006, The Book of Dahlia, published in 2008, and her most recent novel, After Birth, published in 2015, that tells a story of motherhood and alienation after pregnancy. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Tin House, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Gulfcoast, The Rumpus, and much more.

1. How would you describe your writing process?

Writing is a practice, and practice is by definition an ongoing thing. Process is about engagement. The external noise has to be muted at some point to allow for that. And the butt has to be in the chair a certain amount. I don’t know any shortcuts.

2. Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

I suspect “writer’s block” is a pseudonym for something else. Fear or anxiety or self doubt or perfectionism or entitlement or what have you. It’s important to keep those things in their place, and not let them run the show. I’ve never really bought into the idea that I might sit down one day in front of a blank page and have no way to enter into an engagement with the process. I might not love what I find when I enter into engagement with the process, but it’s my job to work it out, is all.

3. When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, because I resonated with books and with reading, but I thought I should be practical about it and do journalism or work in publishing or something, so I tried those things, but stories and novels were always where it was at for me.

4. Has your writing been influenced by your own personal life?

Sure, somewhat like one’s bowel movements are influenced by what one eats.

5. What types of books do you usually like to read?What are you currently reading now?

I’m currently loving Virginie Despentes’ trilogy Vernon Subutex. Epic and sprawling and contemporary in the best way. I adored Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels. I wish everyone would read Doris Lessing’s essays. Jennifer Block’s  recent journalistic masterpiece Everything Below The Waist is “necessary”. Rebecca Schiff’s stories are hilarious and intelligent. I guess these types of books fall under the category of no-bullshit. I guess I enjoy an absence of bullshit.

6. What inspires you to write?

Power dynamics. Birds. Weather. Relationships. Time. History. Ancestry. Music. Food. Yoga. Desire. What I find when I look into other peoples’ eyes.

The Book of Dahlia is available on Amazon

After Birth is available on Amazon

Interview With Poets Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown

By Robert Drinkwater

Tonight at 7:30pm in The Landing, poets Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown will be reading for us. Nickole Brown is the author of Sister: A Novel in Poems, published in 2007. Her second book Fanny Says won the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry in 2015. She has a chapbook called To Those Who Were Her First Gods that won the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize. She is currently the Editor for the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and teaches at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA program and the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA. She lives with her wife Jessica Jacobs in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jessica Jacobs is the author of poems about love and marriage called Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going and Pelvis With a Distance that is a biography of poems about Georgia O’Keeffe that was the winner of The New Mexico Book Award and the finalist for The Lambda Literary Award. She has also worked as a bartender, rock climbing instructor, and professor. She now serves as Chapbook Editor for Beloit Poetry Journal. She lives with her wife Nickole Brown in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jessica Jacobs Interview

Jessica Jacobs
  1. How would you describe your poetry?
    My most recent book, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, is a collection of love poems written during the early years of my marriage, exploring what it means to share your life with another person—such as learning to balance moments of great joy with all the compromise and self-assessment such a relationship requires.
  2. What inspires you to write?
    I’m most often driven to the page by either an image or a question. The former is often something I notice while out on a run or bike ride that I don’t want to forget, some strange sight or surprising sensation, while the latter is often more long-lasting, more reflective of some enduring obsession.
  3. Are you working on any projects right now? If so, what?
    Well, some of those questions/obsessions that currently have me in their grip are the big ones: Why are we here? What does it mean to live a good life? Is there a concept of God that makes sense to me? So, I’ve begun delving into Midrash, which is a collection of rabbinic writings about the Torah, which is allowing me to think alongside sages from many centuries. From these studies, I’m writing poems and essays that draw on these texts, trying to capture the contemporary relevance I’ve found in these ancient texts.
  4. Your poem A Question to Ask When the Honeymoon is Over was featured on Screen Door Review. What is the origin and meaning of this poem?
    This was a poem that grew from a moment in which the person I was fell far short of the person I wanted to be. It’s a poem of deep vulnerability and guilt, but also one in which I want to hold myself accountable, hoping to chart a path toward right action in the world.
  5. Who are some of your favorite writers? Why?
    I love writers who bring the news, by which I mean: they give the world I thought I understood back to me in a new way. In poetry, Laure-Anne Bosselaar teaches me resilience and the crafting lines with beautiful music; Matthew Olzmann, humor and abiding curiosity; Patricia Smith, how to look unflinchingly at violence and deep sorrow and write about it with honesty and style. In fiction, I think everyone should read Richard Powers’ The Overstory, one of the most moving—and hopeful—books I’ve read about our need to engage with and fight for the natural world.

