July 11th, 2008

Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

Poetry Friday: Climbing Uphill by Jason Robert Brown

I'm up every morning at six
And standing in line
With two hundred girls
Who are younger and thinner than me
Who have already been to the gym

I'm waiting five hours in line
And watching the girls
Just coming and going
In dresses that look just like this
'Til my number is finally called

- selected lyrics from Climbing Uphill from the musical The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown

This song is sung by Cathy, an aspiring actress. The piece mixes together her auditions, her frustrations, and her inner thoughts. It's fantastic. Read the lyrics to the entire song. (WARNING: This song contains one curse word. I substitute the word "stupid" in its place when I sing this song. It works.)

The original Chicago production of The Last Five Years featured Lauren Kennedy and Norbert Leo Butz. I watched it online a few years ago and loved it. (Learn more about my love for this production.) Sadly, those videos seem to be gone now.

Clips from many other productions (college, regional, community, etcetera) are available online. Here's one stellar example: Colleen Ballinger's performance of Climbing Uphill.

Last year, one Poetry Friday, I posted lyrics from Moving Too Fast, another song from The Last Five Years.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

Consult the Poetry Friday roundup schedule at Big A little a.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

Interview: Suzanne Supplee

Author Suzanne Supplee has seen two of her novels hit the shelves so far this year. January brought When Irish Guys Are Smiling, in Penguin's Students Across the Seven Seas (S.A.S.S.) line, and June revealed Artichoke's Heart, in which a young woman struggles with her weight and other things happening in her home, school, workplace, and town. After sharing Artichoke (and virtual chocolate) with me, Suzanne answered questions for me and for her readers. Here are the results of our discussion dessert, in which we offer plenty of food for thought.

Artichoke's Heart covers about six months in the life of fifteen-turned-sixteen-year-old Rosemary - and there are a lot of things going on in her life. Did you attempt to balance the storylines and outline all of the events in advance?

I'm not big on doing formal outlines. It's sort of like reading the instructions before putting something together. I'm not big on that either. But, once I get started, I am constantly outlining the story in my head, and if I get stuck, I'll create an outline on paper to nudge me along.

While detailing Rosemary's weight loss, were you cautious or wary of readers who might try to copycat her attempts?

I have three daughters, so I am very aware of the hefty responsibility that comes with writing. So, I'll say it here: Do NOT eat tainted mayo or tainted anything, for that matter. Rosemary realized this was insane and later regretted such a crazy method for weight loss. As for the Pounds Away diet, I don't believe in these kinds of diets either, not for the long-term anyway. While I do feel that YA authors have a certain amount of responsibility for what we write, I also believe we must stay true to our characters and try to be as honest and authentic as possible. It's a tricky balance, I suppose.

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Visit Suzanne's website.
Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee

There are many layers in Artichoke's Heart. Peel them away and you'll find a heartfelt story about family and friends, about self-esteem and healthful living.

The book covers about six months in the life of Rosemary, a fifteen year old girl who is just as aware of her weight as the classmates who taunt her - though she is more frustrated with her aunt's pointed remarks about it than those of her peers. Rosemary has grown up in a town where everyone knows everyone, and in a house with her hardworking single mother, who gave birth when she was a teenager herself. Rosemary works alongside her mom at Heavenly Hair, a salon that's always bustling with activity and gossip.

After a particularly indulgent holiday season, Rosemary finds herself pushing 200 pounds and can't comfortably fit into her clothes. She finally decides to lose weight. Though she begins with a crash diet, which worried me, then turned to Pounds-Away shakes and bars, I was relieved and glad when she got back on solid foods and learned to simply be conscious of her food and of portion size. Then, with the help of an unlikely new friend - Kay-Kay, popular, slender, and athletic - she starts to exercise regularly. The two girls go on morning runs together, sharing secrets and silliness, bonding quickly, and Rosemary starts using her treadmill for more than a laundry dump.

Rosemary's journey takes many paths. She starts seeing a therapist to discuss her health and her life. Her mother's illness shakes their world, worrying them both for obvious reasons, though neither is very good at expressing her concerns. Mother and daughter as well as aunt and grandmother reconnect in new ways. Rosemary's first serious boyfriend, Kyle, is kind, athletic, and likable. Her sixteenth birthday is memorable. The other women and men who work at Heavenly Hair are fun. That setting and those scenes will appeal to fans of Steel Magnolias and the poignant novel Beauty Shop for Rent ...fully equipped, inquire within by Laura Bowers. Artichoke's Heart is full of hope, with thoughts in the introduction and conclusion inspired by Emily Dickinson, which will hopefully in turn inspire readers to be healthy, happy, and whole.

Read my interview with author Suzanne Supplee.
Lucy Woodward, happy

Interview: Courtney Sheinmel

In her debut novel, My So-Called Family, Courtney Sheinmel realistically captures the thoughts and feelings of a young girl who has always known of her origins: her mother went to a reproductive clinic, selected a donor based on a profile, and had a child. Though she's always loved her family - which now consists of a stepfather and little half-brother in addition to her mother - Leah decides to secretly seek out her extended family. (Read my full-length book review.)

In my recent exchanges with Courtney, we've talked about our favorite stories as well as stories about ourselves. In this interview, we discuss the importance of truth and acceptance, and celebrate all kinds of families.

First of all, please tell me how to pronounce your last name properly.

I have one of those last names that is hard to spell, and people are never quite sure how to say it. It's pronounced Shine Mell. My father tells me it means "pretty flower," but I don't know if I believe him.

Speaking of names, in your novel, your main character doesn't know her father's name at all. She only knows that he was Donor 730, and that her mother selected him based on certain attributes listed in his profile at the clinic. Did you select the donor number randomly or...?

730 is my sister's birthday, so that's why I picked the number.

Leah wants to meet her half-siblings, but she does not attempt to find her father. Was that due to her young age, state laws, and sealed records, or was a conscious effort on behalf of both author and character - that Leah didn't want to or need to find him?

The idea for My So-Called Family came partly from a segment on the Today Show. Matt Lauer interviewed a bunch of mothers who had had kids by the same donor, and had connected on the Donor Sibling Registry - a real-life website that allows kids of the same donor father to sign up and connect with each other. It's my understanding that the identities of the donors themselves are never revealed – the kids know their donors simply by number. I think it would be a violation of privacy for the donor names to be disclosed.

As for Leah, I imagine that she and her donor siblings would love to know the identity of their donor father -- I just don't know that they would ever legally have access to that information.

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Drop by Courtney's website and blog.

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Courtney Sheinmel (2009)
Book Review: My So-Called Life by Courtney Sheinmel
Book Review: Positively by Courtney Sheinmel
Book Review: Stella Batts Needs a New Name by Courtney Sheinmel, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
Family: Courtney Sheinmel
Hope: Courtney Sheinmel