Deb Linda and the Angst of the Unoppressed Reader

Like a lot of you, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a household that didn’t censor my reading. Book banning was an alien concept to me. While I admit this was mostly a good thing (being the only girl on the block with easy access to Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask did make my house a popular hangout for my more sheltered friends), but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.

Face it, it’s hard to enjoy a good, naughty thrill when what you’re doing isn’t considered all that naughty by your parental units.

While most of my buddies were well acquainted with the deliciously guilty pleasure of reading books under their covers, or in their closets, by the warm glow of a flashlight, I could read whatever caught my interest right out in the open. Without the necessity of covers, closets, and flashlights, the Guilty Pleasure Factor was sorely lacking. And without the GPF, reading could at times get to be rather…well, humdrum. Tame. Downright yawn-worthy.

Now, where, I ask you, is the teenage fun in that? Frankly, I was a little envious of my friends’ forbidden fruit.

So, being an excellent fantasizer, I sometimes pretended I wasn’t permitted to read whatever I wanted. That I was an intellectually oppressed reader, downtrodden like my poor friends, because that allowed for so much more angstiness than the reality of living in my rather progressive home. When you’re a young teen, angsty is way more fun than not-angsty. It’s a good outlet for all those raging hormones.

I’d smuggle books into the house, and hide them between my mattress and boxspring (yeah – so original), only digging them out in the still of night to peer at them with furtive eyes. (An early indication of my penchant for acting? *cough* Maybe.) Let me tell you, nothing spices up a Mary Stewart or Victoria Holt novel like pretending you’ll be grounded for life if you’re caught reading it.

I know, I know. There’s nothing remotely objectionable about Stewart or Holt. But all the truly risque stuff I’d gotten hold of by then was so clinical it was boring. At least Mary and Victoria knew how to weave a great Gothic romance, with just enough suggestion to set my fevered imagination ablaze. I told you – I was fantasizing. Work with me here.

Holt’s The Legend of the Seventh Virgin was a particular favorite. Sure, it’s mild by today’s standards, but, oh, that title! It was just made for sneak-reading.

I have to admit, it kind of warms my heart to think that someday someone might be sneak-reading In a Fix. Or at least pretending to.

Tell me, did you have to resort to sneak-reading as a kid, pretend or otherwise? If so, what were some of your favorite sneaky reads?


Deb Rachel’s Library Lesson

2012 Debutante Rachel BertscheI have a little brother. He’s 10.

We’re not related by blood, of course. But according to Big Brothers, Big Sisters, we’re family.

On Tuesday night, my husband and I took our little guy to the library. Usually we go to the basketball court or the museum or the movies, but this was a school night so the public library seemed the appropriate option. En route, I decided to teach him about Banned Books Week.

“Did you know that there are some people who want to ban books? That means that they don’t allow kids to read certain stories. They don’t even keep the book in the library, because they don’t want you to learn what’s in them,” I explained.

“I want to ban books.”

I don’t think he totally understood.

“No, it’s not just not wanting to read. It’s not even making it allowed at school to read that book. So you couldn’t even choose if you wanted to read it or not. You couldn’t even make your own decision!”

This did not make him happy.

“There are some really great books that teach important lessons that were banned because some people thought they were inappropriate for kids,” I told him.

That word—inappropriate—really set him off.

“But what if someone wants to be a doctor?” my bro said, getting all worked up. “If they don’t let him read books about bodies then he won’t learn what he needs! And what if someone wanted to be in the military? He needs to learn about the Army!”

I wanted to hug him. I would have, if it were allowed. It’s not.

It was a glorious moment of wisdom from my little man. One that I couldn’t have articulated any better.

And wow, if kids were taught about–gasp!–the human body? Or war? Well that would clearly be the worst.

I told our bro that he was exactly right. Those kids who want to be doctors and soldiers need those books. And then we read Dr. Seuss, another banned author (remember The Lorax? Its scandalous message of environmentalism got it ripped right from the shelves), and called it a night.

{If, on this lovely Thursday morning, you’re in the mood to celebrate one of the world’s greatest banned authors, I direct you to this awesome audio of Neil Patrick Harris, Joan Cusack, and other celebrities reading from the good Doctor’s latest book, The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, released yesterday.

