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1. The great ballerina and Penn Alum Julie Diana Hench turns the tables on me

Readers of this blog and of the Philadelphia Inquirer know that last year I had the exquisite privilege of meeting the Pennsylvania Ballet's principal ballerina, Julie Diana Hench, and her charismatic husband, Zach. Of watching the two of them rehearse for a performance of "Jewels." Of photographing and writing that story for the Inquirer (here).

I'd met Julie a few weeks earlier, at a Penn event, for Julie, among so many other things, presides over the University of Pennsylvania's Association of Alumnae. She'd invited me to speak with her and others on an evening I'll not forget. She'd introduced herself not as a dancer, but as a fellow writer (and, oh, a writer she most certainly is). I'd stumbled toward understanding, that first night, just who this Julie was.

This May 11th, Mother's Day, Julie, following an immaculate career, will be dancing her final dance with Zach on the Academy stage, her two young children no doubt somewhere near. I will be there, with my father, tears streaming. I have long been looking forward to treating my father to this event, and that feeling of anticipation deepened even more today, as I learned of the publication of a story that Julie had once written about me.

Her story begins like this:
In the back room of the Sweeten Alumni House, Beth Kephart nestled into the couch, holding a copy of her most recent book and pages from an unfinished manuscript. She smiled warmly at the 30 or so women sitting around her and graciously thanked us for inviting her to speak. A few words on why she wrote the book, some humble comments about its success, and she began to read selections from Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir
It’s not unusual for the Association of Alumnae to host esteemed guest speakers who are Penn alumnae and/or faculty. But this first meeting of 2013-14 was different due to the soft-spoken and intimate language of Kephart’s presentation – and the nature of her expertise. We sat on the edge of our seats, listening to the rhythmic sounds of her prose. We visualized the colorful passages depicting Kephart in class with students and we felt her emotion as she described her honest, sometimes emotional, reasons for writing the book. She graciously answered our questions: “What is the difference between memoir and autobiography?” and “As a perfectionist, do you ever feel satisfied with a final draft or what you see in print?” Her answers were candid yet thoughtful.
It continues here.

Julie Diana Hench, I will always treasure this. Look for me, in May. I will be there, every inch of me, for you, the song, and Zach.

All of you, give yourself these 55 seconds. Watch Julie and her Zach dance.

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2. Vaclav and Lena/Haley Tanner: The best longest first sentence ever

Last evening, following a full afternoon of extraordinary conversations with my students, I missed the 5:38 PM train by, well—let's just say I got there right as the doors were closing.

All, however, was not lost, for there's always Faber books at 30th Street Station—always the chance to acquire something new.

I had thirty minutes. I bought, at last, Kevin Powers' The Yellow Birds. It's the book of the year here in Philadelphia, and it's about time that I get with the program. I'll read it. Soon.

But I also bought a copy of Vaclav and Lena, a debut novel by Haley Tanner. It is one of those books I'd always been meaning to buy, then forgot I'd wanted to buy, then had forgotten altogether as I pursued the next new many things. If I hadn't missed the train, I'd have not met these two immigrant Brooklyn children who want, when we first meet them, to be the best magicians alive.

I'm not finished reading yet, so I can't deliver a full report. I can, however, give you this fragment of the first single wow opening sentence, which I share in honor of one of my students who has captivated us with her voice this year, and who could, I have not a single doubt, cast an instant spell like this one:

"Here I practice, and you practice. Ahem. AH-em. I am Vaclav the Magnificent, with birthday on the sixth of May, the famous day for the generations to celebrate and rejoice, a day in the future years eclipsing Christmas and Hanukkah and Ramadan and all pagan festivals, born in a land far, far, far, far, far, far, far distance from here, a land of ancient and magnificent secrets, a land of enchanted knowledge passed down from the ages and from the ancients, a land of illusion (Russia!), born there in Russia and reappearing here, in America, in New York, in Brooklyn (which is a borough), near Coney Island, which is a famous place of magic in the great land of opportunity (which is, of course, America!), where anyone can become anything, where a hobo today is tomorrow a businessman in a three-piece-suit, and a businessman yesterday is later this afternoon a hobo, Vaclav the Magnificent, who shall, without a doubt, be ask to perform his mighty feats of enchantment for dukes and presidents and czars and ayatollahs, uniting them all in awestruck and dumbstruck, and.....
You get the point? The books we pay attention to are the ones that leap from the page. Vaclav and Lena leaps from mile-long sentence number one.

