Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Sundays With Writers: Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

Girls on Fire has been on my radar for months and I put a hold on it at our library months in advance to be first in line for it. Yup, I’m one of those people.  I am such a big fan of the dark and gritty thriller genre and this one delivered quite the punch for a great summer escape. Longtime readers know that I don’t shy away from racy books and today’s book is a bit darker and racier than my usual selections, but I really enjoyed this exploration of a twisted friendship set in an era that I remember rather fondly…the ’90’s. As soon as I finished it, I passed it on to my best friend because it is the kind of book you want to share with someone else so you can talk about it.

 

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Girls on Fire is the first adult book from Robin Wasserman and it is ADULT so, readers, be warned!  Follow down the path of Dex & Lacey, two social outcasts who find comfort and friendship in one another through a mutual dislike for the high school queen bee. When one of the popular kids commits suicide in their small town, we are quick to see that things are often as they seem as Lacey’s dangerous interactions start coming to light. Set in the ‘90’s with plenty of nostalgic flashbacks, it also laces in the beginning of the twilight of the satanic panic that plagued this era.

Due to the language, sex, and violence in this one, this will be a pretty polarizing book that you will either really love or really hate, much like how I felt about Luckiest Girl Alive (read my interview with Jessica Knoll here). I found it to be a great summer escape and a well-woven plot although, as a reader, I often wondered if some of the scenes were set up to shock you rather than to move the story forward.

Once I closed the book, I raced to my computer to see if I could secure Robin for our series. I am thrilled to have her join us today to talk about this book as well as writing from an uncensored place. As someone who constantly is worried what her readers might think of her if she gets a little too real, I appreciate learning about writing from a more open place.

Grab your coffee and let’s chat about Girls on Fire today!!

Robin Wasserman

So many writers are making the switch from writing Adult Fiction to Young Adult this year. You took a different path and went from writing for young adults, for over a decade, to writing for adults. Since this book is still exploring adolescence, why did you decide to take this path? Did you feel like it gave you more freedom in your writing since you didn’t have to write for the adolescent mindset? Do you think you will continue writing for adults?

When I started this book, I decided to do my best not to think about the market, how it would be labeled or sold. I just wanted to get the story down and let the characters take me wherever they needed to go—so the shift from young adult to adult (whatever that actually means on the page) is something that happened mostly organically, I think, as the characters, plot, and style evolved over the course of many drafts. But at some point in the revision process, I did start thinking about this more as a book for adults than for teenagers, and while I wouldn’t say that freed me of any constraints—I never felt particularly constrained by YA!—it did give me the luxury of writing a somewhat more retrospective story, putting a little distance between myself as writer and my adolescent characters. The book gradually became not just a story about teenage girls, but a story about girlhood itself, an examination of adolescence—and vehicle for all the thoughts and opinions and arguments on girlhood that have been simmering in me for the last decade. I think there are a lot of YA writers out there who do this with work—but for me, the shift to a different audience turned out to be the key that unlocked that part of my brain. It gave me the permission—maybe even the directive—to take a step back and think about the bigger picture. To take different kinds of risks with the narrative and the writing. And yes, it’s definitely become addictive, as is the freedom to write adult characters—so I’m planning to write a lot more of it in the future!

 

 

Books With Girl in the Title

source: ew

My husband and I were laughing because six of the books that I have on my Kindle right now all have, “girl” in the title. I also read your article where you addressed this phenomenon in literature (it was fantastic!). Did you worry about the overlap with other books with this word in the title or do you think that the word, “girl” is a little bit of the secret sauce to a successful thriller?

I don’t really believe there’s a secret sauce to success, but if there is, I’m pretty sure it’s not something as simple as a word in the title. As I said in the LitHub essay, I think of myself as a contrarian so it chafes a bit to have accidentally thrown myself onto this bandwagon—it sounds ridiculous now to say that the “girl” trend didn’t even occur to me when I titled this book, but it’s true, and if it had, I probably would have come up with something different. (That said, I’m glad I didn’t, as this has been Girls on Fire since I first started writing it and I can’t imagine any title that would feel as right.) I don’t much worry about any potential overlap, and despite my contrarianism—or maybe because of it—I’ve come to embrace the idea, because as I argued in LitHub, I think you can see the plethora of “girl” titles as a new cultural engagement with and anxiety about what it means to be female, a reaction against marginalization and knee-jerk categorizations. Over the last couple years I’ve become increasingly enraged by the way society treats adolescent girls and I think the marginalization of their story—and their voices is a big part of that. If the increase in “girl” titles is, at least in part, a movement toward acknowledging the value of girlhood, the narrative power of that story, then it’s a movement I’m proud to be part of.

