Tag Archives: ANOTHER KIND OF HURRICANE

Another Kind of Good-bye

It is my turn to say good-bye.

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Historically, I haven’t much liked good-byes.

roller coaster

whatwillimiss whatwillimiss whatwillimiss…whoa!

I used to have this really strong knee-jerk reaction to them. This wavy feeling in my belly, like I was riding a roller coaster. And this thought in my brain: What will I miss if I go?

 I had that reaction for a long time. And it was connected to this ancient fear of mine of not knowing. Do you know that fear? For me, it was always about wanting to be on top of things; wanting to know what everyone needed at all times and trying to accommodate those needs. It was also about feeling ridiculously uncomfortable with the idea that something might happen without my knowledge.

Ummmm. Yeah.

Lots of things happen without my knowledge.

Of course that’s true, and there’s no way around it—and no need for a way around it—but I fought it so hard for so long. I stayed past the time I should have stayed at places, I kept my eyes open too wide, my brain going a mile a minute all the time.

What will I miss if I go?

What will I miss if I don’t go? This is real question. Or even more to the point: What will I miss if I don’t let go?

 Because I have finally learned that holding on too tight, and needing to know too much, actually limits me in very profound ways. (Not to mention the fact that it annoys—at best—the people onto whom I am holding!)

Many parts of my life have taught me this over the last decade or so – try holding on too tightly to your teenager, for example! – but the process of writing, publishing, and, now, promoting Another Kind of Hurricane has probably taught me this the most.

I can point to so many lessons, but I will only talk about two here.

PRE-PUB

Bear with me while I explore my experience with Tropical Storm Irene one more time. Like a spiral of wind and water goes round and round, I come back to it again and again, looping around again, but moving into new learning each time. rainbow spiral

Some of you know this part of my saga with Irene. We lost almost all of the contents of our basement when it flooded. At one point during the process of hauling stuff from the basement, someone gave me a box. I opened it. It was filled with photographs – a picture of my siblings and me at my wedding, a picture of my sister the first time she made my son, Luc, laugh, a picture of a camping trip with friends. The photos were soaking wet and covered in mud. I knew there were dozens of similar boxes, still in the basement. I knew I had to throw them all away. But I couldn’t do it. Not yet. So I went back to filling the dumpster. Hours later, as the sun was setting, I took a break and walked to the lawn at the side of my house.

What I saw took my breath away.

Image 10

A photo of my sister Callie and my son Luc (who is now that teenager I have to let go of!), among others.

People I didn’t know—were saving all of my photos. Someone meticulously peeled them apart, someone rinsed them in a shallow bin of water, and someone hung them on a clothesline to dry.

It was one of those moments that shines a light. Instead of focusing my attention on that box of photos, I let it go. And in the process I left a space for these people. Without realizing it, I had allowed there to be this vibrant, full-of-potential space. A space, it turns out, spanning those amazing people and me.

And inside of that space, those people and I—we were forever changed; we became friends.

POST-PUB

When Hurricane was just beginning to get some public attention, I wanted to center myself; to try to find a way to be grounded while on this public journey, because this story had been just mine for so long, you know? And I knew I could easily get mired down in watching and waiting for and fretting over those reviews. I asked both my editor (Annie Kelley) and agent (Erin Murphy) for their philosophies on reviews. They are wise, Annie and Erin. They both told me almost the same exact thing, and it really stuck with me.

They said that it’s important to remember that the book is out of my hands now. I have to – wait for it, wait for it – let it go. It “belongs” in a sense, to the people who read it.  That rang so true to me. It is very humbling to imagine my book—my ideas and words—becoming a part of someone else’s life, part of a reader’s thoughts and perspective. But it also makes a lot of intuitive sense. I can vividly remember the books that I felt were written just for me when I was a kid.

And what I have come to believe, both based on my own reading as a kid and my own research on reading as an adult, is that there is a space created when you read. A space between you and the book. Sometimes it is sort of window-shaped – where you learn about new things; sometimes it is more mirror-like – where you see yourself; and sometimes it is like a map with a thousand creases – pointing you on a journey.