Or you can watch this video on how the book came to be. It’s pretty fascinating.}


An Open Letter to Book Banners, From Deb Molly

2012 Debutante Molly BackesDear Book Banners,

First of all, let me thank you for all the hard work you do. Without you, we wouldn’t be celebrating Banned Books Week in the first place! Just plain “Books Week” is much less exciting. By trying to get books banned from schools and libraries, you confer a degree of sexiness and danger on us that we might not otherwise have. Wait, do I sound sarcastic? I’m trying not to be sarcastic, Book Banners. I sincerely believe that you are trying to do the right thing, in your own mind, and I admire that. I’m not saying I want to hang out with you, but I get where you’re coming from. You want to protect kids and make the world better for them. So do I, and though I disagree about your methods, I think there’s a good number of issues we can agree on.

For one thing, we both agree that books are powerful! Every time you get up in front of a school board or town council and petition them to take a book off the shelves, you’re reminding us of the power and importance of books. You inspire us to start a dialogue about what books are and what books should be, and whether they should describe the world as it is or the world as it could be, and who should be allowed to read or restrict which books. These are interesting, often enlightening, conversations that frequently motivate people to go read the very books you’re trying to ban. Which is great! Anything you can do to get people talking about and reading books helps us all.

For another thing, we both agree that parents should know what their kids are reading. But while you seem to think parents should know so they can know when to take a book away from their kids, lest any dangerous ideas seep into a child’s brain, I think parents should know what their kids are reading so they can know when to swoop in and ask, “Do you have any questions? What did you think about the scene where the protagonist did that shocking thing? Have you ever heard of anyone doing that in real life?” Books can be great springboards for discussions, especially about issues that might be too hard or scary or weird to talk about in real life – a veil of fiction can give children that extra layer of safety to ask big questions. I used to teach 7th and 8th grade English, and we would have discussions like that a lot. Kids asked me questions like “Why did Hitler hate the Jews so much?” and “Why did the jury think Tom Robinson was guilty when Atticus proved he couldn’t have committed the crime?” and “What is rape?” and “Why would a society choose to stop feeling love and pain?” Are those scary questions for children to ask? Sure. Are they important questions for children to be asking? Absolutely.

We do seem to disagree, Book Banners, on children’s intelligence, wit, and strength of character. You seem to think that one stray reference to witchcraft or masturbation will shatter a child’s world forever. I think children are stronger and smarter than that. I think that kids can read about all kinds of things without immediately running out and doing those things – for instance, I read Native Son when I was fifteen, and to this day I have never beheaded a white girl and stuffed her body in a furnace. I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was fourteen and I’ve never had an awkward encounter with a prostitute. I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was eleven and have not yet managed to become a time-traveling witch (though maybe one day…).

Though we don’t always agree, Book Banners, I do admire your passion and tenacity, particularly in the era of online bookstores. Trying to restrict or ban a book is mostly a symbolic gesture in our culture, one that doesn’t honestly do much for your cause but which does a lot for ours. You remind us to love and honor books and of their significance in our lives, past and present. You remind us of the strength and beauty of the Bill of Rights, particularly the First Amendment, and you remind us how lucky we are to live in a society that treasures such a right. And by your vehemence – even by your professed disgust and hatred! – you remind us, in the words of Elie Wiesel, that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. I thank you for not being indifferent.

Love, Molly



Deb Erika’s Gotta Cut Loose

Erika MarksI have a confession: I had no idea there was such a concept as book banning (or burning for that matter) until I saw the movie Footloose in 1984. True story.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, in an early scene one of the residents of the small town interrupts a social gathering to report his concern that the library is offering the book (if memory serves) Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, at which point the new kid in town, foxy Ren, announces that he’s read it, and, yeah, it’s a great book.


Now it isn’t that I was dim, or that I wasn’t paying attention, but I really didn’t know it was possible—or why anyone would want—to ban a book.

Oh, but it got so much worse! I then learned there was a list. And there were lots of books on this list, including one that I’d already read—To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee—and another that was on my current English class’s reading list even—A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

So wait, let me understand this: these books were actually removed from the shelves of certain schools and libraries?

How could that be?

Was I missing something?