 Your writing feels raw and uncensored as you explore a lot of dark and gritty themes in this book. Did you ever worry about how “adult” your book was going when you were writing it, particularly some of the sexual content that it contains? Were there any scenes that you found difficult to write?

When I’m writing, the idea of an eventual reader seems so hypothetical as to be almost literally unimaginable, so I rarely censor myself or the places the story goes. With this book in particular, as I said above, I was really trying to force myself to draft it in isolation, and I think that was necessary for what the story turned out to be. I can remember pretty vividly coming up with the idea for—well, let’s call it The Thing That Happens in the Woods. I remember thinking, Wait, can I actually do that? Is that allowed? And there was such delicious satisfaction in the realization that I could. Who was going to stop me?

I don’t know what it says about me that the dark and gritty scenes aren’t particularly difficult to write and the intensely emotional ones often tend to come the easiest. I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve gravitated toward writing adolescent characters—because my memory of adolescence is that it’s a bloody emotional battlefield. Anything but dark and gritty would feel like a lie.

Lacey & Dex have a toxic and all-consuming friendship in this book and the reader gets to go down this twisted tunnel with them both. Did you have any intense friendships like this when you were growing up? Which of these two characters did you feel you related to most when you were a teenager?

I was very much a Dex growing up, and I did live my adolescent life in pursuit of the ultimate Lacey, attaching myself to a series of wild (or wild-ish) girls who seemed like they could give me the permission to be reckless, or at least plausible deniability on those rare occasions I seized it for myself. But none of those friendships ever quite took; they never turned into what I wanted them to be, probably because what I wanted was a self-immolating collision of souls, and that’s a somewhat tall order. I think one of the reasons I’m so fascinated by the all-consuming friendship is precisely because I never quite found it—I was obsessed with the idea of being obsessed. Of finding myself a soulmate that I could lose myself in. The romance of that kind of best friend—the certainty that it would change everything, would save me—loomed very large over my adolescent horizon, and pretty clearly took root in my subconscious.

Dex’s dad tries to take Lacey under his wing since she doesn’t have any positive male role models in her life. Do you think this friendship went past the appropriate boundaries? Did you sympathize with her father and that need to still feel cool?

Oh, I’m pretty sure this friendship went past appropriate boundaries! I have great sympathy for all characters involved and the choices they made—though my greatest sympathies, as I hope is evident (though I gather is not) lie with Dex’s mother, who’s forced to play the grown-up whether she wants to or not. Her husband has put her in an incredibly untenable position, her daughter lacks all empathy for her, and she somehow manages to soldier on and do the right thing, without holding too much of a grudge against either of them. I imagine things might have gone very differently had Lacey thought to cozy up to her instead!

Which character did you have the most fun writing in this book? Were there any scenes, in particular, that you enjoyed writing?

The scenes that felt the best to write tended to be the most painful, filled with rage and misery and trauma, so I’m not sure “enjoyed” is the right verb to use there. But I guess you could say the scene, early on, where Dex and Lacey drop acid at church and then wind up making some very ill-advised choices in a nearby field, has a special place in my heart—that was originally (and in very different form) the second chapter, and writing that scene is the moment the book took flight for me. With that scene, I realized this was a book I had to write, no matter what, and that it was going to be a very different book than I’d ever written before.

My So Called Life

 Since I grew up in the ‘90’s, I appreciated all of the nostalgia of this era in your book. How much fun was it to write about this time period? Also, if you could bring one thing back from the ‘90’s, what would it be?

Massive, massive amounts of fun. Suffice to say my research involved a lot of grunge music and a lot of old episodes of the Real World, not to mention an unfortunate and embarrassing deep dive into my old high school yearbooks. It’s an excellent question, though, what I would bring back—maybe overalls! Sartorially ill-advised but oh, how I loved them.

I might also bring back My So-Called Life era Jared Leto. 

satanic-panic

You write about the twilight of the Satanic Panic that happened in the ‘90’s which is something that I had forgotten about. Why was this an important part of your story? Do you recall this panic in your own town when you were growing up?

