Monday, December 26, 2011

I enjoy the wanting

This year I gave a lot of gifts made by Wendy MacNaughton and last year I gave a lot of gifts made by mgealach. I also gave M. a copy of Of Recklessness and Water. And M. gave me things that only she could. Sometimes I bookmark a lot of stuff, like this Rye Bread and this t-shirt, but probably I enjoy the wanting more than the getting.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

jack didn't know what was going to happen next

Jessica Serran, "I am waiting for something amazing to happen" (detail). Mixed media installation at West Oakland, CA train station via Art21 blog

Monday, December 19, 2011

the crocodile's snout in the lily pond

I frequently write about love and therefore about jealousy. It’s part of the deal; it’s what comes with love, for most people, in most societies. Of course, it’s also dramatic, and therefore novelistically attractive, because it’s frequently irrational, unfair, boundless, obsessing and horrible for all parties. It’s the moment when something deeply primitive breaks the surface of our supposedly grown-up lives—the crocodile’s snout in the lily pond. Irresistible. Julian Barnes in The Art of Fiction, No. 165, Paris Review

a novelist's normal condition

But then, such is my nature—and I assume I share this with lots of other writers—I thought, What if I only have one book in me? So the second novel is always harder, though in my case it was at least quicker. I still find myself thinking, Well, I may have written seven or eight or nine novels, but can I do it again the next time? But I’m convinced that a high anxiety level is the novelist’s normal condition. Julian Barnes in The Art of Fiction: No. 165, Paris Review

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

the tuesday interview: gene luen yang

I first read Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese when I TA'd a children's lit class as a graduate student and was, without reservation, completely blown away. He lives here in the Bay Area and right after that I had a chance to hear him read at SFPL and then again, this summer, I head him read as part of The Diversity in YA Tour. He strikes me as genuinely curious and is thoughtful and creative in ways that inspire my own work.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?
Gene Luen Yang: I've got three different projects going on right now.1. I'm doing a graphic novel continuation of Nickelodeon's popular animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender for Dark Horse Comics. I'm writing and a Japanese art team named Gurihiru is drawing. I'm a huge fan of the original cartoon, so I'm very excited about this. Of all the main characters, Zuko is my favorite. I relate to his struggle to do -- or even know -- what's right.

2. I'm writing a superhero comic for First Second Books. Sonny Liew is handling the art. The story is set in Chinatown in the 1930's. I can't say much more about the project at this point, but I'm super-excited about this one, too.

3. I'm writing and drawing a graphic novel about The Boxer Rebellion for First Second Books. I've been working on this one for years and years, ever since American Born Chinese came out. The Boxer Rebellion was a war that occurred on Chinese soil over a hundred years ago. At the time, the Chinese government was incredibly weak so the European powers were able to set up concessions all over China -- pieces of land that the Chinese government had no control over. A group of poor, illiterate teenagers from the Chinese countryside decided to take things into their own hands. They performed rituals that called down ancient Chinese gods to possess them. Then, emboldened by the gods' superpowers, they marched through China killing foreigners and Chinese Christians. There are many parallels between The Boxer Rebellion and what's happening in the Middle East today. Of all the projects I'm currently working on, this one is closest to my heart.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?
GLY: I have to confess, I'm pretty comics-y. I read a lot of comics and I am primarily inspired by other cartoonists. My musical tastes are lame. I mostly like pop music from when I was a teenager (late 80's, early 90's -- Rick Astley is totally underrated, as are the Fine Young
). Even my movie tastes are comics-y. Like pretty much every other cartoonist, I love Studio Ghibli movies.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?
GLH: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. As for prose books, I love Silence by Shusaku Endo.

RQD: What are you reading now?
GLY: I'm reading a collection of Father Brown short stories by G.K.Chesterton. I recently read The New New Thing by Michael Lewis. (I really wanted to read the Steve Jobs biography, but my library didn't have it so I settled for the biography of another Silicon Valley

As I mentioned already, I also read a lot of comics and graphic novels. Comics that I've read in the past month or two: Picket Line by Breena Wiederhoeft, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Merrick, Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, a
volume of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that I borrowed from a friend, Chris Giarrusso's G-Man with my kids, and the new Wonder Woman comic from DC Comics.

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?
GLY: I read a lot of comic books. :) I also loved Orson Scott Card, Lloyd Alexander, Judy Blume, Clifford Hicks. Remember Clifford Hicks' Alvin Fernald books? I *loved* them when I was a kid. I wanted to be Alvin. I seem to be the only one, though. Nobody else my age knows what I'm talking about.