The point is, I wasn’t. In fact, up until then, I had no idea how lucky I was to grow up in a house, a school, a world where I never had to miss a thing, thanks to the availability of books and my own freedom of choice to decide which ones I did and didn’t wish to read.

Banning books? That’s almost as crazy as banning, I don’t know, dancing.

So Ren: Thanks, buddy. This one’s for you.

Tell me, friends–do you remember where you were when you learned about banned books?


Deb Joanne discusses Banned Books Week

It’s banned books week.  Most of you know what that means (if you don’t, check out the link) and I can’t really add to what other smart writers, librarians, and book lovers have already said about the crappiness that is censorship (and I certainly can’t say it any better than Judy Blume), so I’m going to talk about one of the most banned and challenged books out there, written by the amazing Judy herself:


Who didn’t love this book? The real and honest coming of age story of a girl as she navigates her way through puberty, including menstroooation, boys, changing bodies and her questions about God and faith. I loved this book so much as a kid that I remember reading it and re-reading it until it was tattered and dog-eared.  I understood everything that Margaret was going through because so much of it was the same as what I was going through.  There was nothing shocking to me about this book when I read it, I just thought it was a great book about a regular girl, a girl just like me.

So color me surprised when I saw that it’s on lists of most-banned books.  Some people apparently think it’s inappropriate for kids to read about STUFF THAT HAPPENS TO KIDS and STUFF THAT KIDS THINK ABOUT. Huh? Maybe I was sheltered from this book-banning business (ironic, no?) because as a kid, I was given books to read, and then, when I was older, I was taken into the bookstore and allowed to pick my own books.  My mom, an avid reader herself, would be off on the other side of the store getting books by Danielle Steel, Norah Roberts and Jackie Collins, and I would be picking out my own books that I thought looked interesting.  It was never an issue in our home.  I somehow managed to pick books that were appropriate for me and no matter what I read, I was never scarred or harmed psychologically** and in the end, turned out to be a reasonably normal human who works and contributes to society, in what I hope is a positive way.

When I started writing books for a middle grade audience, I turned to MARGARET and read the book critically as an adult as research. And you know what? The book still holds up years, no decades later and I know that what makes it special and so relevant is its honesty. 

I think it’s this honesty about the human condition that makes some people freak out and want to ban books. Or maybe it’s the fear that if people read about stuff, they’ll want to do it, you know, like how so many people read about Hannibal Lecter and want to go out and kill and eat people with a nice chianti. Either way, I think it’s a bad idea to run from honesty.  Even if it’s not our own honesty, we can still learn from other people’s lives, even if they’re fictional, can’t we? Isn’t that what makes us able to sympathize with people different than us? Isn’t that what makes us human?

I know everyone reading this post is a book-lover, so please, this week more than ever, make sure you go out and read a book, ANY book you like, and be conscious and thankful that you have the freedom to do so.

And I`d love to hear about YOUR favorite banned or challenged book.  Please share!


**Later, as a young adult, I was scarred and harmed psychologically by Stephen King’s Misery, but that’s a different story.


News Flash: September 25, 2011

Congrats to Laura Kay, winner of a copy of Kathleen Grissom’s The Kitchen House!

From the 2012 Debs…

Deb Joanne is heading off to New York City next week to meet with her editor (with her new luggage – pictured here).  She is not at all sure why she is so excited about her luggage, but she is.   Please read on, Erika’s news is really much more exciting than talk about luggage.

Deb Erika was thrilled to read that Little Gale Gumbo got a starred review in Library Journal this week!

Past Deb News

Deb Sarah has teamed up with Matthew Norman, author Domestic Violets, for the Ultra-Violet Co-Ed Reading Challenge! Prize is dinner for two at your local Cheesecake Factory, so head on over and enter to win!

Friends of the Debs

Deb Guest Allie Larkin , author of Stay, announced the great news that her next novel has been bought by Plume! Get all the details here!

Deb Dish — If your book was a mixed drink, what would it be called and what would be in it? (Thanks to Deb Molly for this one!)

Deb Joanne Uh, my book is for tweens, so it would have to be something virgin. Probably just a pop (er…soda) but something a little different than the norm because my Lilah is a real character.  So probably Dr. Pepper.  Yeah, my book`s a Pepper!

