Yesterday, when I went to my new branch, I was feeling good. I removed and checked in the last box of books from the center of the library. It looked like we only had the thirty in the workroom left. But then someone showed me the endless hallway of boxes still to be processed in theory, by our grand opening on June 28th. Today, going to work, I feel like I’m emptying the ocean with a Dixie cup.
So before I head off to that impossible task, we’ll check in with Daphne Grab, author of Alive and Well in Prague, New York, who was kind enough to answer the MotherReader 5Ws (& 1H) Interview.
When did you start writing?
I wrote a lot in high school but then didn’t write anything creative for over ten years. I had this idea that I wanted to be a writer, but I could never come up with a story that I felt passionate about. Then, about five years ago, I read the acknowledgements in the back of a book that I had just finished and enjoyed. The author mentioned getting an MFA in creative writing at the New School here in NYC, and I figured since it was right downtown it was worth finding out about. I sent off for their catalogue, and when I saw that they had a Writing for Children concentration I had one of those “a-ha moments” where you know you’ve just encountered something that will change your life. And sure enough it did!
Who influences you personally or professionally?
My teachers at the New School, David Levithan, Sarah Weeks and Tor Seidler, helped my writing incredibly. They are also great sources of advice for managing this crazy business. Beverly Cleary is the writer whose work I most worship and try to emulate, in the sense of writing characters and life situations that are honest and real. My mom is the one who read awesome books to me every night when I was kid, which cemented my lifelong love of reading, so she gets number one influence status.
Where do you do your best thinking and writing?
I write in my bedroom NYC apartments are small and that is the only place there is room for my desk. For the most part I am inspired while sitting there, but if I’m feeling stuck I try to go for a walk or take a yoga class exercising and not thinking can lead to better thinking later.
Why did you want to write this book?
Six years ago my Dad passed away from ALS, and during my second year at the New School I realized I wanted to write about that experience of having a parent with a debilitating illness. Not just the hard stuff, but also the parts that were beautiful and real about living with illness but still having the gift of that person in your life for a limited time. And so Alive and Well was born.
How are your own life experiences reflected in Alive and Well in Prague New York?
I drew on my feelings from my experience with my dad’s illness, and I also drew on my own feeling about city and country living. But the story itself is pure fiction. Unlike Matisse, I was a shy country girl very concerned about what others thought of me. Matisse was fun to write because she could care less how her peers judged her and a welcome break from my own teen life.
What’s next for you?
I just sold a middle grade novel that will be out in the spring of 2010. Halftime is about Louis, a twelve-year-old boy who is a bit of a misfit in school and lives for his football team, the Buffalo Bills. At the start of the story he learns that the baby his mom gave up for adoption 21 years ago is the best college football player in the country, and he wants to come meet his biological family. The story is all the ways Louis’s life changes and he grows as his brother enters his life, and it includes bullies, girls and some pretty tough choices.
Thanks so much for having me! (You’re welcome!)