A Tribute to the 2017 Debs: My Highlight Reel

With gratitude, sadness, excitement, and pride, I say good-bye to The Debutante Ball. I have so much respect for the incoming 2018 Debs, Cass, Kimmery, Kaitlyn, Lara, and Julie, so it feels wonderful to hand the Deb Ball over to these accomplished, smart women writers. I wish them all the very best. And I send my thanks once again to the 2016 Debs for allowing me the honor of participating in this great tradition. The publication of SMALL ADMISSIONS has been a thrilling experience, and I can’t quite imagine what it would have been like to go through this year without The Debutante Ball.

To my fellow 2017 Debs: Thank you! It has been a pleasure working with you, blogging with you, and becoming friends through this exciting year. One of the most gratifying parts of being a Deb is getting to know writers through their writing. I have read every blog post the Debs wrote this year, and through their stories, opinions, humor, and frustrations, I’ve truly gotten to know them well. What a privilege!

As my tribute to the 2017 Deb Ball, here are my favorite posts written by these wonderful women.

Crystal King

Crystal King’s book FEAST OF SORROW is all about food, so, unsurprisingly, I most enjoyed Crystal’s posts about cooking and history. One can learn a lot from Crystal as she is a serious researcher who loves to share her knowledge. One week we all tried recipes from Crystal’s companion cookbook, and I especially enjoyed Crystal’s post that week, the one in which she wrote:

“Making the recipes … forced me to explore the history behind the food I was writing about. For example, I learned how silphium/laser became extinct and in my novel its scarcity is an important part of several scenes. I found that lemons weren’t available until the 3rd century. The cucumbers in the recipes were not at all like the ones we eat now, but were harder and more gourdlike which is why they were always cooked.”

Who knew any of that?! Not me.

Another blog Crystal posted that I especially loved and learned from was on gender bias in the world of writing. I highly recommend it!!

Lynn Hall

Lovely Lynn Hall is passionate about the time she spends outdoors in her beloved Colorado. So it’s no surprise that the posts of hers I liked the most were the ones in which she shared details about her favorite hikes and runs in the mountains. As someone who is, unfortunately, becoming a bit of a couch potato, I have lived vicariously through all of Lynn’s adventures this year. Warning: One of these days, I’m going to show up in Leadville and get her to take me out… as in outside and up a (modest, please) mountain. I will do my best to keep up with her, and knowing, Lynn, she’ll slow waaaayy down just for me. Thanks for that in advance, Lynn!

Her post on how she spends her summer was a favorite. I live in New York City (and I’m what Lynn calls a “flatlander”), so I appreciated the many pictures she included as well as the sentiment she expressed at the outset:

“I wait all fall, winter, and spring for summer. I watch the snow melt on the peaks just west of my house, waiting for the days when I can go on high-country trail runs or climbs without bringing snow shoes and avalanche beacons.”

As someone who hasn’t been to Colorado in years, I loved her post on what she loves best about her state. No surprise: the great outdoors is featured heavily!

Jenni Walsh

Jenni is smack in the middle of mommying two toddlers, raising a brand new puppy, juggling the writer’s life, and yet somehow she always manages to keep her sense of humor about parenting and the stress of whatever her day throws at her. One week we were blogging on how we find ways to take care of ourselves in stressful times, and Jenni wrote a post called “Give Me A #$@&%*! Break.” I burst out laughing when I got to this passage:

“I haven’t been very good at self-care. I ended up sitting in front of my family doctor, unloading on her, only to receive a startled face in response. I may’ve broken my doctor.”

And her ending advice? Relieve stress by using more profanity. Hell, yes!

As someone who is NOT a historical fiction writer, I also enjoyed discovering how Jenni thinks about character, which is especially interesting since her book BECOMING BONNIE is about people who lived in real life. Jenni wrote a piece on naming characters, explaining how she came up with the idea to name Bonnie “Bonnelyn Parker”:

“I wanted to show how my main character transitioned in numerous ways, including her name. I thought to myself, let’s begin the novel with a wholesome sounding name and let her become the Bonnie history knows.”

This was such an interesting part of her process, and I enjoyed hearing about her thoughts behind it.

Tiffany Jackson

Tiffany never ceases to amaze and amuse me with her humor and truths about the writing and publishing timeline and processes. Tiffany is enjoying wonderful success after the publication of her debut novel, but she always keeps a tongue-in-cheek attitude about some of the quirkier/more challenging parts of life as a writer. One of the pieces she wrote that I enjoyed the most was her Déjà Vu poem, a post that highlighted the absurdity, frustration, and reality of writing and editing a book:

“Write a first draft.

Edit.

Trash parts.

Write a second draft.

Edit.

Eat cookie dough and cry.”

The other Friday post that I loved (both because of its timing and the concrete help it offered) was Tiffany’s piece on how to support a friend whose book has just been released. I got so much feedback on this post from friends saying, “Is that really what I should do for you?” “Yes!” I said emphatically, “that is exactly what you should do for me.” So hurray, Tiffany, for making explicit how friends can help writers throughout a book launch. If you have a book coming out, it’s a must-read post for all of your friends and loved ones!!

And … Me

People say that weekly blogging can help one find one’s voice, and I can honestly say that that has happened to me this year. So while I’m highlighting my fellow Deb’s posts, I figure I may as well point out the posts I wrote that gave me the most satisfaction. One was a post I wrote from my dog Tucker’s perspective on the many ways I waste time and procrastinate:

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned about that lady, it’s that she tends to blame others for her inability to focus. The truth is she can’t concentrate for shit. I’m just being honest. Between the noise in her head and the noise out there in the world, distractions are a big problem for her. But instead of taking responsibility for it (or medication), she blames everything on me and my tiny bladder. Like it’s my fault she wastes more time than any other human being on the planet. ‘Oh, God,’ she’ll say, looking at me, having written all of four words the entire day, ‘I have to take the dog out.’ Oh, sure, I’m the problem.”

Another post I really enjoyed writing was a sketch on how a writer’s advance disappears. And finally, I wrote a parenting piece called Senior Year Sick Notes, a spin-off post related to my book SMALL ADMISSIONS. Writing posts like these, hoping I could give my fellow Debs and other writers/readers a laugh, were by far some of the best moments I had as a Deb.

So a BIG thank you to all of you who tuned in this year. And I wish all the very best to the 2018 Debs!! I can’t wait to learn about you and your forthcoming books through your blog posts throughout the year. Have fun!

xoxo Amy

P.S. Please keep in touch!

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Amy Poeppel grew up in Dallas, Texas and left the south to attend Wellesley College. Since then, she has worked as an actor, a high school English teacher, and most recently as the Assistant Director of Admissions at a school in New York City. Her three fabulous boys are all off in Boston attending school, and she and her husband now split their time between New York and Frankfurt, Germany. A theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS was workshopped at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into her first novel.

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