Deb Erika My husband and I are homebrewers so we thought it would be great fun to create a Little Gale Ale using two flavors that would represent the two locales of Little Gale Gumbo. We settled on chicory (New Orleans) and maple syrup (Maine). Stay tuned to find out if this batch is a keeper!

Deb Molly There is a LOT of drinking in The Princesses of Iowa, which of course in NO way represents my own teen years. Nope, not at all. And of course, these are Iowan teens, so obviously we’ll have to go with Hawkeye Vodka, probably mixed with something sweet to mask the grossness of the vodka itself. Like Sprite — or Sprite Zero, because a princess never wastes calories. Hawkeye Vodka & Sprite Zero: who’s in?

Deb LindaIn a Fix is totally an “umbrella drink.” You know the kind I mean — something fruity and fun, and served in a coconut, by a cabana boy, while you sit on the beach overlooking the ocean. Beware when you sip it — it’s stronger than it tastes, and may give you *cough* ideas. Might even make you think you’re somebody you’re not. So I guess it would be called an “Imposter.” (Deb Joanne is fanning herself)

Deb Rachel The BFF of course! My drink of choice while friend-dating was white wine, but I think The BFF would have to be something bubbly. Champagne with a dash of… spice? Bubbly with a spicy streak. Sounds gross, but like the perfect best friend.



The Debutante Ball welcomes Lisa Schroeder (Giveaway!)

Author Lisa SchroederLisa Schroeder is a native Oregonian and has fond memories of visiting the Salem Public Library and borrowing many, many books when she was a child. She’s the author of four young adult novels including Chasing Brooklyn, a 2011 Texas Tayshas selection and 2011 RWA Rita finalist, and her most recent release, The Day Before (both with Simon Pulse). She’s also published two middle grade novels, It’s Raining Cupcakes and Sprinkles and Secrets (both with Aladdin).   Sprinkles and Secrets, released September 20th, is the companion novel to It’s Raining Cupcakes and picks up where the first one left off, though this time the story is told from Sophie’s point of view, Isabel’s best friend. Sophie has a tough choice to make: follow her dreams or crush her best friend. Like the first book, recipes are included!

Thanks for joining us today to talk to us about anticipation, Lisa – we’ve been waiting for this post all week!


I wonder if there is any career that has as much anticipation as an author. Let’s see, an obstetrician, perhaps?

I recently heard of a study that was done on vacations and anticipation, which you can read about here – http://healthland.time.com/2010/02/19/is-it-really-always-better-on-holiday/

The study found that “people were happiest in the lead-up to the vacation.”

And so it is for authors, I think. The time leading up to the release of a book is an exciting time. We have the cover to look forward to. We can’t wait to get the Advanced Review Copies, when we’ll see our words in actual book form! We wonder and dream about what others are going to think after they read the story we’ve put our hearts and souls into. Most of us hope for good things. I think it’s safe to say, generally, we anticipate good things.

For an obstetrician, I’m guessing 98% of the time, the good things he/she imagines and hopes for with each expectant mother actually come true. A healthy baby is born. The parents are ecstatic.

I wonder what percentage it would be for writers? I don’t think it would be nearly so high.

Disappointment is around every turn for authors. The cover sucks. Or Kirkus hates the book. Or the big chain skips it. I could go on and on, but I won’t, since this blog is hosted by a whole bunch of debut authors filled with wonderful anticipation right now.

So, here is what I want to say (paraphrasing Sara Zarr). A book is a miraculous, wonderful thing. But it’s also just a book.

Try to remember that, in the days and months ahead, as the anticipation fades and reality sets in.cover photo - Sprinkles and Secrets

Whatever happens, be happy with what you’ve accomplished. Be thankful for what has happened thus far. You’ve published a book! When the hard days come, and most likely, they will come, remember somewhere, someone is holding your book and he/she is happy that YOU wrote it. And there are more important things in life – it is, after all, just a book.

Most of all, remember that so many things in this business are out of your control. So focus on what IS in your control. The writing. Find joy in the writing. You may not look forward to those hours of writing every day the way you look forward to announcing the deal, but I hope you realize what an amazing thing it is that we do. We create a story where once it was only a blank page. That is so cool, isn’t it?

And with that, I better get back to work, so someday I might have another book’s release to look forward to!