Voice. Some people have it.

You know who I'm talking about.

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3. Berlin, through the eyes of others

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of publishing Going Over, my book about Berlin 1983, is hearing from so many readers who have Berlin stories of their own to tell. My friend E., from the pottery studio, who was living there when the wall came down. A certain writers' mother-in-law, who had more than one intriguing experience not just with the wall, but with the guards. A reader who would, she says, retire to Berlin if she could.

This morning, Joanne, a writer and book lover, shared with me this post about her trip to Berlin in the 1970s—photos and all. It's a fascinating excursion. I'm grateful, too, for Joanne's extremely generous words about Going Over. 

All of that is here.

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4. Queen Sugar/Natalie Baszile: Reflections

I meet this beautiful woman named Natalie Baszile. She's just published her first book—Queen Sugar—with Pamela Dorman of Viking. Its cover is almost as pretty as she is. I buy into Natalie's allure (now that was easy) and I happily buy her book (simple as snap).

Then, in bits and pieces (because that's my life right there, all bits and pieces), I read this book about a widow named Charley Bordelon and her daughter named Micah, who leave California for Louisiana to take on a late father's gift—eight hundred acres of sugarcane.

Eight hundred acres of sugarcane. No how-to book. No extra funds. Hardly any working machines. And nobody but Charley and Micah and some Louisiana family to turn to when the going gets tough.

The going will get tough.

Well-researched, lovingly imagined, Queen Sugar is a sweep-you-in story. Charley is a woman we understand, but also a woman we admire—for taking the unknown on, for being honest with herself, for staring out across an endless field and daring to believe not just in the land but (eventually) in herself. Baszile is a seamless storyteller. She takes her readers not just to the land, but into its depths. Her earth is not just topography, but taste:
Charley raised the dirt to her mouth again. She sniffed: wood smoke, grass, damp like a sidewalk after it rained. She tasted: grit, fine as ground glass, chocolate, and what? Maybe ash? She closed her eyes as the soil dissolved over her tongue, and slowly, slowly, almost like a good wine, the soil began to tell its story. She tasted the muck, and the peat, and the years of composted leaves, the branches and vines that had been recently plowed under, and the faint sweetness the cane left behind. She swallowed: a moldy aftertaste she knew would stay on her tongue for the rest of the afternoon.
Lovely, right? But look, too, at Baszile's ability to write of water, towboats, a wheelhouse. I respect the specificity here.
Amazing how quickly the barge moved. It was closer now. The engine rumble sent larger ripples, and across the water, Ralph Angel could see the captain high up in the towboat's wheelhouse, his small white face like a speck of white sugar behind the big glass window. As it approached, the barge sucked water into its enormous hull so that the current up where Ralph Angel sat seemed to flow in reverse and the water level actually dropped. Water hyacinths and lilies clumped together in the backwards flow and even up ahead, in the barge slip, the water seemed to be draining away. 
What's hard about writing? Everything. What takes time? Getting the details and every single sentence right. Though Queen Sugar is a debut novel, it is also a most-self-assured novel. The work of a writer who knows precisely what she's doing.

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5. Introducing Wattpad, where stories get told (read GOING OVER excerpts free)

It's amazing, all the things I do not know.

How to get rid of the embarrassing yellow-flower weed in my front lawn. How to stop breaking my fingernails just when they've reached their prettiest. How to make my new-fangled pottery vases stand up straight. How to remain focused on what actually matters in life, even as I stare down petty worries and ricocheting fears of the unjust.


I also didn't know a thing about Wattpad—a free community in which readers can chat with writers—until my friends Sally Kim and Ali Presley of Chronicle Books whispered the news in my ear. There are all kinds of authors here, all kinds of books, all kinds of reading opportunities. And, like I said, it's free.