Annie and Erin also told me to remember that so many readers who have a positive experience with my book—librarians, parents, teachers, and mostly kids—are people I will never, ever hear from. There is something magical about that.

If I let go. If I leave space.

The magic of space, for me, is the landscape—or maybe people-scape—where the alchemy of one person connecting with another unfolds.*

BEYOND-PUB

Emu’s Debuts has been a place of so much alchemy and so many connections. I can’t even begin to thank those of you who have graced this blog, and those of you who will. Just please know how much you have touched me, comforted me, taught me, changed me. I am on-my-knees humbled by you and hands-outstretched-to-the-sky honored to know you.

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calvin and hobbesI still don’t like good-byes. They still scare me, to be perfectly honest. But I respect them. And value them. And thinking about them as letting go and leaving space – for other people, for other ideas, for magic – makes it infinitely easier…

…to say…

…good-bye.

 

 

 

*I can’t write about the alchemy of connection today without thinking of the so many refugees who need a place, a space, to call home. This is a smart op-ed piece about moving forward together.

 

 

tamara_ellis_smith_bio

Tamara Ellis Smith writes middle grade fiction and picture books. She graduated in 2007 from Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Tam’s debut middle grade novel, Another Kind of Hurricane was published by Schwartz & Wade/Random House in July 2015. She is represented by the incredible Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and can be found on the web at www.tamaraellissmith.com and on Twitter @tsesmith.

 

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Filed under Farewell, Thankfulness

Another Kind of Hurricane – The Movie!

First!

 fireworks2

Congratulations to Adam Shaughnessy on his debut novel THE INCREDIBLY TRUE STORY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB heading out into the world!  So wonderful for us all!  And, specifically, wonderful for BRENDA who wins a copy of the novel! fireworks2

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I was recently fortunate enough to be asked by Marshal Zeringue to be contribute to the blog, MY BOOK, THE MOVIE. It was such a great exercise for so many reasons, the biggest one, perhaps, being that I had to imagine my story in a completely different way. Visually. It was very cool. And so I thought I would repost here. Thanks to Marshal for letting me do just that!

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I love color and shape, I love picture book illustrations, and I love movies – but I don’t think in images at all. I think in words, and, more specifically in sounds and rhythms and energy. That said, I have definitely imagined Another Kind of Hurricane as a movie – Oh that would be so exciting! – but I have envisioned actors based on their energies more than anything. I love strong and quirky woven together. A few people have been in my mind from the get-go who bring that mix to their work.

Half The SkyI see Alfre Woodard as Ms. Cyn. I think I first saw her way back when in Passion Fish and have loved her ever since. She is fierce and funny, and has a sense of wisdom about her, a sense of knowing the truth of the matter.

Sam

I see Sam Rockwell as Jake. He is brilliant in Way Way Back – a bit of a smart-ass, disorganized and unwound like an empty spool attached to a pile of knotted thread. But really, deep down, he is solid in his beliefs and enormously big-hearted.

ChiwetelI imagine Chiwetel Ejiofer as Ben. I fell in love with him in Love Actually and will see anything he is in. He, too, is fierce and has an energy range that would allow him, I think, to dig into all of Ben’s nuances.

CatherineI have always thought of Catherine Keener as Henry’s mom, Eliza. I loved her in Walking and Talking, as well as Lovely and Amazing. She plays a great mom and she has a disheveled beauty, insidTonie and out. And Toni Collette would be fantastic as Wayne’s mom, Annie. From the time I saw her in Muriel’s Wedding I have been obsessed with her. She, like Catherine, plays a mean mom, and she just has this essence that is authentic and, for me anyway, mesmerizing. I adore her. Like Chiwetel, I actively seek Catherine and Toni out and will watch them in whatever I can find.

