Wednesday, April 11, 2018

All My Children

If our books are our babies, then I’m definitely feeling like the mother in a house full of adolescents this week: pulled in multiple directions, plenty of drama to contend with, and struggling to stay on task.

The youngest child, WRECKED, got some nice news yesterday: it’s going to be the Common Read this fall at South Dakota State University. Go Jackrabbits!

My publisher, Algonquin Young Readers (who never ceases promoting the books on their list, THANK YOU!!) shared that with me, which is terrific to hear, especially since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Later this month I’ll be presenting at Maine’s Reading Roundup conference with author Megan Frazer Blakemore, Mt. Desert Island High School librarian Davonne Pappas, and Speak About It Executive Director Shane Diamond. We’ll talk about using young adult lit to facilitate conversations about consent, healthy relationships and sexual assault.

For some reason (or perhaps it’s no mystery; our president is keeping refugee and immigrant issues front-and-center) it’s been a busy spring for OUT OF NOWHERE.
I can barely keep up with the school visit requests, and have been travelling the state sharing the “background” story which inspired the characters of Tom, Saeed, Myla, Coach … Sales have seen a sharp uptick (yay!) as both middle and high schools have turned to the book to spark discussions with students about racism, immigration, economic inequality … and soccer. Don’t forget soccer.

Speaking of which: I recently ran into a few of the “real life” people who helped me create OUT OF NOWHERE. Shobow Saban is now married and working in Lewiston with Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services (he has a beautiful daughter!) and Coach Mike McGraw (coming off a SECOND championship this past fall) is already looking ahead to the 2018 season.
Shobow Saban and his daughter, Saaliha

Lucky me! Photographed with Mike McGraw

It’s been interesting to see this story evolve beyond the confines of my novel. When I visit schools, I show the kids where OUT OF NOWHERE leaves off, and where the “actual” story has progressed … and where Christian Schneider has picked it up.  An actor/writer living in Los Angeles, he’s adapted the book for the screen, but with some significant changes. Most importantly: he’s compressed the timeline, so that his story ends with the team winning their state championship, a much, MUCH more satisfying conclusion. He’s also eliminated/conflated a few characters (Uncle Paul = gone) enhanced other characters (way more Samira) and added whole scenes I never envisioned.

I love what he’s done with it. Wouldn’t it be cool if it became a movie?

Meanwhile, my oldest “child,” Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress, continues to receive nice reviews from students and teachers, but my FAVORITE child (yes: I have a favorite) Jersey Tomatoes are the Best is, according to booksellers, hard to obtain. Say what?? How can this be?

I’m hoping this particular bookseller was wrong, because I love that book. I tend to write about sports, and this was my tennis book. Inspired by my tour of the Everett Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, not to mention my 45+ years of smacking tennis balls around. Love that book. Loved writing it. #FavoriteBookChild

Meanwhile: I’ve got one in the oven. On deadline to Algonquin (June 1st) and I’m slightly panicked because first drafts are so much harder for me than revisions. I actually love revising. First drafts for me are like squeezing toothpaste from a spent tube: one slow word at a time. Revision, on the other hand, is like a spa day.

However, the good news about the current work-in-progress is that it’s filled with plenty of wonderful Spanish food, all inspired by my mother. And without giving away more than that, I’ll leave you with this: Mom’s roast pork, rice and beans.  
Nobody does it better than mom.