I am now, officially, a Wattpad-er, and here is my I don't even have a single follower yet Wattpad page. I'll be posting chapters of GOING OVER here over the next several weeks and interacting with any reader who sends a note or asks a question.

Take a look.

But also, while I have your attention, here is something wild: While exploring Wattpad on my own yesterday, I discovered this—a Wattpad story called Unrequited Love whose second chapter begins with words that this writer named Beth Kephart wrote.

That's here.

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6. wishing you the bright joy and hope of Easter

(at Chanticleer Garden, with the men in my life)

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7. Badlands/Cynthia Reeves: brief reflections on a stunning novella

I have known Cynthia Reeves for what feels like a long time now. She is a friend, she is a cook, she is the mother of two talented children, she teaches, she writes. She is there, often, telling stories—standing at the counter in Libby Mosier's house, ruling over a platter of fine cheeses in her own home, walking a windy Philadelphia with me not long ago, as we searched (unsuccessfully) for a hostess-gift bottle of wine. We bought Di Bruno Bros. chocolate-covered pretzels instead. We found the party. We talked some more.

But perhaps we don't really know someone until we dwell, quietly, with their work, and over the past several days, when I could tear away for an hour, I have been reading Cyndi's award-winning novella, Badlands, published in 2007 by Miami University Press.

The story—about a dying woman's final hours and the blend of time, about the topography of regret and the last light of clarity, about secret dreams and the collective dream, about the bones we bury or seek to bury or can never bury—is one of the most beautifully rendered stories I've ever read. Devastating. Intelligent. Knowing. True. Locked in tight. Held so close. Never once losing its purpose, nor its rhythm.

Think of Carole Maso channeling Colum McCann. Think of Jack Gilbert stretching out the lines of his poems. This is Cynthia Reeves.

This is how she sounds:
If hearing is the last sense to leave the body, then snowfall whispering over their faces, over itself, is the last thing they hear. Blankets laid gently one on top of another, nothing else. No weeping, no iron nail driving into pine board, no lamentation but snow sweeping over them, whispering its final prayer: Come, Grandmother, Great Spirit, hold them gently in your arms. Caro hears this whispering soft, softer now, and finally the quiet rustling of sheets.
Find Badlands. Read it.

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8. from my garden to my table, on Tamra's birthday

This isn't just Easter weekend. There isn't just sun out there, and my radiant son upstairs, asleep. This is the birthday of editor supreme and dear friend, Tamra Tuller.

How can a girl like me, so full of gladness for a friendship like ours, say, You are really special?

I went outside. Tiptoed through dew. Brought the brightest daffodils in.

Happy birthday, Tamra!

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9. the proudest prof alive: the art of revision

I offered my students the opportunity to revise their memoirs for an additional five points.

No requirement. No insistence. Just a chance, if they wanted to take it.

The points themselves—they hardly meant a thing to this talented bunch. The chance to return to their work, to their selves—that was the thing. We find the heart of our stories not the first time we write them, not the second time or third. We find the heart of our stories when we begin again, or look again, when we say, Maybe this.

After a long day, after an afternoon of such crushing corporate pressures that I could not go, as I had wanted to, to church, I have read the work of the four students who chose to revise their memoirs.

Two wrote newly, from scratch.

Two amended from within.

Each of them soared. Each of them soars.

I am the proudest prof alive. This is God's goodness to me, on this Good Friday.

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10. then Florinda said (about GOING OVER)

You know how I'm always talking about Florinda?
(Florinda, Florinda, Florinda)

Well, there she is, all the way across the United States, at the Chronicle Books booth, talking to Lara Starr, Chronicle publicist, about whom I'm also often caught bragging.

The two of them, together. And me here. 

And yet, even though 3,000 miles separate us, Florinda always makes me feel like I'm right there in the room with her. She makes me laugh. She tells me stories. She reads many books. She makes room.

Florinda was a key component in the Going Over blog tour, with her fabulous Q and A. That was (believe me) already going far beyond the call of duty, but yesterday, at the end of an uber long but good day, I received another gift from Florinda: this review of the Berlin book that she'd taken the time not just to read but to ponder.

They are glorious words. I send you straight to her. Some 3,000 miles away from me, which is also the stretch of her smile.