NimratI’ve thought about some of the other main characters in Hurricane too. These took me a little longer to land on, but I can imagine Nimrat Kauer as Cora and Ariadne Gil as Margarita. I alsAriadnao see Jeffrey Wright as Tavius, Don Cheadle as Isaac and Jordan Peele as Skeet. What a dynamic trio!

Jeffry    DonJordan

MarcusOddly, though, my two main characters have eluded me more than anyone else. I have gone around and around who could play Zavion and Henry, and truthfully, if Hurricane was really going to be made into a movie, and I had some say in who would get cast, I would ask that we go search for some unknown boys – kids that haven’t necessarily done any TV work or movies, kids whose parents are not necessariLiamly connected to the industry, but kids who have that certain energy. Probably kids who, in their actual lives, have experienced a tragedy or who have that unusual older-than-their-years feeling about them – like Alex Shaffer, who was brilliant in Win Win, but had never acted before. That said, if I had to pick right now I would probably pick Marcus Scribner to play Zavion. I like him in Blackish and I think he knows how to play obsessed and focused. And I’d probably pick Liam James to play Henry. He was in Way Way Back and pulls off awkward and inarticulate very well. Both boys have an off-the-beaten-path quality as well as a sense of depth, I think.

Who do you think would play the lead roles in your book, the movie? Who would star in your favorite books-turned-big-screen? Such a fun thing to imagine, especially for someone so NOT visually minded…

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tamara_ellis_smith_bio

Tamara Ellis Smith writes middle grade fiction and picture books. She graduated in 2007 from Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Tam’s debut middle grade novel, Another Kind of Hurricane was published by Schwartz & Wade/Random House in July 2015. She is represented by the incredible Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and can be found on the web at www.tamaraellissmith.com and on Twitter @tsesmith.

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Filed under Characters, Movie cast

Unexpected Connections

Tamara Smith’s Another Kind of Hurricane is the story of two kids, Henry and Zavion, separated by geography, who connect in an unexpected way. So to welcome this book into the world, we’re sharing our stories of unexpected connections today.

Another Kind of Hurricane cover

Penny Parker Klostermann

It was Fall 2010. I was dreaming about getting a picture book published. I knew it would be challenging, but I also knew I needed to get with it if I was serious. We were headed to my in-laws for Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law called us while we were driving. There was a little chit-chat about the traffic, then this:

My mother-in-law: “Tell Penny that there’s going to be a guy joining our Thanksgiving get-together that writes children’s’ books.”
Me: “What’s his name?”
My mother-in-law: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Bev (my husband’s sister).”

All this plus inspiration

All this plus inspiration

It turns out it was Peter Brown! Yep! I couldn’t believe I was sitting across from someone who was doing what I wanted to do. (Well, the writing part. I’m NO illustrator.) I shyly said that I had written a few stories. He responded politely and appropriately, but I’m sure he was thinking, “How many times have I heard this??? Everybody wants to write a children’s book!” I can’t say I was brave enough to take the conversation further. I just listened as he told some others at the table about his writing. But, meeting him was the connection I needed to move forward in pursuit of publication.

Maria Gianferrari

I have the perfect connection for Tam’s launch—my connection with Tam! As I’m writing this, we have not yet met in person, but we’ll be meeting at my own book launch. Another planned meeting at her parents’ farm was foiled by heavy rain, luckily not a hurricane, and yet it feels like we have some kind of otherly bond, one in which I feel like I’ve somehow known her for a long time, connected by common threads, strange as it may sound. Who knows—maybe we were sisters in a past life, and now we’re Emu-sisters. I look forward to the day when we can hang out together!

tamara_ellis_smith_bio

Tamara Ellis Smith. And we’re happy to report that Tam and Maria have finally met in person at Maria’s book launch party last week.