If you’d asked me this question last week, I would have said that I grew up in the suburbs and the Satanic Panic never touched us—but just the other day I got an email from a guy I went to high school with who’d read the book and was reminiscing about all the rumors about Satanists performing dark ceremonies in our local cemetery. I have no memory of this whatsoever (and I was so out of the loop in high school that most rumors never reached me), but I guess it’s testament to how widespread these fears really were. The Satanic Panic element of the book was there from the beginning—it was one of the original inspirations for the novel, and dovetailed perfectly with one of the larger themes I wanted to explore, this question of the porous boundary between fears for our children and fears of them. The Satanic Panic—as Richard Beck has argued very persuasively in We Believe the Children—began at least in part as an outgrowth of anxieties about working mothers. This was the first generation of latchkey children, and I think it’s fascinating to think about how in the 80s, people were consumed with panic about what might be done to the kids when their parents left them behind…but by the ‘90s, the children grown into teenagers, the new panic revolved around what the kids might do.  I’m fascinated by the way so many adults seem to see teenagers as this mysterious, alien other. Girls on Fire is partly about interrogating that willful forgetting of our own past selves, but also about the ways our unspoken anxieties can manifest in various forms of moral panic, defense turning to offense, insecurity masquerading as righteousness, all of it often ending up victimizing exactly the people it purports to protect.

Is there any possibility of a sequel?

No—this is the story of Dex and Lacey’s life. Everything after is epilogue.

What are you working on next?

I’m a little superstitious about talking about work in progress, but suffice to say I’m having fun!

girls-on-fire

You can connect with Robin Wasserman on her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

 

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It’s the 3 Little Things: iPad Summer Shields, Binge-worthy TV, & Pillow Love

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Wine on a Boat

I hope you had another wonderful week! You may recall my high school bestie sharing her experience doing a no spend challenge on the blog awhile back. It was such a treat to have her in town this week to celebrate the upcoming arrival of her new baby with her family.  She’s doing so well and I continue to see the transformative power of simple living in her life.  I felt really lucky to get to be with her this week and we even managed to squeeze in a little hot yoga class together. If you are local, treat yourself to Hot Yoga with Frances Shavers over at this studio. The instructor is a gift and her musicality is such a treat during my vinyasa flow. I have become quite the little yoga addict.

Here are a few other  things that have been making me happy over here.

Tech Armor Anti Glare Protectors

I Can Read My iPad in the Sun

I love reading on my iPad with the Kindle app, but it can be difficult to read in the sun with this gadget. These Tech Armor anti glare protectors cost less than $10 for two and have made reading so much more enjoyable for me this summer. They are also super handy if you are watching a show in the sun because it takes that glare off your screen. Now that I have these, I am reading even more on my iPad this summer.  If you are looking for something to remove the glare, this is an affordable and easy option that I found on Amazon for better reading by the pool!

UnREAL

Another Binge-Worthy Show

I don’t watch a lot of television so it has been something really incredible to suck me in and pull me away from my book stack. If you haven’t seen UnREAL, you must watch it! The premise is a behind-the-scenes look at a reality show called Everlasting (AKA The Bachelor) and it is about the producers and the real show that is happening behind the scenes. It is is gritty, raw, and probably more real than the reality television that America keeps serving up for us.

I kept hearing about this one and one evening I decided to take the plunge and watch the first episode.

Then the second episode.

Then the third.

In fact, talking about it makes me want to get back to watching it again.

It’s on Lifetime (I know, I know- but trust me!) so I have been streaming it through Hulu (can also stream on Amazon if you don’t have Hulu!). Have you watched it yet? SO GOOD!

Room Essentials Body Pillow

A Gift to My Joints

I started getting massages for all of my joint issues and the massage therapist offered some suggestions for better sleeping including hugging a pillow between my arms and legs. I thought a body pillow might be the way to go instead of wrestling with little pillows and found this inexpensive body pillow at Target (less than $10!). The best part is that they have all these gorgeous covers that can coordinate with your bedding and I found this furry one in gray (again, less than $10!!) and it is an incredible joy to curl up with it! I’m having way better sleep curled up with this and it’s relieved a lot of pain in my achy joints.

Shrimp Boil

Reading: The Two-Family House is this month’s book club selection and I enjoyed this one so very much this week. If you are looking for a good book escape, this one is perfection. Read it and join in our book club discussion next Thursday!