Thank you, Florinda!

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11. Michael Sokolove, Avery Rome, Kelly Writers House, Students: what a day we had

Someday I will find a way to express the (what is the word?) (joy?) that I experienced yesterday as Michael Sokolove, the phenomenally gifted author of Drama High, among other books, and the equally gifted editor, Avery Rome, joined my class and Avery's class at Kelly Writers House on the Penn campus.

Michael read, we talked, we learned, we appreciated.

My students wrote and asked and listened.

It may have been raining like the world was ending yesterday.

But inside our room, we were all just getting a good, fresh start.

Thank you.

In a week or so, a video tape of our conversation and mini workshop will be available. I'll post that link when I have it. Then, at last, you can see for yourself how lucky I am to adjunct at Penn, to work with editors like Avery, and to invite a big-hearted, super writer like Michael into the midst.

Wait until you see.

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12. I forget, often, about the words I've left behind

My dear friends Elizabeth Mosier and Chris Mills sent me this photo last night, following their excursion to Radnor Memorial Library.

We writers live in the forest of doubt, or at least this writer does. This photo startled me—this idea of a dear librarian (Pam Sedor) taking the time to locate my books and to place them all on one wall. This idea of a celebration going on while I've been going on elsewhere.

I forget, often, about the words I've left behind. I focus, too often, on what must be done right now, on what isn't done yet.

I neglect to pause. This celebration at Radnor Memorial Library—discovered by friends—is cause for a pause.

We'll be celebrating Going Over at this very Radnor Memorial Library on April 30, 7:30. This will be my only formal reading from the book, and this party is open to all; cake will be served. Please join us.

In the meantime, today, I am celebrating the work of Michael Sokolove and editor Avery Rome at the University of Pennsylvania's Kelly Writers House. My class has read Sokolove's fantastic Drama High. We have questions. We look forward to reflection, to a deep and true conversation.

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13. Immigrant Voices/edited by Achy Obejas and Megan Bayles/Chicago Tribune Review

For the Chicago Tribune I reviewed an extraordinary collection of short stories, Immigrant Voices, edited by Achy Obejas and Megan Bayles.

My thoughts are here.

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14. when we are not writing we are living: the kitchen, five months later, is done

In San Antonio, on the TAYSHAS panel, Susan Schilling asked what we do when we are not writing.

We are, in our own ways, living.

Nina LaCour remakes whole rooms, top to bottom. Dana Reinhardt pursues the immediate results—the appreciable outcomes—of cooking. Andrew Smith has not, in fifteen years, missed a day of running—wherever he is, wherever he goes, he heads out into the weather. Blake Nelson learns as much as he can (in sometimes funny ways) about people.

When I am not writing (and most of the time, I am not writing), I do many things that I am not particularly good at. Building objects out of clay. Raising seedlings into buds. Dancing the tango with my husband. And, also, sometimes all-consumingly, turning my nearly 100-year-old house into a home.

This past November, I began a quest to refinish my kitchen. To replace the broken things. To up the ante on the colors. To generate new light and life. It was a fraught proposition from the get-go—famously horrific weather, disappointing contractors, a leaking roof, delays, unforeseen expenses.

This morning she stands. Whole at last, complete.

I am, when I am not writing, living.

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15. The Going Over Blog Tour Reprise: Still time to win a copy of the book

To those who followed the blog tour for Going Over, thank you. To those who lent their time and space to the journey, enormous thanks. To Lara Starr, who set this whole thing up before I even knew there would be a blog tour, you rock, girl.

For the questions that were asked, the reviews that were written, the photos that were shared, the generosity of Chronicle Books—for all of it, I will always be grateful

For any of you who missed the links—and the giveaways—they're all here, below. In many cases, there is still time to win both a signed book and an Audible copy.

Savvy Verse and Wit (Review)

Chronicle Books (The Rocking Soundtrack)

My Friend Amy (Review and The first First page)

The Flyleaf Review (Review and beginnings)

The Book Swarm (East Berlin Escapees)

There's A Book (Interview)

YA Romantics (Interview)

Teenreads Blog (Photo Album)

The 3 R's Blog (Interview)

Forever Young Adult (Interview)

Kid Lit Frenzy (Interview)

Tales of the Ravenous Reader (Truth at the core of the novel)

Addicted 2 Novels (final day)

All books, finally, must stand on their own. That time has come for Going Over.