Carole Gerber

When my daughter Jess was a college student at Elon University in North Carolina she drove back to our home in Ohio during holidays and summer break. She always stopped for gas and a snack in Beckley, West Virginia, which had a large tourist stop with multiple pumps, restrooms, and fast food outlets. While waiting in line for an ice cream, she saw old family friends we’d lost touch with – except for annual Christmas cards –  when they moved out-of-state. Later that year, while waiting to run a half-marathon in Washington, D.C., she saw them and two of their children who were also participating. Since then, my husband and I have also re-connected with our old friends and visit back and forth a couple of times a year.

I think I know that person

I think I know that person

Megan Morrison

I’ve been really lucky on the Internet. Through the power of shared interest in books, I’ve connected with people who have turned out to be my best friends, my writing colleagues – and even my husband. That’s got to be the best unexpected connection I’ve made. I met him because he posted something funny and snarky on a Harry Potter message board. It was a sentiment I wanted to express, but as a moderator I was trying to set a good example. Privately, I messaged him to tell him I appreciated his comment – and he messaged back some very complimentary things about my writing (fan fiction, at the time). His own writing was excellent. The man knew how to spell and punctuate. What’s more, it turned out that we lived in neighboring boroughs of New York City: me in Manhattan, him in Brooklyn. We got together that very weekend, and when we parted at the subway entrance later that evening, I had a very, very funny feeling. My gut was not wrong. On July 30th of this year, we will have been together for ten years.

I've got a good feeling about this

I’ve got a good feeling about this

What about you?

Share your unexpected connections below or comment on any of the posts this week to be entered to win a signed copy of Another Kind of Hurricane.

Purchase a copy of Tamara’s book through Indiebound, Powell’sBarnes & Noble, or Amazon.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations

The Things We Carry

23395689This week we are thrilled to celebrate the launch of Tamara Ellis Smith’s incredible novel, ANOTHER KIND OF HURRICANE:

“A hurricane, a tragic death, two boys, one marble. How they intertwine is at the heart of this beautiful, poignant book. When ten-year-old Zavion loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, he and his father are forced to flee to Baton Rouge. And when Henry, a ten-year-old boy in northern Vermont, tragically loses his best friend, Wayne, he flees to ravaged New Orleans to help with hurricane relief efforts—and to search for a marble that was in the pocket of a pair of jeans donated to the Red Cross.

“Rich with imagery and crackling with hope, this is the unforgettable story of how lives connect in unexpected, even magical, ways.”

Central to Tamara’s story is one small marble, an object with strong emotional ties for Henry. Several of the authors here at EMU’s Debuts have objects that are dear to their hearts, and were willing to share their stories.

Janet Fox: “I wear a bracelet that my mother-in-law wore constantly; since she gave it up, it hasn’t been off my wrist. It reminds me of her (she passed away two years ago), and when I first put it on it was a talisman for my son’s success, too. I actually have such a superstition about it that it never comes off. Especially since things have been looking up from the moment I put it on.”

Shark Tooth

Elaine’s beautiful and fierce pendant

Elaine Vickers: “I have a necklace with a shark tooth pendant my grandmother gave me before she passed away. I still miss her every day and try to follow her example of kindness–but she could also be tough when she needed to be! Whenever I’m facing a situation that scares me a little, I wear the shark tooth necklace to help me be fierce and fearless.”

Maria Gianferrari: “I have two objects that hold special meaning, and they’re both from my paternal grandmother, my Nonna, who was born in Italy . The first is her pasta maker. I haven’t used it in such a long time, but I have fond memories of cranking the handle, and as it clicked and clicked, watching the dough ooze through the molds in wide-shaped noodles. She also used to roll the dough flat in it, and let me cut it into rows with her pasta wheel, then squares for making tortellini. The second one goes with it—it’s her cheese grater, with its wooden bottom for catching the shavings of delicious parmigiano-reggiano cheese!”

