We are thrilled to welcome guest Deb Christina Meldrum, author of the crossover novel Madapple (Alfred A. Knopf), a literary mystery released in May 2008 intended for older teens and adults. Madapple has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews and was spotlighted by Kirkus in its special edition: “Fresh Fiction: 35 Promising Debuts.” Vanity Fair also featured Madapple in its June 2008 issue as one of its “Hot Type” selections. Christina lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. To learn more about Madapple or Christina, please visit http://www.christinameldrum.com.
What would it be like to be the emerging butterfly, easing oneself from the chrysalis, pumping life into one’s wings? Would the metamorphosis from creeping larva to flight be jarring, or would it feel like part of the natural course: another inch passed on the growth chart, undetectable but for the chart? In her beautiful book, An Obsession with Butterflies, Harman Apt Russell explores the diverse and surprising world of butterflies. I remember reading Russell’s book while researching my first novel Madapple (Alfred A. Knopf), a literary mystery released earlier this month. Russell begins her book about butterflies discussing string theory, of all things: the theory that the world is composed not of four dimensions, but of ten or eleven, most of which are outside our realm of perception. Russell says that adding butterflies to your life “is like adding another dimension.”
As Madapple took flight, passing from the creeping realm of writing and editing, breaking free of my and my publisher’s chrysalis, entering the hands—then minds—of my friends and family and beyond, I realized it, like the butterfly, had a life of its own. At readings and book signings and through emailed questions, I’ve learned that Madapple is no longer mine; at some level, perhaps, it never was mine. As a lover of literature, I’d known the power of books to transport and transform. I’d known adding books to one’s life is, as Russell says, “like adding another dimension.” But what I didn’t realize is that one’s own book also breaks free of the chrysalis, adding dimensions that were outside even the author’s realm of perception.
And so, as Madapple finds life, I also do, in a way. I’m beginning to understand what it may be like to be that emerging butterfly: it’s disorienting and scary and brilliant AND part of the natural course, undetectable, in the larger scheme of things, but for the chart—which, for me, is a measure of Madapple itself: my own novel has certainly grown an inch or two beyond what seemed before a fixed height; I’ll never read it the same way again.
Perhaps I understand now at a more visceral level what I suppose I’ve known in theory: those of us who write are in conversation. The books and poems and songs we produce are alive largely because of this conversation. Russell says this about butterflies: “Butterflies everywhere are on the move, moving toward heat, away from cold, moving toward food, away from scarcity, moving to find a mate, a nicer neighborhood, more opportunity.” And so it goes. Books everywhere are on the move, seeking new dimensions. And, because of this, we authors, too, get stripped of our chrysalises. It seems part of the natural course.
Are you interested in being one of the new Debs at The Debutante Ball? We want to hear from you. We are looking for female writers who have not yet had a book published, but will have one released between September 2010 and August 2011 by a commercial publisher. You need a firm release date to be considered (well, as firm as it ever gets in publishing!).
What makes a great Deb? We’re considering all types of writers – Children’s and adult fiction, nonfiction, memoir, etc. – and we are also looking to create a Deb class with a good mix of genres to bring you an audience you might not normally get. It will also interest our current readers to mix it up a little. We’re looking for people with great writing skills who will keep the Deb Ball blog alive and well. You don’t have to have blogged previously, but if you have, please let us know where we can find you online so we can check it out.
Please cut and paste the following questions into an email and send them along with your answers to email@example.com We’re accepting applications from June 1st, 2010 to June 30th, 2010. We will announce the new Deb Class of 2011 around the first week of August, and let those of you chosen know by July 31st.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
2. About your book.
3. Publisher and scheduled release date?
4. Why do you want to be a Deb? What do you bring to the dance? Please feel free to include details about other writings you may have published; experience you have with blogging or online writing communities; and other skills or experience you may have with PR/marketing, websites, working within a group, or anything else you feel may be relevant and/or helpful. (due to the fact that all five of us will be reading all of these, please try to limit this to around 300-400 words, thanks!).
5. How did you find out about The Debs?
6. Anything we forgot to ask?
The main responsibilities of a Deb include, but are not limited to:
- Blogging one day per week on an agreed upon topic.
- Providing your fellow Debs with your book in advance of your release week so they can read it (one copy can be passed around by mail).
- Maintaining the website (it’s all set up for you, so this is easier than it might sound, but there is regular maintenance to be done)
- Managing the Twitter account
- Hosting a guest Deb on Saturdays and putting up a News Flash on Sunday.
- Choosing your topics for the year
- Giving away a copy of your book to celebrate your launch week
- Choosing next year’s Debutante Ball class of 2012
Over Memorial Day weekend VH1 aired a marathon of I Love the (Insert Decade Du Jour). My husband and I happened to catch I Love the 70’s Volume II, and it was just what I needed to catch my breath after a whirlwind launch week.
