Guess what? It’s time for our third 2012 Deb Launch Week Extravaganza to celebrate THE PRINCESSES OF IOWA! You’re excited, right? SO ARE WE! In case you weren’t around for Erika’s and Rachel’s launch weeks, we like to mix things up and ask our Deb sisters questions about their books.
So here’s the question I posed to Deb Molly:
As a writer, one of the things I loved most about your book was how Paige found a true mentor in Mr. Tremont—he helped her change her world view and see that the world around her is a much bigger place than just her hometown and the people in it. Even her trip to France didn’t open her eyes up to the world the way he did. Being that you now teach writing and this was a big part of your book, I wondered if you had a strong mentor when you were in high school (or beyond) who helped shape you into the writer you are now, and if so, was your experience as life-changing and eye-opening as Paige’s?
And Molly’s answer:
Thanks, Joanne! A reviewer (who just happened to be a former student) described the book as a love letter to writing, and I think it’s an apt description!
I had a number of great teachers in high school: Ms. Farrington, who let us meet in her classroom on Fridays after school to write poetry and drink coffee; Mrs. McConnell, who handed me books like Ethan Frome in addition to the regular English curriculum; Ms. Sanyer (the orchestra teacher), who agreed to be our faculty advisor when we wanted to start a literary journal, and Ms. Gregory, who introduced me to writers like Tillie Olsen, Gail Godwin, T.C. Boyle, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Flannery O’Conner, and James Joyce, who helped me fall in love with Hamlet (and always called Queen Gertrude “Gertie”), and who pushed me to take my poetry to a whole new level.
But Mr. Tremont was more directly influenced by writing teachers I had in college: Dan Beachy-Quick, who was still a graduate student at the Iowa Writers Workshop when he taught our poetry class; James Alan McPherson, who brought such a generous reading to each shitty college story we brought in, who first taught me what it really means to be a friend of the manuscript; and my fiction teacher Mark Baechtel, whose lessons I not only use in my writing but also my classroom — I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said something in one of my classes and mentally thanked Mark for the phrase.
And of course, being a fictional character and all, Mr. Tremont is a lot of me, as are all the characters in the book. Specifically, though, as a former middle school teacher & current writing teacher, I would say that at least half the things Mr. Tremont says are things I say all the time in the classroom. Mr. Tremont is definitely a pastiche of a number of great teachers, plus my good friend and fellow English teacher Cam (for whom Mr. Tremont is named), plus quite a bit of Molly.
Thanks, Molly! I do think that calling THE PRINCESSES OF IOWA a love letter to writing is apt as well–so much of it spoke to me as a writer and took me back to my early days of insecurity and just learning the very basics.
And now, to celebrate the week of your launch, my mom has baked you a celebratory kugel! Enjoy (and enjoy your launch – I hope you have the launch week of your dreams).