Megan Morrison:I really had to think about this. I have more objects than I need, but when I tried to think of one that has genuine emotional significance, I was stumped. FinRingsally, I realized that the only object I would grieve if it were lost is the one I have on my person at all times: my wedding ring. My mother gave me the engagement ring as a 25th-birthday gift, and my husband knew it was the only one I wanted to wear forever, so he put a diamond in it and proposed. My sister’s godfather, a jeweler, crafted a thin wedding band to fit around the square setting, and soldered them together. It’s special to me not only because it represents my marriage, but because so much love and care went into it.”

Christine Hayes: “My mom’s parents divorced when she was about five years old. She was never close with her dad, Mom Baby Shoesespecially after she and my grandmother moved across the country from New York, eventually settling in California. I met my Grandpa Max only once, when I was 19. He was a mystery to me, very formal, and not much of a people person. He just didn’t know how to be a grandpa–or a dad, I guess. But I’m glad I got to meet him, because it helped me to understand my mom better, to see her in a new light. Max took us to see an old family cemetery in upstate New York, hidden away in a grove of trees. It was beautiful. I hope to go back someday, if I can ever find it again. When my mom passed away in 2010, she didn’t have many possessions–certainly nothing of great monetary value. But her grandmother had bronzed a pair of Mom’s baby shoes and mounted them on a plaque with a photo of Mom with her father. I keep it in a place of honor in my office. It reminds me that family is precious, and to never, ever take it for granted.”

phonographPenny Parker Klostermann: “[This is an] Edison phonograph with cylinder records. My dad helped a neighbor restore it. My dad was in 2nd grade. The neighbor gave him the phonograph with 52 cylinder records so it’s been in our family for a while.”

Rose Rock

Mylisa’s rose rock is the stuff of legends

Mylisa Larsen: “I have a big, old rock that I still move from house to house because it reminds me of my grandpa. He lived out on a ranch and when I was about ten, my cousins and I hiked out to this dry reservoir bed that all the grownups had talked about but that sort of had a tinge of legend about it—did it really exist? We walked and walked and walked and decided that they’d made it up but then went over one more hill and there it was.  We were mucking about turning over rocks and found a red rock that had a swirl of white rock in it that looked like a rose. We took turns lugging the thing all the way back to our grandparents house. When we got there, all sweaty and hot but excited about our momentous excursion and carrying the proof that we had really been there, my grandpa treated us like adventurers and admired our rock with proper awe and put it in a special place in his flowerbed so we could see it whenever we visited. The rest of the adults were kind of like, ‘Ho hum, a rock, that’s nice dear.’ But Grandpa got it. So I keep the rock but it’s not really about the rock, it’s about how my grandpa make me feel.”

What objects hold special meaning for you? Leave a comment for your chance to win a signed copy of ANOTHER KIND OF HURRICANE, plus a lucky marble keepsake!

 

Purchase a copy of Tamara’s book through Indiebound, Powell’sBarnes & Noble, or Amazon.

 

We’re also excited to announce the winners from last week’s celebration of Maria Gianferrari’s PENNY & JELLY! Our book winner is Carrie Charley Brown, and our swag winner is PJ McIlvaine. Congrats!!!

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Celebrations

When Life Imitates Art… or What Tropical Storm Irene Taught Me

I have written many times about my experience of life imitating art with regards to my debut middle grade novel, Another Kind of Hurricane – how I researched diligently as I wrote and rewrote the story; how I felt like I had done a thorough job of it; how I felt like I had found a deep place of empathy and understanding for Zavion, my main character who lives in New Orleans and who lives through Hurricane Katrina; and how, in one day, everything changed. Tropical Storm Irene swept through my town – and very specifically my block and my house – and I was suddenly and amazingly inside my story.

Another Kind of Hurricane coverI have also written some about what I learned through that odd, reverse process of the art experience coming before the life experience. First, my two main characters, Henry and Zavion, are strangers when the story begins. They are strangers from two very different places – geographic and internal – and yet the only traces of solace they eventually find are in one another. They become connected and they become friends. This happened to me during Irene too. Important lesson #1, a reinforcing lesson: I got that connection piece right in my book. Second – oh boy – the visceral and emotional experience of living through a flood (and the subsequent recovery from that flood) is intense, to put it mildly. And Katrina was so much more…everything…than Irene. Important lesson #2, a reminding lesson: striving for knowledge and empathy, while accepting that I might not be able to totally get it – is truly the best I can do. Maybe another way to put this is knowledge and empathy and a good dose of humbleness is my best practice when I write anything outside of my direct experience.