Nickole Brown Interview

Nickole Brown
  1. When did you realize you wanted to be a poet?
    The first sparks for this mad little fire started when I was fifteen, back when I was young enough to fearlessly (well, recklessly) scale a rickety fire escape downtown with a few like-minded pals to recite Rilke to a gathering of curious and cranky crows that perched up there. That was the summer of my sophomore year in high school, back when I was lucky enough to participate in the Governor’s School for the Arts, a program funded by some higher angels in the state of Kentucky who, with their gift of just a few weeks worth of poetry, changed the entire trajectory of my life. You see, books weren’t exactly a thing in my house as a kid, and being a writer was never an option I could have considered otherwise. I was raised up on the literary equivalent of grease and plastic—if you don’t count the King James, there wasn’t anything to read in the house but Cosmo or maybe a potato chip bag or two. At that tender time in my life, the exposure to poetry (nevertheless the idea that I had a voice and could learn to use it) was a revelation. I’ve held fast ever since, pushing through decades of odd jobs and failed drafts and rejections to land myself where I am today, more than a bit weary but ridiculously grateful that my compass was set at such an early age.
  2. How would you describe your poetry?
    Narrative, mostly. And a touch irreverent, cut as it is from the cloth of my maternal grandmother, a woman who helped raise me and could tell a story a mile long and just as deep, peppered with an occasional f-bomb and always ripened with select details. From her, I learned just how story can define a person, how the right story can show a person who they are when they forget, and sometimes, how it can change the way we’re able to carry the heaviest facts of our lives. For me, this means that poetry fits together the most jagged edges of my most broken times. By this I don’t mean to say that with my writing I make
    sense of things that have happened, but it does help, making what could be impossible tragedies into something possible to swallow. In my poems you’ll also see traces of the mud from which I sprung, that working-class Kentucky I once fought so hard to escape, that thistled nest of home to which I always return. The dialect of that place is in my poems, too, as are those fierce bonds of family and
    origin that make me who I am, both for bad and good. As such, you’ll likely find in my writing one-too-many mentions of my mama, and forgive me if I’ve got my ear cocked to the katydids and cicadas up in the trees. I wait all summer until they start singing in June, and their humid song is the base-note and through-line of most all my signing.

3. What advice do you have for new writers?

This depends entirely on the writer, really, which is one reason why I always begin and end every creative writing course I’ve ever taught with one-on-one conferences. Writing is one of the most intimate acts of creative art there is, and while revision requires a firm grip on craft, it’s often soul work, requiring a degree of courage and vulnerability that no one piece of advice administered to a whole group could approach. I suppose if I had to think of any answer to this question, it might have something to do with my definition of a writer, and that is a person who holds steadfast to this world with a deep, muscular awareness, using all their senses to pay attention to what’s around them. If you’re a writer, you’re a noticer, someone who doesn’t turn away and who works hard never to turn experience into abstractions and generalizations. So, my advice then? Pay attention, even when it’s most difficult and it might be easier to turn away. Pay attention, even when you’re bored and think there’s nothing to see. Listen to what
your skin and tongue and ears can perceive; use your eyes to look until you un-see whatever it is you’re looking at, then look harder. Put down your phone and be exactly where you are.