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16. San Antonio, Texas librarians, Kind bloggers, Justina Chen, Chronicle Books: all here

If it weren't for Tamra Tuller, there would be no Small Damages, nor would there be the Berlin novel, Going Over. If it weren't for Chronicle Books, I would not have just spent an enriching two days in San Antonio, a city I have longed to see, among Texas librarians, who (rumor has it, and so it seemed to me) are among the very best in all the land.

Were it not for Susan Schilling, I would not have joined Dana Reinhardt, Andrew Smith, Nina LaCour, and Blake Nelson on the footwear spectacular TAYSHAS panel.

Were it not for the Texas Tea, I would have not finally met Justina Chen in person.

Were it not for a certain signing, I would not have found my best elementary school friend standing at the start of a line, waiting for me. Oh, my!!!

Were it not for a Chronicle dinner, I'd not have chilled with talented authors/illustrators K.A. Holt, Jeff Mack, Lizi Boyd, and Molly Idle; guests Renee Sanders, Debbie McComb, Sherri Bell, Ty Burns, Sheila Acosta, and Lynn Butler; and Chronicle stars Tamra Tuller, Sally Kim, Stephanie Wong, Anna-Lisa Sandstrum, and Jaime Wong.

Were it not for San Antonio itself, I would have never seen the Alamo, walked along the river, found my way to a secret cove, or peered into the wax museum.

We owe so much of our happiness to other people and well-loved places.

I am home. I am grateful.

I am grateful, too, to the incredible bloggers who kept the Going Over blog tour alive in my absence. And so, a few days late, I wish to thank:

ForeverYoungAdult, for asking me great graffiti questions, for posting such a beautiful review of the book, and for Tweeting out while I was airplane bound. That's all here.

KidLitFrenzy, for asking fantastic questions about the Going Over research process—and about my favorite indie bookstores. That's here.

Tales of a Ravenous Reader, for letting me talk about truth. That's here.

Like all the bloggers on the Going Over tour, these offer a chance to win a signed book and the audio book, among other things

Lots of gratitudes today.

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17. A new Beth Kephart website; a new 3R's interview — all here, today

In the interest of making things a little less complicated, I'm launching a new Beth Kephart website today. It's not as robust as it someday will be. It doesn't sing to you, or dance the tango. But it's a simpler place to find out the Beth facts, and you can visit here.

Also today I'm celebrating my very dear friend, Florinda, who has kindly joined the Going Over blog tour and is hosting this interview with me. Florinda is such a smart (and kind) reader. She is a truly dear soul, someone who means so much to me, as readers of this blog already know. She made an exception on her blog for me, and for this book, and I am so grateful.

Here we get the skinny on the original title for the book, my target readership, and what I want most people to know about this Berlin story. You also get a chance to win a copy of the book.

That's all here.

Thank you, sweet Florinda!

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18. Speaking to my son in the French I never knew I could write

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19. Rhyme Schemer/K.A. Holt: Reflections


There's this kid. Call him Poetry Boy, even Poetry Bandit, if you'd like. Things aren't exactly perfect home. Things aren't precisely perfect at school. But Poetry Boy has his whole life handled. He's king of his own world—finding "easy prey" within the halls, writing poems nobody sees, scratching little insider insults into the pages of old books. It's all cool, life is cool, it's all just fine (believe him), until a kid named Robin finds the book Poetry Boy has been keeping and uses it as blackmail leverage—lending life many shades of intolerable.

(Well, okay, yes. It's true. Poetry Boy might have had a thing or two coming from Robin.)

This is Rhyme Schemer, K.A. Holt's engaging, clever middle grade novel in verse, which will be released this coming fall by Tamra Tuller and Chronicle Books. I'm celebrating it today because it's poetry month, because my secret poet Elisa of Undercover really wants to meet the secret schemer, and because I will actually meet author K.A. Holt in less than a week, in the sunny city of San Antonio.