But is there more to it than that? And how does this all fit within the conversation about diversity we’ve all been engaged in? Does it offer anything new or useful to that dialogue?

Amy Koester, who has a blog called The Show Me Librarian, wrote a post in February of this year titled Selection is Privilege. It’s spot on, in my opinion. In it, she talks about the frustration she feels when colleagues take “diverse”* books out of their libraries, or simply don’t buy them for their libraries because they feel they either a) don’t have enough diverse patrons to read those books or b) their non-diverse patrons don’t have any interest in those books. She then said this:

 When it comes down to it…selection is a privilege. If you select materials for your readers, you are privileged to get to influence not only what children read, but what they have access to in the first place. And when I read arguments against including diverse titles, or questions about why we have to talk about this topic, it puts into sharp focus for me the fact that we have to recognize our privilege as selectors, and, more than likely, as white selectors for diverse readers.

I feel like this extends to us writers too. Or I’ll only speak for myself – to me as a writer. If I am to have the great fortune of having any sort of influence over kids, then I must recognize my privilege. In an interview over at CBC Diversity, agent and author Tanya McKinnon cited some neurological research:

“The thing that reduces hate and increases acceptance of diversity is knowledge and rational thought. The more we use our pre-frontal cortex, the seat of rational thought, the more likely we are to reduce hate. That’s why reading about difference, especially at a young age, is so very important. And it’s why racially inclusive children’s books are so crucial for a rational and tolerant society.”

And there it is. If there was ever a reason to use my privilege – as a white, middle class woman, but also simply as a writer fortunate enough to get a book published, really – well, there it is.

To offer a door or a mirror for the child reading my book.

So how do we writers do this with integrity?

By finding the places where we are the same as our characters, and finding the places where we are not. By connecting to our characters where that sameness resides (and connecting our characters to each other in a similar way), and by trusting ourselves to hold an empty space inside that we work to fill by listening and researching and being curious (and allowing our characters to have similar empty spaces inside for the same kind of journey.)

We need to know the borders we are choosing to cross as we make those journeys. The process of that knowledge is fluid and constant. The more we are curious, the more open we are, the more we venture into places that are not our own, the more we integrate all of that into ourselves. We need to integrate, but at the same time keep things distinct. It is a dance of sorts. Am I more suited to tell a story about flood victims because I have experienced a flood? Yes. Am I still a middle class woman who could borrow money from my family when I lost so much in that flood? Yes. Did many of the flood victims in New Orleans not have that privilege? Yes. There is part of that dance right here.**

If I am taking those journeys, then I know it is possible to take them, you know? And thus I am creating the opportunity for kids (my readers) to take their own, perhaps similar, journeys.That means everything to me.

One of my favorite photos from Irene, taken by Jared Katz. Talk about a journey...

One of my favorite photos from Irene, taken by Jared Katz. Talk about a journey…

Back to Another Kind of Hurricane, and Zavion and Henry, and my experience with Tropical Storm Irene: it was all an accidental gift; a humble journey of finding connection despite (and alongside of) differences. Is there a way to consciously leave space inside of ourselves for those kinds of gifts? Is there a way of holding tight, as we write, to the threads that connect us all? Because those are gifts too.

I don’t know if this adds anything new to the diversity conversation. But I do know it’s something I want to continue to explore. What do you think about it all?

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*I am only going to use quotes around diverse once. But I want to use them a lot! It is such a loaded word. Take it to mean many things – racial, social, gender-based, ability-based differences; also differences in experiences and environments and many other things as well.