Eating: Another batch of make-ahead breakfast burritos thanks to this week’s breakfast buffet post. I love these for nights I don’t feel like cooking too (which is almost every night in the summer)! Thankful for easy shrimp boils this summer when entertaining!

Laughing:  Just get online and start screaming! LOL! (PS- Totally safe for kids!)

Making: Having a blast with fabric this week thanks to a new gig this year with Waverly Fabric as a part of their Waverly Inspirations Network. I’m thankful they still want me even though I am a legitimate sewing school drop-out. Here is a sneak peek of my wreath I made from their fabrics and today’s task is to craft a pretty garland to match it. It feels good to be making things with my hands again.

Happy Friday, friends!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

Amy’s Notebook 06.22.16

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

DIY-Monstera-doormat via Enthralling Gumption

Source: Enthralling Gumption

 

Perfect DIY summer doormat.

This is the way to have your coffee in the summer!

A fun summer activity – show your state pride with a DIY state project.

Similar to a clothing uniform, here’s a lunch uniform example. Thoughts?

Make funnel cake at home.

The art of packing lightly.

Shrimp-Boil-Kabobs via Damn Delicious

Source: Shrimp Boil Kabobs

 

One of our favorite meals reimagined as a kabob.

This kid’s room is so fun and colorful.

Adding mango to energy bites? Yes, please.

Be kind to yourself and increase your success.

Combining waffles and pizza? Sounds like a great summer kid cooking activity!

Don’t wait until it’s too late to simplify.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Andromeda Romano Lax’s 3 Favorite Books

Monday, June 20th, 2016

andromeda-romano-lax

Author: Andromeda Romano-Lax. (Author of Behave, Searching for Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez, & The Detour Read more about Andromeda in our interview HERE!)

Andromeda Romano Lax’s 3 Favorite Books

I have too many favorites so my best way to focus is by theme, and in this case, my theme will be “wives in the shadows” plus “mother blame,” two topics that are central to my novel, Behave.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

In the first category, I absolutely love Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife, which is acerbic, funny, and all-too-real. I’ve read it multiple times, and even once the book’s twists are revealed, it’s no less enjoyable. (By the way, one of my favorite classic male writers is Philip Roth, but what he tends to ignore–the inner lives of women and especially wives–Wolitzer examines with a fabulous, Roth-like wit.)

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

 

Also in the category of shadow wives I recommend Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife. I loved how she handled a fictionalized version of the Barbara Bush story. Both historical truth and unfettered invention co-exist harmoniously in this empathetic novel.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

In the category of “mother blame” I challenge anyone to read Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin and not feel chills, horror, and that rarer thing–sympathy. This is a book that will stay frighteningly current as long as we have mass shootings, but even without the violent storyline it’s a great look at failed mother-child bonding, guilt, public shaming, and all those things that make being a mom heart-breakingly tough at times.  

This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!

Sundays With Writers: Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

Happy Sunday and Happy Father’s Day to all of those special dads out there. We have spent the morning curled up in our jammies, watching shows together, and plowing through a dozen muffins with a pot of coffee. I love how my hubby chooses to celebrate his day!

Today I am also excited to share with your an interview with Andromeda Romano-Lax as we discuss her incredible book, Behave. If you are looking for a compelling piece of historical fiction to add to your summer stack, I have a feeling you will enjoy this one! I’m SO THRILLED that her book is available for $1.99 this month so be sure to get this one while it is at such an affordable price! Treat yo self! 

Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

Fans of Masters of Sex will appreciate this fictional exploration of Dr. John Watson and his research that was revered by so many to not spoil children based on his research that he developed during his time at Johns Hopkins. Disturbingly, tests are performed on infants to yield responses from them, all being assisted by Rosalie Rayner. An affair develops between the two that taints their reputation in the medical community and adds strain to an already difficult marriage. When they have children of their own, Dr. Watson uses his own research as a basis for how they are to parent which creates squeamish moments for the reader. Despite it being an uncomfortable storyline, it held my interest all the way through, even when the characters were most unlikable.

Behave was featured in our Must-Reads Book List for May!

Let’s chat with Andromeda today about this incredibly  compelling storyline she built around Rosalie!

Andromeda Romano Lax

Your first round of thanks in your acknowledgements went to veteran psychology textbook editor Christine Brune, who had casually mentioned the controversial case of Little Albert at a party you had attended. Were you aware of this case before this interaction and why were you so excited to share this story from Rosalie’s point of view?