I remember reaching the end of the J section at my library and feeling lost in the adult section. That's when I latched onto comics. There wasn't much of a YA section when I was growing up.
Illustration: Still from Studio Ghibli via Cartoonbrew

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I am not me the horse is not mine

William Kentridge asks “how does one find a way of not necessarily illustrating the society that one lives in, but allowing what happens there to be part of the work?” William Kentridge via PBS Art21

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the tuesday interview: peter orner

I used to carry my copy of Peter Orner's Esther Stories around with me in case I ever got stuck somewhere without something to read. I could open it up to any page and just fall in. Then I heard he was going to read at Dog Eared Books, so I packed in with a bunch of other people and followed along with my book in my lap. Now he has this amazing new book, but he still feels like our own neighborhood storyteller.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Peter Orner: I have
a new novel out, so I wish I could say I was working at the moment. I think I'm in the process of saying goodbye to characters I've spent so much time with. They are slowly fading away to me and having lives of their own as they get read (or not read) by other people...What interested me for so many years (the book took about seven) was how my people seemed constitutionally incapable of learning from the past.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?

PO: The South African artist
William Kentridge I find him amazing; his huge imagination, the way he uses history and politics in his work.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

PO: A novel by great Nebraskan novelist Wright Morris called
Plains Song, I re-read it every year. This and Moby Dick. And also the sea stories of Alvaro Mutis.

RQD: What are you reading now?

PO: Right now I am reading The Book of Ebenzer Le Page, one of the strangest novels I've ever come across, and loving it. Its about a guy on an island off the UK who remembers nearly every single detail about his life. I can't get enough of it.

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?
PO: The Phantom Tollbooth. I often think about it at least every day, how easy it seemed in that book to pass from one reality to another. When we're a kid and we read a book like this, we almost take it for granted. These days it's like I'm wandering around looking for that weird and wonderful tollbooth. Where did it go?

Monday, December 5, 2011

and occasionally, very occasionally

I would rather have the 200 imperfect books that comprise my history and mark the vectors of my path through my art form than to have one perfect book which would comprise nothing but its own perfect self and denote no vectors of a life lived, and an art form struggled with and occasionally, very occasionally, bested. Barry Moser via crankreport

Thursday, December 1, 2011

500 words

A couple of years went by, while I flailed around like this. But one day I sat down at my desk and wrote the first page of Middlesex, 500 words that contained the DNA for the protein synthesis of the entire book. I still had a million things to figure out about the plot and the characters, but I had my voice, my tone, and I was on my way. Jeffrey Eugenides on Middlesex in The Guardian.
Richard Serra, To Encircle Base Plate Hexagram, Right Angles Inverted (1970)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

so i'm reading this frank o'hara poem

There's no Tuesday interview today. So I'm reading this Frank O'Hara poem: Now I am quietly waiting for / the catastrophe of my personality / to seem beautiful again, / and interesting, and modern.

And visiting these two favorite blogs: forty-sixth and grace and 16 house. And wanting to see this exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. And admiring Something Changed's reading list.

And next week we'll have a Tuesday Interview from Peter Orner.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

until I realised

The entire structure for the novel appeared in my head, fully formed, as ravishing as a crystal palace on a distant hill. I remember leaving the library that day, passing into the sunshine on the green, overwhelmed with the grandeur of this design and filled with a sense of personal magnificence, and this euphoria lasted for another minute until I realised that I had no idea how to write such a book. Jeffrey Eugenides in The Guardian
Crew member taking a movie of an iceberg, Greenland 1939. Smithsonian via gealach

Monday, November 21, 2011

the tuesday interview: kara levy

I met San Francisco writer, Kara Levy at a Peter Orner reading at Dog Eared Books through another writer friend, Cora Stryker. The reading was for JoyLand Magazine where Kara is the SF/Bay Area editor. Later, after another reading, we talked about what we say when people ask, "what do you write about?" Kara sometimes says, "sickness and the body." Well, they don't usually ask again after that.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Kara Levy: Right now I'm working on a novel — it's a sort of humorous adventure novel that follows a self-proclaimed journalist-turned-Professional-Sick-Person on an unlikely quest to find a cure for Crohn's Disease. Crohn's Disease isn't curable (yet), but the novel involves a fake medieval-style pilgrimage, battle reenactments, a few infidelities, some madcap teenagers, and a lot of capes and baubles in the characters' quest to see if it could be. It's as much about these characters' quest to find a cure for something incurable as it is about their beliefs (or lack thereof) that the impossible could be possible, through belief or friendship or will or something we can't even understand. As an optimistic skeptic, that's a theme that interests me a lot. I'm also polishing up my finished story collection, Doctors of the Natural World, which examines issues of illness and the body too. In that book, the recurring question seems to be, "What choices do we make after the body makes choices for us?" I spend a lot of energy trying to convince people it's not depressing. I guess you'll just have to read bits of it to believe me.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?