**This is a riff off of a great essay that Mitali Perkins wrote over at CBC Diversity.

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ImageTamara Ellis Smith writes middle grade fiction and picture books. She graduated in 2007 from Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Tam’s debut middle grade novel, Another Kind of Hurricane will be published by Schwartz and Wade on July 14, 2015. She is represented by the incredible Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and can be found on the web at www.tamaraellissmith.com andwww.smithwright.blogspot.com.

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Evidence for Connection

In one of his lectures on the craft of writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the great Tim Wynne Jones said that the only place for a coincidence in a story is at the very beginning.  Random events, coincidences—fate—can set a story into motion. But to bring in a coincidence to resolve the unruly details of a complex plot is a cheap trick. That is unless a book’s theme is built around over the top coincidence as in Uma Krishnaswami’s brilliant The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. By chance, or was it design, Lindsey Lane, was in the room listening that day. In her fantastic debut, Evidence of Things not Seen, Lindsey finds a novel way to use coincidence, fate, and random connection: as the premise of a novel, in which a chance event connects a series of lives that might not otherwise be intertwined.

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane

To celebrate the role of fate and coincidence, we’ve gathered up coincidences that have shaped our books and our lives. Where books start and life begins is not always clear as this coincidence story from Megan Morrison demonstrates:

A long time ago, I co-founded a Harry Potter web site. After a few years of running the site, I became less involved and rarely posted anymore – until one day, when I saw a post written by someone whose username I’d never noticed before. The post was snarky and hilarious; it was something I’d been dying to say, but as a founder of the site, I felt that my saying it would be inappropriate. Still, it was so satisfying to see someone else give voice to my schadenfreude that I privately messaged a thank-you note to the snarky stranger – something I had never done before. Now, the internet is a big place… but what do you know? It turned out that the snarky stranger lived just a few subway stops away from me, in Brooklyn. So we met up for a drink on July 30th (Neville Longbottom’s birthday, for you HP nerds). Nine happy years and one son later, I’m pretty glad that I randomly replied to that post!

Donna Bowman Bratton also found her partner though literacy and coincidence:

I once replied to a two week old casting call for a mystery fundraiser to benefit our local Literacy Council. There was to be a play. On a stage. Now, I’m sure my parents considered me a drama queen, but I had never been in theatre. Yet here I was, in my twenties, answering this ad. What the heck was I thinking? Lo and behold, all parts were cast, except one, the director explained by phone.
      “You wouldn’t happen to be in your twenties,” she asked. “And, by any wild chance, do you have long blonde hair?”
      “Um, yeah,” I stammered, In the most theatrical voice I could muster.
I showed up for rehearsal and learned that my character, Lotta, was to be murdered, strangled, by her “husband” over a winning lottery ticket. Between rehearsals and performances, I died at least thirteen times, falling to the floor with a flourish. And, each time, my gentlemanly “husband” ensured that my skirt didn’t billow up to reveal too much of, um, me. That last part is what got me.
        A few years later, I married my murderer. Yep, falling in love was murder.
Fast forward a few years and we had all but given up hope of having a baby. Until one very memorable day when, in an hugely unexpected way, I discovered I was pregnant. It was Valentine’s Day!

Friends matter every bit as much as partners. Jennifer Chambliss Bertman believes that fate brought one of her best friends into her life:

I’m never quite certain about the difference between coincidence and fate, but I suppose I could chalk one of my best friendships up to coincidence. Katherine and I knew each other peripherally as undergrads. Then, by chance, we attended the same small MFA Creative Writing program—so small, she and I made up 25% of our class! I initially worried that we wouldn’t get along. I am quiet, introverted, and not comfortable with all eyes on me. Katherine is vivacious, talkative, and not self-conscious about being loud. I didn’t think we had much in common, which is hilarious to me now, given how much it turns out we actually do have in common. We both double majored in English and Dance. We’re both from northern California. We both have brothers. We’re both crafty. We have a similar sense of humor. We have both spent a lot of time working with kids. Of course we both love to read and write. We both have a lifelong love of children’s literature. Our MFA program was challenging in ways I hadn’t anticipated, and I don’t know if I would have hung in there that first year without Katherine’s friendship. And that was just the beginning of one of the most enduring and meaningful friendships of my life. Now that’s a coincidence to be grateful for.