John Watson was vaguely familiar to me from old college psych classes. I remembered something about a baby (“Little Albert”), rats, and conditioning, but I may have been mixing in memories of other famous psychologists like B.F. Skinner. What I didn’t know about Watson interested me more than what I did. I’d never heard that his lover and later wife, Rosalie, was such a major part of his research. Nor did I realize that Little Albert’s identity and health were being questioned in ways that make Watson’s original theories even more suspect. I have never been as sure about a new interest quite this quickly. Within a few hours of the party, when I was home Googling close to midnight, I felt determined to tell Rosalie’s side of the story. Why? Not only because I wanted to tell the story of the “woman behind the man” but also because I was specifically curious how a woman would have reacted to these particular kinds of experiments involving potential psychological harm to babies. What was she thinking?

Little Albert Experiment

I found much of the research that was conducted on these infants made me squeamish and uncomfortable as a reader, but I understand that you didn’t find these infant experiments as shocking. Why do you think this element of their research didn’t bother you as much and what element, if any, did you struggle the most with?

One reason is that I think that most of the babies–except for Little Albert–were experimented upon very briefly in mostly benign ways. We may not like to picture a baby turning blue with rage as his nose is pinched shut or as he is plunged into cold water, but it probably won’t create lasting damage, and in Watson’s mind, the cost was tiny compared to the benefit. That same baby, he believed, would grow up in a healthier and safer world, for which a few minutes of discomfort was small price to pay. Viewing this from a historical perspective, we can empathize with the scientists who had no better models for how to study infant behavior. They certainly didn’t feel they were breaking rules, because the rules didn’t yet exist. (They do now, and thank goodness!) If one element bothers me the most, it’s not just the cruelty of the Little Albert experiment (which was more intense and ran longer than the other baby experiments), but the meaningless of it, because it was bad science. I’m also greatly disturbed by the longer-term popular effect of the Watsons’ interpretations of the Little Albert study. The harm passed on to tens or hundreds of thousands of other babies indirectly based on the Watsons’ ideas about parenting–like the idea that mothers shouldn’t kiss, cuddle, or in any way bond with their own children–probably dwarfs the harm inflicted on any one baby in the lab.

Little Albert Experiment

Since there is very little known information about Rosalie, what was your biggest hurdle as a writer developing her storyline? Do you feel that since there was so little information that it granted you more creative liberties with your story or did you find it more challenging to craft Rosalie’s point of view?

The lack of information freed me in some ways, but I did not want to invent a woman out of thin air, since that wouldn’t offer me or the readers any real lessons about Rosalie or her time period (the ‘20s and early ‘30s), which is such a critical one for women. For this reason, I grabbed onto any verifiable fact like a lifeline. For example, I came across a brief note written by Rosalie to her alma mater, Vassar, saying that she expected to be working in advertising soon (which never happened). This was just after her public humiliation as the outed homebreaker in the divorce scandal involving John Watson and his first wife, Mary. That one note reveals so much, especially since Rosalie rarely reported her post-college activities. Clearly, she was hoping to start a new professional life and wanted people to know about it. Without that one clue, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine Rosalie’s envy of Watson as he launched his own career in advertising, overshadowing her ambitions once again.

Rosalie & John utilize the same childrearing techniques they develop in their book on their children. You later disclose how that worked out for these kids (I won’t spoil it for the reader). Even though I found these childrearing tactics extreme, don’t you feel like we all are experimenting a bit as parents to try to figure out what is best for our children? Do you think any of these theories they came up with are still being held today?

You’ve nailed it, Amy. Yes, we are all experimenting on our children, following the latest “science” as well as popular advice that changes decade by decade, all mixed together with our observations of other parents–whom we can’t help but judge, because we are trying so hard to figure out what works and what doesn’t. We all want to do the right things. Parenting trends seem to swing between extremes: more attachment, less attachment; blame nature, blame nurture. This is yet another reason to sympathize with Rosalie and John even while we might recoil at some of their practices. They had the best intentions, and they worked hard at understanding children. And sometimes they were right! Aside from the bad advice, they had some easy-to-overlook good insights that were not common at the time, such as the idea that parents need not physically punish their children, and that routines in general help children feel safe and become independent.

Did you admire John Watson or did you loathe him? Do you think that his difficulties with his parents ultimately shaped his own theories about childrearing?