4. What projects are you currently working on?
Since 2017, when I moved with my wife to Asheville, North Carolina, I’ve given myself over to something I’ve always wanted to do—to study and work with animals. As such, I’ve read fanatically every book of animal behavior and anthrozoology (the study of the relationship between humans and animals) I could get my hands on, and I’ve also been volunteering at several places that give animals sanctuary and shelter when it’s most needed, including a farm sanctuary called Animal Haven and a wildlife rehabilitation center called Appalachian Wild. I’ve worked hard to write some of what I’ve learned and experienced since, but I’m careful not to write the kind of pastorals that always made me (and most of the working-class folks I’ve known) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it. I yearn for poems to speak in a queer, Southern-trash-talking kind of way about nature beautiful, damaged, dangerous, and in desperate need of saving, and well, I’m trying to write them. A chapbook featuring the first nine poems called To Those Who Were Our First Gods won the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize, and this coming January 2020, Sibling Rivalry Press will be publishing The Donkey Elegies.

5. Out of all of your accomplishments, which one are you the most proud of? Why?
Tough question. I think the students I’ve had—if I can be so greedy as to call them mine—always make me feel the most proud, especially when I see them years later, thriving and still writing. But in terms of my own poems, I think the longevity of my first book, Sister, has been a surprising source of pride in my career. When I first published that novel-in-poems with Red Hen Press in 2007, I did so with much trepidation—the deeply confessional nature of the book was a tremendous risk, and I wasn’t sure at all how readers would receive poems that dealt so frankly with childhood sexual abuse. Fast-forward a decade later: not only were these poems reviewed widely and positively, but the poems seem to be a continual resource for survivors. In 2018, Sibling Rivalry Press reissued this book with a foreword by poet Rebecca Gayle Howell and an afterward by Sue William Silverman, both of whom talked about the importance of the book in the “me too” movement, a thing that didn’t even exist when I first wrote and published
those poems. I was also given the opportunity to pull together an interview of sorts published in the back of the reissue that serves as a guide particularly for those attempting to write their own way through this difficult and often devastating trauma.

You can buy Take Me with You, Wherever You‘re Going By Jessica Jacobs on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Take-You-Wherever-Youre-Going/dp/1945588268/ref=sr_1_1?crid=14T4FAUP8P5W4&keywords=jessica+jacobs&qid=1570723062&sprefix=jessica+jacobs%2Caps%2C743&sr=8-1

You can buy Sister: A Novel in Poems by Nickole Brown on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sister-Novel-Poems-Nickole-Brown/dp/1943977992/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=Nickole+Brown&qid=1570723190&sr=8-3

A Question to Ask Once The Honeymoon is Over by Jessica Jacobs: https://www.screendoorreview.com/a-question-to-ask-once-the-honeymoon-is-over/

Interview With Camille T. Dungy

By Robert Drinkwater

 

 

Writer, essayist, poet and English Professor at Colorado State University, Camille T. Dungy will be a visiting writer here at UMF this Thursday, 09/19/2019. Dungy will be the first visiting writer of the semester kicking off our visiting writers series of the academic year. Her debut collection of personal essays Guidebook To Relative Strangers was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, and she is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent one being Trophic Cascade (2017). I had the pleasure of interviewing her about her writing.

How would you describe your writing?

At one point in Guidebook to Relative Strangers, I write about the fine line between hearing a dog’s master say sic her versus sit girl. There was a bully in my elementary school who liked to use his Dobermans to intimidate me. I learned about the fine line between those two commands at a very young age, and I also learned the ways that things that some people love can simultaneously be tools of violence and devastation. Language is the seat of so much power and, like all power, we get to decide whether we use if for good or ill. I can’t remember a time I haven’t known that. Perhaps because, as a black woman, I have always known how common it is for language to be used against me. I think I have also always known about this power because I have found great joy in language, in writing and speaking and thinking about the many things words can do to make the world a more beautiful and loving place. I would make it past that bully and his Dobermans and walk into a house where someone said, “I love you, beautiful.” I’ve always known that language can do revolutionary work in this world. This book, all my writing, is an exploration of the beloved and the beautiful, as well as the opposites they so frequently contain.

What inspired you to write Guidebook To Relative Strangers?