KL: I feel like I've been hugely influenced by standup and screen comedians: Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Lucille Ball, George Carlin, and so on. There's so much more than humor behind those performances — and performers — than meets the eye. I'm really interested in comedy for what it can do to express real things about our experience, sometimes more than theater or performance that purports to be serious. I also love medieval art, particularly architecture. You'll see a lot of that showing up in my novel. Is it appalling to say that I wrote a whole story in my collection while listening to an Akon song on repeat? Truth: That happened. Akon knows things.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

KL: Oh, geez, so much. Lorrie Moore's Self-Help is inescapable for me. I think I have two copies of it, for some odd reason. I also love Andre Dubus's story "Fat Girl," and go back to that often. I've reread Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler many, many times and I always learn something new, particularly about structure (which is not a strength of mine). In recent years I've found myself often revisiting a Wells Tower story, "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned." It's the title story of his collection, and I think it's so brilliant. It's the perfect storm of humor and pain and character and story. He takes the unfamiliar and makes it so familiar it's almost disorienting. I wish I could figure out how to write anything even closely approximating it.

RQD: What are you reading now?

KL: I'm reading Eric Puchner's Model Home. A friend recommended it to me, and I'm really enjoying it. I also just started Erik Larson's In the Garden of the Beasts, also on a friend's recommendation. I find fictional-style retellings of history fascinating. It reminds me a little of a book I loved in high school, Alison Weir's The Six Wives of King Henry VIII. I remember thinking it was such a revelation that history could be communicated so compellingly. (No offense to my high-school history teachers, who were also, of course, totally compelling.)

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?

KL: As a kid I loved Roald Dahl, but I don't think I realized until much later in life just how dark he really is. I also liked the Madeline l'Engle books, and then, when I got to middle school, I decided on A Separate Peace as my favorite book. Tortured, woeful Funny! Common theme: I reread it as an adult and was like, Wait, what? I think I saw impact as a different thing back then. The impact was a lot, lot less reading it fifteen years later. Sometimes it's interesting to go back and revisit things you've always held up so high, you know? Sometimes they're just as you remember them, but for different reasons, and sometimes the distance shows you how much your taste has changed, or your threshold for certain types of narratives.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

city arts and lectures

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Joan Didion.
Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the tuesday interview: elana k. arnold

Elana K. Arnold's book Sacred is coming out in Fall 2012 and I can't wait. She's one of those people (Like Lindsay Leavitt) who writes books, raises great kids and is funny and down to earth and you sort of want her to be your best friend.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Elana K. Arnold: Right now I’m doing the research for the sequel to SACRED, my first novel, which Random House/Delacorte is publishing next fall. SACRED and its sequel entwine Kabbalistic mysticism and provocative romance. So I’m reading lots of texts, trying to deepen my own understanding of this complicated and ancient topic—Kabbalah, that is. I love my protagonist,Scarlett because she’s flawed and somewhat broken but determined to heal and grow. Also, both SACRED and its sequel deal with horses—Scarlett is an avid rider—and I love writing about horses.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?

EA: My first love, even outside of fiction, is books. I love memoir; David Sedaris thrills me, John Elder Robison’s Look Me in the Eye was wonderful, Temple Grandin is amazing. When I listen to music it’s often James Taylor. His voice brings me back to my childhood since my parents always listened to his music, too. And I have a guilty fascination with celebrities… not necessarily as ‘artists,’ but as human beings.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

E: Easy. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman is always nearby. Everything by John Irving, particularly A Prayer for Owen Meany. And Paul Auster’s books—namely The New York Trilogy—probably because I’m still trying to figure it out.

RQD: What are you reading now?

EA: Aside from texts about the Kabbalah—Arthur Green’s A Guide to the Zohar and Daniel C. Matt’s Essential Kabbalah—I’m revisiting mystery novels (a sort of pleasurable research). There are competing stacks of Agatha Christie and Harry Kemelman on my table. And I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild; I preordered it.

RQD:What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?