Maybe I’m contrary, but I didn’t loathe John Watson at all. At most, I was frustrated by him. I think he let his own childhood experiences (as you suggested), his own appetites and his ambition lead him down some unproductive paths. Elements of his personality–the flirty charisma, the showmanship and brash opinions–are still rewarded today. I am confused, in fact, why some readers seem to think he’s the devil, and a very retro devil at that, when a good many politicians, CEOs, and adored celebrities behave more outrageously than he ever did. I’ve noticed that some women readers who get really riled up do so because they had a boss, professor or lover who had Watsonian qualities. I’ve received emails from both women and men who said the novel hit a little too close to home. I’m glad that readers get riled up, especially if it helps them look at their own choices and relationships more clearly. On the other hand, I hope Watson’s positive side isn’t lost in the process. Especially in his early years, he was committed to making science more objective, he was anti-racist, he encouraged public debate about substantial topics, and he truly did seem to support women in science–at least until he made an about-face and decided wives shouldn’t work, after all.

Rosalie Raynor

In your story, John is unfaithful during both of his marriages.  Was this true or fictionalized?  Why do you think Rosalie stayed with him, after giving up her own career and reputation, and do you think if this happened today that she would have still stayed?

Oh, the affairs are verifiable fact. There was no trouble finding documentation of Watson’s incessant wandering. He was also quite open about his own skepticism of marriage. He didn’t think the institution would last beyond the 20th century. (Surprise!) Again, we have to see Rosalie through the filter of her own times. She was married to someone who was passionate, clearly in love with her (I do believe that), ambitious, and successful. Instead of being just a jilted lover without much hope of a career, she was able to become a 1920s housewife who was encouraged to help him co-write scientific books and articles. There was only one brief window of time in which I think they might have broken up and would break up even more easily today: after they were both booted out of the academic world and their affair made headline news. But then she quickly got pregnant. Big oops. And I do think it was an oops, since he didn’t favor women having children too young.

Could you share one of the most surprising pieces of research you found while preparing for this book? Did you have any interview that really stood out to you during this research process?

There were so many research surprises! Most involved archives work rather than personal interviews. To cite just one: finding out that other popular parenting books before Watson’s were just as mean-spirited and disdainful of mothers. The journalist and satirist H. L. Mencken even wrote one. This helps us understand how Watson’s ideas fit into his time period (he was actually more level-headed than his peers) But even more, it tells us what our own poor grandmothers and great-grandmothers were dealing with. If we thought mother blame was new, we just have to go back a century ago, to that era when infant mortality was finally dropping but mothers were still being blamed for damaging their children in every possible way.

If we are interested in learning more about the Little Albert controversy or in John Watson’s theories, can you share books or documentaries that might help us learn more about the true story behind your book?

A truly revealing documentary or drama is yet to be made. The best sources are scholarly papers written by Ben Harris, who has doggedly written about Watson and served as mythbuster for over three decades, and more recently, Hall Beck (writing in cooperation with researchers Levinson, Irons, Fridlund, and Goldie), who has proposed controversial ideas about Little Albert’s true identity and possible neurological impairment. There are some amazing scientific sleuths out there and I recommend their work in an appendix at the back of my novel.

behave

You can connect with Andromeda Romano-Lax on her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

Amy’s Notebook 06.15.16

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Blueberry Coconut popsicles via Wallflower Kitchen

Source: Wallflower Kitchen

 

Coconut Blueberry Smash Pops- these look so yummy & easy!

Wowed by this bathroom makeover!

Chicken Pesto Kabobs -Just 4 ingredients- YUM!

Summer Listen List: Must listen audiobooks for everyone in the family this year.

7 larger-than-life wall art DIY ideas- on a little budget.

LOL! If 70’s moms had blogs. Seems about right.

Summer Rules via Thirty Handmade Days

Source: Thirty Handmade Days

 

Printable summer rules- yes!

Kitchen organization inspiration.

How to make a festive holder for your tacos!

Love these grocery store cake hacks!

Summer’s calling, and so is that chilled glass of rosé.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Molly Prentiss’s 3 Favorite Books

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Molly Prentiss

Author: Molly Prentiss  (Check out her debut novel, Tuesday Nights in 1980. Read more about Molly in our interview HERE!)