And because it's just that good. Listen:

Kelly looks at me.
Her head is on her desk, too.
Those freckles are the same color as the desk,
like the desk has splashed a little on her face.


Mrs. Little looks at me sideways.
I know she wants to say something
but I don't want to listen
so I pretend I don't see
her eyes
in the corner of her face
like a hieroglyph.

Fine writing. Fine storytelling. Something very fine to be looking forward to.

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20. Grasshopper Jungle/Andrew Smith: Reflections

Andrew Smith.

They talk about him. They say, He's one of the smartest guys in the room. They say, He's one of the most charming. They say, Have you read? You've got to read. Here, they say. Is Grasshopper Jungle.

My friends, I've now had the privilege of reading this bright lime green marvel of a book, too. Plot synopsis, as provided by the flap copy:
In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend, Robby, have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.

This is the truth. This is history.

It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.

You know what I mean.
There, in those lines, is the confident craziness of the scheme, the rhythm of the tale, the sounds-convincingly-like-a-teen-but-is-written-by-a-guy-who-studied-Political-Science,-Journalism,-and-Literature-at-college-ness. This book is big, jammed with the promised promiscuity, the necessary confusions, and the wild what if's of a world that has turned terrible toxins on itself. One reads to see what will happen next, what can happen next, what these likable, mixed-up, also truly human characters are going to fumble upon next. It's sci fi. It's something else. It's Drew Smith.

Usually I quote from the pages of the stories themselves. But I just read the final final words, which happen to sit in the acknowledgments. There's a paragraph I really like, I really get, I really jive with. There's a paragraph that reminds all writers everywhere of how so much of our lives is predicated on finding just the right reader at the right time. Drew Smith now has a world full of readers. But this book all began with an agent who cared.
About two years ago, I decided to stop writing. Well, to be honest, not the verb writing, but I decided to get out of the business aspect of it, for which I have absolutely no backbone. I never felt so free as when I wrote things that I believed nobody would ever see. Grasshopper Jungle was one of those things. It was more-or-less fortune, then, that I happened to show the first portion of the novel to my friend Michael Bourret. He talked me into not quitting.
I'll be joining Drew Smith as well as Nina LaCour, Black Nelson, and Dana Reinhardt on the Tayshas Reading List and Authors next Thursday in San Antonio, TX. I can't wait to meet all the panelists and our moderator. Maybe we'll see you there.

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21. Who escaped East Berlin? Crayons or Markers? What do walls do? The GOING OVER tour continues

We are asked many things in this writing life, and sometimes we just plain don't have answers. But when young Turkeybird pulled out his notepad and stared up at me, I gave him everything I had. Answers to questions like:

How do you talk to someone when there's a big wall in the way?

If you were seven what would you read next?

Swings or Slides?

Crayons or Markers?

The entire conversation (and a book giveaway) can be found here, on the site of the utterly lovable super Mom/agent/writer/blogger/friend Danielle Smith of There's a Book. I love many things about Danielle, but love in particular how she's found a way to make her life so whole—her passion for books becoming a passion her children share. Danielle includes her children in the work she does. And there is joy in quantum quantities.

And there's another blogger I'd like to thank today — the very great The Book Swarm, who made room for a brief essay I'd written about those East Berlin escapees who did indeed make it over the wall. That can be found right here, on this deservedly popular blog. Thank you, so much, The Book Swarm!

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22. The Art of the Interview (and Narrative Profiles): thank you, John McPhee

Thank you, John McPhee.

Here I am, set to begin the narrative profile component of English 135.302 at Penn, set, as a matter of fact, to teach the art of the interview this coming Tuesday (this very one), and there you are in the pages of The New Yorker, with your essay "Elicitation."

Your timing, as always, is impeccable.