So yes! We journeyed down memory lane with Trapper John M.D., Mr. Whipple, Frank Zappa, Kristy McNichol, and Billy Joel, to name just a few icons of the latter half of the decade. But the feature I love most on those shows involves foods, toys, fads, and consumer goods from the decade, including:
Sit ‘n’ Spin
McDonald’s happy meals
Easy Bake Oven
The mood ring
I owned several of the toys and games mentioned above, and there’s just something about most of them that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. (Despite the fact that many were probably later recalled for safety hazards.) I also remember the urban legend about how Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials died from eating Pop Rocks mixed with soda. (He didn’t, actually.) I distinctly remember watching and absolutely adoring The Muppet Movie, even building a shoebox diorama featuring Kermit the Frog floating in his swamp home. I also remember watching Land of the Lost, The Bad News Bears, The Hardy Boys Mysteries, Herbie the Love Bug, and Fantasy Island.
My mom was very into macramé décor and houseplants, which covered nearly every square inch of wall and surface space in the house. We moved quite a bit back then, but I do remember that most of our kitchens were either olive green or eye-searing orange and yellow. We had a Ford Pinto, my mom wore Charlie cologne, and we had many a family dinner featuring strange creamy noodle casseroles and sweet or savory molds featuring bits of foods that should never be suspended in gelatin, not even on a dare.
What do you remember from the seventies? (Or eighties, if you’re a member of Gen Y—oh, I’ll have to give THAT decade its very own post another time!)
Look out! I’m off topic and on the road.
Specifically, I’m on my way to New Jersey to visit family and next week I’m heading into NYC to do a podcast at Penguin, have lunch with my publicist and scout locations for my NY launch party.
But I’m really off topic because, as my fellow debs know, I’m little stressed out and overwhelmed this week, which means it’s hard to focus. Thankfully sharing these ups and downs is part of our mandate here. And I must thank my fellow debs who all came to the rescue via email yesterday just as I was approaching meltdown status over my massive To Do list. Between the five of them and The Oppressor, I managed to avoid a full Hagen Dazs, wearing-sunglasses-while-crying-in-the-grocery-store episode. Phew.
Now, can I enlist some of you to cheer me on? One of the biggest things I’m stressed out about is finishing my new book. I had no idea when Falling Under sold how crazy the months leading up to release would be. I thought I had lots of time to write the next book. But it’s been a wild year with so much to learn about the publishing industry and so freaking much to do to try to ensure that my “baby” gets a good start in the world that the new book keeps getting pushed to the back burner.
And I want it done. I want it done so I can (hopefully) get it sold and have a good follow-up book in a timely manner. I want it done so I can get to writing the next one. I want it done because any book, until it’s finished, is the proverbial monkey on one’s back. And most of all, I want it done so I’m not worrying about it when Falling Under is released, two months from now.
Technically there are enough hours in the day for me to get my first draft out in the next few weeks, but it’s going to take enormous discipline and it will be a serious balancing act.
So, I’d love some good creative vibes, kicks in the butt, etc. I’d also love to hear your stories about finishing something difficult, balancing conflicting demands on your time and where you find your energy and inspiration.
What are you desperate to accomplish and how do you do it?
I am sitting in a hotel room in San Francisco, getting ready to leave for Book Expo in Los Angeles tomorrow.
Book Expo is one of my favorite things to do each May, and I go every year whether I have a book coming out or not. I’m so excited I can hardly sleep.
I realize that this makes me a geek. A book geek.
But Book Expo is nirvana for people who love to read: I drag home suitcases of free books (advance copies! hardcovers, people!) , meet authors whose work I love and admire, dance to the musical stylings of the ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS.
Last year I met Amy Tan at a tiny cocktail party in a rock-n-roll art gallery, a place far too cool for the likes of me.
I also met Tim Russert (love him!), Deepak Chopra, Jodi Picoult, Delia Ephron (one of my favorite writers, an icon, the first person who said the words that will forever be magic — “Fifteen Minutes of Shame sounds like a movie”) and my wonderful film agent Brendan Deneen.
Every year, I’ve met someone who has changed my life — maybe through the experience of reading their work, maybe through a new opportunity, maybe a new friend.
This year is looking pretty darned promising already: I’m meeting the screenwriter who will adapt Fifteen Minutes of Shame for film, some of my favorite writers will be attending, and Partida is throwing me a party.
What more could a girl ask for?
If you happen to be in LA this week, please stop on by, drink a margarita (or two) and say hi.
I promise it will be memorable.
(Well, depending on how many margaritas you have.)