Thanks again for being with us today, Lisa!  For all of you who haven’t yet left to go get a cupcake from your local bakery, you can find Lisa on the web:

Web site and blog: www.lisaschroederbooks.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/lisa_schroeder

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lisaschroederbooks

Lisa has sprinkled some awesomeness on us here at the Deb Ball and will be giving away a copy of her book to a lucky commenter (US only, please).  


Deb Linda Says Enough Foreplay — Cut to the Chase Already!

Here’s a snippet of a conversation I had with TG (hubs) in the car prior to writing this post.

Me: I have to blog about anticipation at The Debutante Ball this week.

TG: *snickers*

Me: *ignores snickering* So, how would you say I handle anticipation?

TG: You’re kidding, right? Ha-ha-ha-ha!

Me: *sighs*

Um, yeah. Anticipation is a double-edged sword. And both edges slice right through me.

Okay, okay…maybe that’s a little harsh. I’m sure, given enough time, I could think of something good about anticipation. Something that doesn’t smack of worry and dread and unbearable anxiety about possible outcomes. Just give me a second…

*think, think, think…crickets…think, think, think*

Uh…sorry. I got nothin’.

Look, I truly wish I could appreciate anticipation. That I could learn to love the adrenaline. The heightened sense of excitement. The teasing caress of butterflies in the stomach before a major event.

But I don’t get butterflies. I get raptors. Hawks and eagles and vultures. Any pleasant tickling from the feathers is wiped out by sharp beaks and slashing claws. By the time In A Fix is released next summer I may be all smiles on the outside, but on the inside? Yeah, you and I will know what’s really going on:

Sadly, it’s not just about the big things, either. I’ve been known to eat dessert before dinner because I can’t give the lasagna (no matter how luscious it is) the attention it deserves if my mind is being invaded by visions of the delectable confection to come. Naturally, this can get awkward if we’re dining at someone else’s house. I try to circumvent the situation by offering to bring dessert, and making sure it’s something mediocre, so I won’t be tempted. (Which isn’t tough to do if I make it myself. The kitchen is not my friend.)

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Admit it — you’re imagining how thrilled TG must have been when he came to pick me up for our first date and I said, “Can we just go to bed right now, so I can calm down and enjoy the movie?” Heh-heh. He wishes. You’ll have to imagine it, because it didn’t happen that way. Sorry, but there are limits to my impatience.

But here’s the real biggie. The confession that may get me blasted out of cyberspace by authors and readers alike:

*clears throat, begins bravely* I sometimes — okay, often — *lowers voice* read the end of a book first.

I KNOW! Sacrilege, huh? Sorry, but I can’t help myself. Honestly, though, spoilers don’t ruin a book for me. Knowing how a book ends allows me to relax and be thoroughly entertained by the reading journey, unencumbered by the crushing anxiety about what the heck is going to happen!

Seriously. It’s not that I’m a big, whiny, impatient baby. It’s that knowing the end improves my focus.

Plus, if I don’t happen to like the ending, I don’t have to read the whole book. I mean, there isn’t enough time in the day to read everything I want to read anyway, so why waste it reading something that will ultimately disappoint me?

Dare I ask how you feel about this controversial topic? Do you sometime sneak a peek? Or do you rein in your curiosity and enjoy the torture of waiting anticipation?

*dons helmet and prepares for fallout*

P.S. Don’t forget to hover your cursor over the pics for added (somewhat lame) commentary.


Deb Rachel Loves Anticipation. Except When She Hates It.

I have a love-hate relationship with anticipation. I love it in theory. I hate it in practice.

When I was a kid, I wanted so much to be surprised by my Christmas and Hanukkah presents (we celebrated both). But every year, when my parents weren’t home, I’d sneak down to the basement, open the door to the weird little closet next to our second refrigerator, and unwrap and rewrap each gift to see what was coming. I couldn’t contain myself! The excitement was too much!

MWF Seeking BFF, by Rachel BertscheThat’s how I feel about this here book. With three and a half months until lift off, the pre-pub activity is just getting started. It’s a low—almost undecipherable—hum in my life right now. My hope is that by January it will be at full volume, taking over my life.