Molly Prentiss’s 3 Favorite Books

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion

This was the very first book I read that made me think: I want to be a writer. It taught me so much about what it means to have a voice as a writer, and that a voice could be so distinct. I have my mother’s copy of the book that she read when she was young and living in New York, and it has all of her notes in pencil in the margin. The cover is falling off and the pages are yellow. It is probably my most treasured possession.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

I read this book during grad school and it utterly changed my life and my writing. I couldn’t believe someone could pull it off: writing a novel in verse, about a small red monster, and making it not only pleasurable to read but so incredibly beautiful and moving. Carson’s use of language is pure genius, and it gave me the idea that everything that’s written should have poetry in it somewhere, that language should be rhythmic and considered, but there should be heart in the language; it should not be pretty for prettiness sake.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I read this book when I was in the thick of writing my novel, and studied it so diligently it was like taking a self-imposed fiction class. Egan’s use of form blew me away. It was another aha moment for me as a writer: that one could play and experiment on the page, and that the reader would trust it, and play along.

This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!

Sundays With Writers: Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I love finding a fresh voice in fiction and Molly Prentiss certainly brings a beautifully fresh perspective to the mix with her debut novel, Tuesday Nights in 1980. This is the story of a writer who was willing to give up many words to carve a better book and spent seven years crafting the voices she wanted for this story. Tuesday Nights in 1980 is unlike any other book I have read and gave me a lot of food for thought, making it an excellent book club selection if you are looking for something to discuss. I am so excited to share about Molly’s inspiring publishing story in our Sundays With Writers series today. How fun to talk about Tuesdays on Sundays…

 

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

Welcome to the art scene in SoHo in the 1980’s. Prentiss, much like an artist herself, vividly paints the art scene during this time and the story of two unlikely men whose lives become intertwined in surprising ways. The book follows James Bennett, an art critic whose writing is made more beautiful because he has Synthesia, and the rise and fall of that gift when it disappears. Raul Engales is an Argentinian painter running away from his past and the Dirty War who finds that he can use an art studio on a college campus just by pretending he is a student there. When tragedy strikes, Raul & James became friends as Raul’s paintings bring back the gift of synesthesia that James had when seeing his work. They both make tragic missteps along the way though and that is where the depth to the story is truly added.

It would be impossible to not learn something new and fans of art and the Manhattan scenes in the ‘80’s will definitely find plenty to love in this ambitious debut novel. Her descriptions are like paintings themselves, vivid and full of life! 

I included this book in our May Must-Reads

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Molly to talk about her unique debut novel!

Molly Prentiss

You chose to open your story with a focus on Argentine politics. I’m ashamed that I really knew very little about this time in history. What inspired you to make this a part of your book? Were there any real stories of people during this time that helped shape the story of Franca?

You shouldn’t be ashamed at all – so many Americans do not know anything about this brutal moment in Argentine history. It was mostly kept out of the media while it was happening and afterward, since the US was actually supporting the Argentine military government and training their soldiers, so we did not want to be caught in the blame for the mass kidnappings and killings. Obama actually JUST brought the issue to national attention this year, and apologized for the US involvement. It is astonishing to me that something so terrible could be happening on the continent below us and we would not know it was happening, which is part of the reason I chose to speak to it in my book.

Pasillo de la memoria UTN FRA (2015) 11

 

(Photographs of victims of the 1976-83 dictatorship-wikipedia)

 

I learned about the “Dirty War”, as they call it, in a class I took in graduate school called The Violent Task of Remembering. It was taught by an extremely inspirational and intelligent woman named Claudia Bernardi, who is from Argentina and has done countless projects informed by disappeared populations around the world. I had already started writing my book when I took her class, and as I continued to learn about the atrocities that were happening in Argentina during the same period I was writing about in New York, I realized I had to bring that story into the book. It ended up sort of bookending the story, as well as existing beneath the surface as a sort of dark weight through the book.

 One of the most intriguing elements of your book is that James, an art critic, has synesthesia. Did you know anyone personally that had this or interview anyone with it to shape his story? Did you find it challenging to write out the ways he would experience things like art and people in such a unique way or did this come naturally to you?

I have only met one person with synesthesia, also during graduate school. After class one day she came up to me and told me I was the color peach. I was confused at first, but when she began to tell me about her condition, I was completely intrigued. I absolutely had to write about it. And when I did it was so much fun. It was one of the things in the book that was not difficult at all for me, mostly because I adore writing metaphors, similes, and creating unexpected connections through language. I basically just used my own associations with certain colors or people or works of art and gave them to James. It gave me permission to sort of go wild with my words.