Thursday, 5/29, 7-9 pm
Los Angeles Launch Party
515 West 7th Street
LA, CA 90014
(Margaritas & appetizers sponsored by Partida)
My firstborn will graduate from high school this week. Despite the instinctual inclination to reflect back on the past 18 years and do what another senior mom I know has done—latching on to every last thing he’s done as a senior as that final time he’d do this or that—I’ve managed to avoid getting maudlin and misty-eyed and mourn what was, rather than cheer what is and what is to be.
I’ve been determined not to look back, only look forward. But then I started reading a book about a new mom and her experiences in those happy, dark, early days of motherhood and in a flash flood of memories, my son’s blink-of-an-eye 18 years has spiraled through my mind and it’s all I can do to not allow those betraying tears to make an unsolicited appearance. I won’t cry, I just won’t.
But then I think back to that day he was born. Determined to not come out, weeks after his due date, he was forced out through a long and arduous labor, his head distorted out of proportion from the effort. And after too many hours of grueling physical exhaustion I found myself the proud owner of a spanking new cone-headed little boy, with whom I had absolutely no idea what to do but also with whom I knew instantly I was smitten.
I would be lying to you if I said I remember those early days with unbridled fondness. Pretty much nothing about them comes to mind as highlights. Well, except his entire existence, his impossibly tiny digits, his delicate baby’s breath, his wide-eyed gaze of wonderment (when he wasn’t crying). Overall he was a very agreeable baby, except for the fact that he was vehemently opposed to sleep. Despite his hefty over-nine pound size, it was nearing a year until he finally slept more than a few unbroken hours in a row. Thus that sleep-deprivation—the very thing that’s used as a device of torture—did take away my ability to focus on that early time as anything but stunningly fatiguing, overwhelmingly overwhelming, and as best I can recall, I think I felt like a five-year old tasked with running a nuclear power plant, such was my lack of experience in the matter. Hell, I’d never even babysat a child before, let alone had the onerous task of being responsible for one’s entire existence thrust upon me as it was.
Little by little I got the hang of this parenting gig, and days lapsed into weeks that lapsed into months that somehow, when I wasn’t looking, or perhaps when I was wishing them away during a particularly trying time in life, my kids grew up on me.
Way back when my son was a baby, I felt ill-equipped to handle the whole parenting job. I was without a doubt thrown for a loop—nobody quite told me how taxing it could be. Or how emotional, or how gut-wrenching, or how enchanting, heart-swelling, pride-inducing. Truly, I was under the delusional impression that babies were born, they were bad when they were two, and that was that. Somehow in the whole notion of “having a baby” the reality of it was lost in the shuffle.
But just as nobody advised me about how bone-crushingly hard parenting could be at times, nobody told me what a great joy it would be to watch as your children make their way in the world, and develop personalities and skills and talents and all of these other ingredients that when thrown together miraculously make up these amazing souls, these people who, if they weren’t your own kids, you’d want to know them, you’d choose to spend time in their company, you’d burst with admiration for just about everything they represent.
Dammit, I swore I was not going to get maudlin, or weepy, or stupid girly sad over this. But I guess that’s about as impossible a mandate as letting a Labrador retriever loose in a dog food factory and telling them they can’t eat it.
Yeah, if I let myself feel mournful for the loss of what was, I will be terribly sad, missing the many milestones we’ve enjoyed along the way. But I’d rather focus on what will be, with a beautiful future and child in many ways equipped to handle the hurdles he will have to mount along the way. One whose presence, in a few short months when he leaves for college, will be missed even more than were he a physical part of me. I’m really not going to cry.
Remember the first time a book had the power to take you away? Maybe things at home weren’t that great and at least for a few hours you got to pretend you were someone else, somewhere far away. Or maybe it was a dull summer and there wasn’t a thing to do, so you started reading, telling your parents “I might as well read about someone who has a life since I don’t.” Maybe there was a time you were sick and a good book took your mind off how you felt, or helped you forget a lousy day at the office, or let you ignore a long boring flight.
Books have a magical power that way. Sometimes there is nothing worse than not having something good to read.
No matter what your politics are (and those of you that know me know what a pinko liberal I am), or where you call home, today is a great day to remember the men and women who serve in our armed forces. Their sacrifices let us spend our time worrying about silly things like if we remembered to pick up milk or how we’ll deal with the mountain of paper on our desks. I have a huge respect for those who stand to be counted when duty calls.
Now there is a way to bring the magic of books to our serving military. Please check out This Group Here is a bit about them:
Books for Soldiers is a site where active serving military can list books they would like to read and the site matches them up with volunteers who mail out the books. If you don’t want to be directly involved they can always use donations to cover their costs for shipping etc. If there was ever a group of people who deserved a chance to lose themselves in a good story this would be it.
Happy Memorial Day