Coincidences give us faith. They are signs that we are on the right path as Tamara Ellis Smith found with marbles:

So I signed with my agent, Erin Murphy, primarily for the middle grade novel that became my debut, Another Kind of Hurricane. At the time it was called Marble Boys, because a big part of the story is that one of the main characters, Henry, has a lucky magic marble that he trades back and forth with his best friend…and then loses…and goes on an adventure to find. Shortly after we began working together Erin sent me an email that went something like this: “You’ll never guess what happened! I was digging in a new garden plot, and guess what I found way down deep in the dirt? A marble! A magic marble! A sign!”

Since then, this has happened a few more times with kids in my neighborhood. They have found marbles in their gardens too! I don’t know, but I’m thinking magic marbles grow, like sunflowers or irises…

Laurie Ann Thompson shares how coincidence brought her book to life!

Many coincidences resulted in my third book, My Dog Is the Best, coming next June. After workshopping it for a couple of years, I learned that people either loved the manuscript… or hated it. When I submitted the manuscript that became Emmanuel’s Dream to agent Ammi-Joan Paquette in 2011, she replied saying she liked it and wanted to see what else I had. I sent her the manuscripts that would become Be a Changemaker and My Dog Is the Best. She responded with an offer of representation! We quickly got to work getting Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream ready for submission, but she never said anything about My Dog, so I just assumed she hated it. Two years later, Janine O’Malley happened to casually mention to Joan that she was looking for a cute dog story. Joan remembered filing My Dog away for just the right editor—one who would love it—and she sent it to Janine. Janine loved it! She had a particular illustrator in mind who turned it down, but a few days later author/illustrator Paul Schmid just happened to be in New York handing out postcards, one of which landed on Janine’s desk. She thought his style was a good fit, and he got the job. This book truly wouldn’t have come together without the numerous coincidental intersections between Joan, Janine, Paul, and me. It feels like it was meant to be!

Coincidence and fate shaped my book life too. In August of 2012, on my way from my home in Vermont to spend the year in Yerevan, Armenia my flight from Newark to London was cancelled. As a result, I was sure to miss the once a day flight from London to Yerevan. The folks at United suggested that I just stay put in beautiful Newark for the next 24 hours and take the same evening flight one day later to London. But to be sure not to miss the flight again, I insisted instead that they put me on the early morning flight to London. I was completely unaware that the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) annual meeting was just wrapping up in London at that very moment. I arrived well into the evening, got some take out Indian food, and a decent night’s sleep. The next day, I boarded the tube to return to Heathrow. At the tube stop after mine, a woman struggled to board the train with a number of heavy bags. I helped her get in and settled. Her modest dress, beautiful dark eyes and high cheekbones made me wonder if she, like me, might be heading to Armenia, so I asked her. It turned out that Sahar Tarhandeh, was the Bookbird Correspondent of the Children’s Book Council of Iran and a juror for the Hans Christian Andersen Prize. She had come to London to attend IBBY. Our friendship began with an hour-long magical conversation about children’s literature and the power of books to transcend political boundaries and to promote peace and connections across the globe. A few months into my stay in Yerevan, when Ammi-Joan Paquette sold my verse novel, Like Water on Stone, to Delacorte Press, it was especially sweet to know that Sahar cheered me on from a land just to the east of where my story is set.

In Armenian we say that our fate, jagad a kir, is literally written on our foreheads. Do we write this ourselves or do these events just happen? Whether they are about marbles, books, long lasting friendships, or love, these events, like Lindsey’s Evidence of Things Not Seen, affirm our fundamental human connectedness.

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