Art spills all over your book through the gallery experiences, Raul’s own paintings, and the art critiques that James writes. I understand that your life is filled with artists (siblings, father, and your fiancée just to name a few!) and you even do illustration. Did you find it easy to immerse yourself in writing about art because of this? Did you consider adding any art elements in your book for the reader?

Yes, I guess you could say that I am attracted to artists! I love being around them and witnessing in their processes and sharing their spaces. So I guess it was natural to want to populate my book with them and be around them for the seven years it took to write it.  I did at one point consider including an artwork at the beginning of each chapter, but then I decided against it. It felt a bit forced. I ended up attempting to create the visuals using words, hoping that the reader might come to his or her own vision of the art works as he/she read.

Seven years is a long time to devote to a book. What were your biggest hurdles with this book and what would you say to another writer that is discouraged that the process is taking longer than they expected?

There were so many hurdles. For me, the very difficult part about writing this book was giving the narrative a shape and a clear direction. There were so many drafts where the plot was all over the map. I had to create devices for myself to reign in my writing, which is why it all takes place in one year, and every section takes place on a Tuesday. But none of these things were set in stone for the first five or so years I was working on it, so a lot of pages and ideas and whole characters and plot points were scrapped. The key to overcoming those hurdles for me was to learn how to not consider the writing itself so precious. You have to be willing to throw things away and start over, in the service of making a better story in the end. You have to learn that rejection—whether it comes from yourself, your agent, or your readers—is part of the game. And you have to remember that the work is the fun part. You realize that especially once your book is a real thing, out there in the world. It’s amazing, but its not the reason you did all that work. You did the work because you loved the work.

Scout Press

I have had the unique opportunity to interview the first three authors published under Scout Press now that I am interviewing you today (editor’s note: check out my interview Ruth Ware & Bill Clegg). Do you think that signing under them helped in the promotion and success of your book?

Most definitely. The great thing about Scout is that they are a very new and very small imprint, so they can be dexterous and choosy. They only publish what they really want to publish, and when they do they put the whole weight of their team behind it. They did so much to make this book what it is today, and to get it out into the world in an exciting way. I am very grateful I signed on with them.

Molly Prentiss

I understand you are already working on your next book. Can you tell us a little bit about it and are you finding the process easier or harder after such great success with your first book.

Yes, I am at work on a second novel. In its current state, it takes place in a commune in northern California in the late 1970s. But now that I know how much a book can morph in its making I am hesitant to even say exactly what it’s about. It is both easier and harder to write a second book. Easier because you know what the process looks like, and you can avoid falling into certain holes that you fell into the first time. Harder because there are expectations: you don’t want to write the same book you wrote the first time, and yet you worry that that’s what the publishers and the public might expect.

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

You can connect with Molly Prentiss on her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

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Amy’s Notebook 06.08.16

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Spiralized-Carrots-and-Cucumber summer roll bowls via Skinnytaste

Source: Skip To My Lou

 

Ditch the rice paper with spiralized summer roll bowls.

A home that tells a story. #goals

A hack to pack more berries into muffins – um, yes!

Tips for a more productive workspace.

18 summers.

An education in chocolate.

fathers-day-coupon-book via Skip to My Lou

Source: Skip To My Lou

 

Fabulous printable Father’s Day’s coupons.

Loving this library kit. Gift one to your local librarians!

Swooning over these fresh ways to display photos at home.

Love these organizational ideas!

15 iPhone tricks Apple has been hiding from you.

Could you go a year without buying anything?

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

Ruth Ware’s 3 Favorite Books

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Ruth Ware

Author: Ruth Ware (Check out her novels: In a Dark, Dark Wood & The Woman in Cabin 10. Read more about Ruth in our interview HERE!)

Ruth Ware’s  3 Favorite Books

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I have to pick an Agatha Christie I think as she was a huge inspiration for The Woman in Cabin 10, so maybe And Then There Were None, which is one of her best, certainly one of her darkest.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith has to be one of the best crime novels ever- it’s just beautifully constructed and written, with characters so real you can practically  pluck them off the page, and the premise is one of those ideas that just inspires pure jealousy of the “why the hell didn’t I think of that?” type.

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford

And to finish up, something completely different, Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford is one of my desert island books. It’s just so indescribably funny, and moving, and matter-of-fact- and it captures a moment in history with effortless lightness of touch, and painful precision.

This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!