This book started the same way all my books do. I was curious about the world in which I found myself at a particular moment, and I started taking notes. These notes seemed to want to be organized in the manner you read now in Guidebook to Relative Strangers. I didn’t sit down one day and say, “I’m going to write a memoir in essays.”  I write a line and then another line and then another, and soon enough, those lines begin to reveal their direction to me. I was keeping notes about my experiences traveling as a black woman and a mother. I was working towards a deeper understanding of what was being revealed to me about who I was and who I was becoming, and also about who we were as a nation. These notes began to overlap and speak to each other and, soon enough—by soon enough I mean, after a lot of hours at the desk— the book’s path began to reveal itself to me.

 Guidebook To Relative Strangers talks a lot about your experience with race and motherhood. How has that shaped your writing?

Initially, I thought that I was writing a book that explored the early years of motherhood. That was the new thing in my life at the time that I thought was the most interesting. I’ve been a black woman in America for several decades, and so my understanding of what it means to be black in America hasn’t really changed. The book does explore motherhood, but being a mother changed my approach toward my writing, my communities, and the world at large. For instance, on a trip to Aroostook County, here in Maine, I took a long walk through Presque Isle with my daughter. She was only about 9 months old, and as I pushed her stroller through town I had interactions with people I never would have had if I were walking the same steps alone. My daughter expanded my sense of commitment to hope, to possibility, and to actively working to build strengthening connections between vulnerable communities. To write about motherhood meant writing about why and how this was. I became more aware than ever of our vulnerability, so to write about motherhood meant to write about the past and present traumas that my black daughter and I must live with every day. This awareness of vulnerability is partly due to the presence of my child in my life, certainly, but it is also due to the awareness cultivated as a result of living a politically, historically, and environmentally conscious life for all these years.  

How would you describe your experience in writing Guidebook To Relative Strangers?


I had already published four books of poetry and edited three anthologies by the time Guidebook to Relative Strangers was published. So I was familiar with what it meant to be a writer. Still, there are some differences in writing prose. When I first turned my attention to writing prose, years before this book was published, it would take me an impossibly long time to finish anything once I’d gotten past the first 5 pages. This was because I wanted to start every new writing day as I might with a poem. I would reread what I’d written thus far before I started the next new word. So, if I’d written a lot of pages, I’d find that I would spend my whole writing time rereading rather than writing forward. With the project that became Guidebook to Relative Strangers, I was constantly taking notes as I moved through the world. I journaled regularly on my trips around the country, and I found myself taking notes on a lot of the follow up research that came out of things I discovered on those trips. I journaled about my daughter and the ways she was influencing how I saw the world and how the world saw me. While I was gathering the notes that would eventually develop into the essays in Guidebook to Relative Strangers, I employed the attention to every word I’ve trained as a poet, but I figured out ways that I could productively concentrate my attention on writing new lines to keep the energy moving forward. So the writing of this book felt like writing a carefully crafted letter to myself, or to my daughter, or to a close friend who might want a guidebook when the walked out into the world. The lessons I’d learned in the years leading up to this book made the writing of this book go that much more smoothly.

Are you currently working on any projects?


Always.

What are your reading recommendations?


Read what you love. Then find something that shares some commonalities with what you already know but is also quite different. Read widely. And read frequently. I can tell you ten of the books I am loving right now, and maybe you’ll discover something you love along the way. Notice that I am incredibly ecumenical where genre is concerned. The point is to read good writing. A lot of it.

Dungy’s Book Recommendations:

Deep CreekFinding Hope in the High Country, Pam Houston (memoir)
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng (novel)
Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, Jake Skeet (poetry) for black girls like me, Mariama Lockington (middle grade) Notes from No Man’s Land, Eula Biss (essays)
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, (middle grade)
Holy Moly Carry Me, Erika Meitner (poetry) An American Marriage, Tayari Jones (novel) Heavy, Kiese Laymon (memoir) The Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin (speculative fiction)

Guidebook To Relative Strangers :

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/guidebook-to-relative-strangers-camille-t-dungy/1125527352

 

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