That’s right. I have no idea what to expect but my dream is a life in which I don’t even have time to sleep because book publicity is around the clock. You been-there-done-that authors might be shaking your head, thinking I should be careful what I wish for, but since I still pretty much have no idea what a book launch entails, it all sounds totally fahbulous to me. And though I know it will never ever be as glamorous as I imagined as a kid, or as busy as I am clearing my schedule for, it’s still fun to daydream. Except when it makes me crazy.

Basically, the waiting, the wondering, is killing me.

My grandfather used to say not to wish your life away. I get it. Living in the now and all that zen stuff. And I know I shouldn’t watch the days on the calendar, anticipating January 10 and wishing it would just get here already, but that’s easier said than done.

It reminds me of when I was a kid and obsessed with summer camp. During the year, I would count down the days until the first day of camp. And as soon as I got there, my best friend and I would start counting the days we had left, sad we had to leave before the summer had even gotten started.

Now that I see those words on the screen, it’s really quite crazy and melodramatic, isn’t it?

But yeah. These days, the majority of my energy is spent anticipating January. And that’s a 98% exciting feeling. Book parties! (Most likely thrown by mom, but still!) Readings! Seeing my labor of love on the shelves! Yup, 98% exciting and only 2% torturous.

Maybe 90-10.


Like I said, it’s love-hate.

Basically, the whole thing is going to make me pee my pants with excitement. Or dread. Funny how they both make you pee.


Deb Molly Ponders the Limitless Potential of a New Sweater

2012 Debutante Molly BackesSchool shopping was kind of a big deal in my family. A few weeks before school started, my mother would take us shopping for new clothes — new jeans, new shoes, new sweaters that we wouldn’t be able to wear until the weather actually turned cold in another month or two. And we didn’t just go to the boring old mall in Madison; no, we’d go to a fancy mall like the Mall of America in Minneapolis or Woodfield Mall in Chicago, and after shopping all day we’d go to a hotel and swim in the pool and eat at TGI Friday’s.

But while the new clothes were nice, what really mattered was the potential they represented. Every year, you’d have the chance to reinvent yourself. Maybe this would be the year when you finally figured out how to deal with your weird hair, and your new jeans would fit exactly as current trends dictated, and you’d finally look just like the girls in Seventeen magazine, all fresh-faced and hopeful. Or maybe you’d become the outdoorsy girl next door and go hiking all the time with your dog and meet some cute rugged boy who always carried his tattered copy of On the Road because he was, like, so deep.

And maybe a few weeks into the school year you’d admit that, okay, you were never going to pull off the just-rolled-out-of-bed-effortlessly-sexy-bad-girl look, but maybe you’d cultivate your own unique look, and maybe that cute boy who always looked sleepy in Spanish class would finally notice you and appreciate your unique thing, because anything could happen! This could be the day when things take a turn for the amazing! Your life could turn on a dime!

This is why I write about (and for!) teenagers.

There’s something so great about all that newness and potential — and yes, anticipation – that makes for great stories. Your first job. Your first kiss. Your first true love. Your first broken heart. All the waiting and longing and questioning and dreaming, and never knowing — never even being able to guess — what might come next.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy to be out of high school. But as an adult, I don’t have too many days when I wake up thinking, “Maybe this will be the day when everything changes!” (More like “maybe this will be the day when I finally manage to call the insurance people to sort out that bill” or “maybe this will be the day when I find the time to re-organize my closet.”) I don’t spend a ton of time wondering about my future, because at some point I stopped daydreaming and started planning. And when I buy new sweaters, I’m pretty comfortable with the fact that the girl who wears them will just be me, in a new sweater.

But every now and again, there’s a crispness in the air that whispers of falling leaves and autumn bonfires, and I find myself thinking maybe this is the day when everything turns amazing.

And then I think I should write a story about that.


What do you remember about high school? A handful of great moments with your best friends, an influential teacher, a crazy party that got out of hand? The best (or worst) first-day-of-school outfit ever? Was there a day when everything changed?

(ps. Because I’m sure you were wondering…. This post was written to a playlist called “Angsty High School” – lots of Tori Amos, Smashing Pumpkins, the Cranberries, Ani Difranco, Dar Williams, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Cure, with a sprinkling of Fiona Apple, Belly, Hum, and the Doors. Viva la 90s!)