I am tempted to quote the entire piece back to my students, back to the world. I will honor the rules of borrowing and quote just a tad. Here we go:
Whatever you do, don't rely on memory. Don't even imagine that you will be able to remember verbatim in the evening what people said during the day. And don't squirrel notes in a bathroom—that is, run off to the john and write surreptitiously what someone said back there with the cocktails. From the start, make clear what you are doing and who will publish what you write. Display your notebook like a fishing license.
You can develop a distinct advantage by waxing slow of wit. Evidently, you need help. Who is there to help you but the person who is answering your questions? The result is the opposite of the total shutdown that might have occurred if you had come on glib and omniscient. If you don't seem to get something, the subject will probably help you get it. If you are listening to speech and at the same time envisioning it in print, you can ask your question again, and again, until the repeated reply will be clear in print. Who is going to care if you seem dumber than a cardboard box? Reporters call that creative bumbling.
In two weeks, Michael Sokolove will come to Penn and speak to my class as well as the students now being taught by my friend Avery Rome about this interviewing thing. He'll talk as well about his exceptional book, Drama High. John McPhee, you've given us more to ponder. And I (as I always am with you) am grateful.

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23. Talking Tacheles and the Dom with Jen of YA Romantics

The gracious and wonderful Jen Ryland of YA Romantics (who has been so kind to me and to my books) has been busy asking me some very interesting questions and posting a beautiful blog about Going Over and Berlin. She's also offering two signed copies of the book and an audio book to a reader, so please go on over and check her out.

What would have happened if I'd reversed the characters and roles of Stefan and Ada?

Where would I take Stefan and Ada, if they were to the tour the city today?

What were my inspirations?

That and more is there.

Huge thanks to dear Jen.

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24. The Pan-Asian Dance Troupe: The World According to Movement

We could not take photographs until after the show. We simply had to take it in, to be there for it, in the present now.

It was the Pan-Asian Dance Troupe's presentation of "Spirit: The Four Elements." It was Christine Wu, my former student, who had once written, memoiristically, of choreography and dance, and who now stood as troupe president on that stage in all her gorgeous tendernessfiercenessjoyfulnesstalent. In a show that was surprisingly wide-ranging, elevated, clever, classic, and contemporary, Christine and more than two dozen others gave us the world according to movement.

They drove a raucous audience toward congratulatory crazy.

There was "Ti Cao! Morning Exercise," inspired, as the program tells us, "by the early morning fitness routines of Chinese school children." There was the wildly inventive and rhythmic "What Does the Nut Say?," a piece featuring "nuts, coconut bras, and half-naked dudes." There was "Road to a Geisha," which began with the flicker of paper umbrellas and ended with loose hair and Korean hip-hop. There was a stunning water dance that quieted the crowd—water in cups on heads, in cups in hands, in transporting stillness.

In between these and so many other pieces were glorious film fragments—the big steaming earth, in some footage, flickers of the dancers themselves in the rain, on a bridge, near a pond, by the big doors, even at the ice rink of the Penn campus, in others. There the dancers were, doing martial art. There they were stomping on puddles. There they were doing wickedly fast scratch spins.There they were—costumed and smiling.

To my right, in the pews of Iron Gate Theater, sat the ever-gorgeous Chang, also a former student—an intensely intelligent straight A (so far, she says) engineering student, who once brought me hot chocolate, drew me pictures, and this week remembered my birthday with a gift. To my left sat poet-bio-engineer-er Eric, whose gentle nature belies the brilliance of his academic career. Elsewhere in the pews sat our beautiful, talented, headed-for-a big-writing career Angela. We were there for Christine, we were there for the troupe, we came to see, and oh did we ever.

Christine, the intelligence and quality of your show was not unexpected, coming from you and your troupe, but it was so fully rewarding. Chang, Eric, Angela—thank you for being you. And Katie Goldrath, my Katie of an earlier year, my Katie of the Pennsylvania Gazette story—how wonderful it was to walk with you through the Penn campus and up to Manakeesh, before the show. You are going to make such a huge difference in the lives of others when you graduate with your medical degree. Indeed, you already are.

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25. Small Damages arrives, all dressed up like a Parisian! And Teenreads takes you on a tour of Berlin. It's all global today.

From the French publisher La Martiniere and the translator Corinne Julve comes Small Damages, renamed Gipsy Song: Le choix de Kenzie.

Oh my gosh. I love this.

Meanwhile, over at Teenreads, we've got a tour of Beth's Berlin going on. And a Going Over giveaway! Check it out here.

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