EA: Anything I could get my hands on. Anne of Green Gables and Gone with the Wind were huge for me, I devoured all of Christie’s books, and was fascinated by Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex But were Afraid to Ask (which I found in my grandmother’s library!). All the Pretty Horses and Cowboys are my Weakness taught me that you could write about horses without being insipid. I read literary fiction—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Rand—and trashy bodice-ripper romances. I was an indiscriminate reader. I think the result is that as a writer I smash together everything I love, highbrow and lowbrow alike.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

already, the facts dissemble

Understand, I love you, even as I turn from you like this,
stumbling breathless down a dim and disappearing street behind
a man who squints at house numbers, bewildered, about to say
something I can almost hear.
From "Apology" by Marie Howe

your clever hands never lie

Friday, November 11, 2011

because the new york times doesn't have comics

It turns out that working on Because the New York Times Doesn't Have Comics is a blast. Last week's issue is archived here. Plus, M. put together a Vimeo channel (in our house, this one from anima istanbul is a runaway hit) and started an Indiebound list of the book recommendations we've received. What are your favorite kid-friendly links?

Video: Don't Go from anima istanbul on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

the tuesday interview: nova ren suma

I bought Nova Ren Suma's book, Imaginary Girls, because I loved the cover (I love covers) but when I read the first three pages, I slammed the book shut. Damn this book is good. I saved it for my SF/NY flight and as soon as I got settled, I started in again. I didn't look up. I didn't watch the movie. Five hours went by and I was completely transported.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Nova Ren Suma: I’m working on a few things—all in different stages—so my head’s a mess right now. My next YA novel coming out with Dutton (release date still to be determined) is a ghost story, in a way, and sometimes the pieces I write for it deeply disturb me. WHO wrote that? I think. And then I realize… Oh, that was me. The characters in it, these girls with frightening fates, have been haunting me for the past year. I’m interested in rescuing them from what they have to face, and I think they’re interested in pulling me in with them.

RQD: What art or artists (not fiction, but theatre, painters, music, etc.) interest you?

NRS: There is a photographer who’s fascinated me for years. I first discovered her photographs in a college photo class, when we were studying self-portraits, and she’s been my favorite artist ever since: Francesca Woodman. It’s a very sad story (she committed suicide at age 22), and in her beautiful black-and-white images—many of which are of herself—you can see how stunningly talented she was. There’s so much said in these images, by the way she blurs herself out and hides within the frame, by what’s shown as well as what’s not shown. I can’t even articulate how much I love her photographs.

I’m also drawn to female musicians—to a certain kind of voice (always honest), and a storytelling quality in songs. I have such a crush on Amanda Palmer… she’s amazing. And I’m a huge fan of Chan Marshall, Karen O., PJ Harvey, Emily Haines, and Alison Mosshart. I’d listen to, and write to, any song they sing.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

NRS: There are some books I’ve read again and again and will continue to, probably for the rest of my life. One is a novel called The Last Life by Claire Messud; I’m obsessed with it. Another is Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr. Then there are the short stories, the Alice Munro collections and Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson (which I’ve been known to read aloud to others, especially his story “Dirty Wedding,” which, just… wow) and Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun and the brilliant fairy-tale retellings in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.

RQD: What are you reading now?

NRS: I’m reading some YA manuscripts I must keep secret… but I’m loving what I’ve read so far. I also believe in using tempting books as motivators, so my reward for finishing the proposal pages of my next novel and turning them in to my agent will be 1Q84, Haruki Murakami’s new novel, which promises to be very magical.

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?

NRS: I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. When I look back, I see that the books that most impacted me were the novels I found on my mom’s bookshelves. She was—still is—an avid reader. Seeing her read and love books all throughout my childhood certainly shaped me as a person and ignited this dream in me to write my own books one day. When I was about twelve or thirteen I borrowed her Margaret Atwood books: Cat’s Eye and The Handmaid’s Tale. They opened my eyes to what kinds of stories I could tell. They showed me that stories about girls could be books, too. I decided I’d grow up to be a writer very soon after that.

Photo: Francesca Woodman, Polka Dots,

Providence, Rhode Island, 1976 on view at SFMOMA

Monday, November 7, 2011

restroll and stroll some never deepening beach

Shoes via Dores

before all that

Ruby said I’d never drown—not in deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk into someone’s bottomless backyard pool. She said she’d seen me hold my breath underwater for minutes at a time, but to hear her tell it you’d think she meant days. Long enough to live down there if needed, to skim the seafloor collecting shells and shiny soda caps, looking up every so often for the rescue lights, even if they took forever to come.

It sounded impossible, something no one would believe if anyone other than Ruby were the one to tell it. But Ruby was right: The body found that night wouldn’t be, couldn’t be mine.

We had no idea—this was before the blue-flashing strobe through the pines; the spotlit glare on water; the skidding over rocks; the grabbing of shoes, any shoes, of clothes, any clothes. Before we went running through the brush and the sharp sticks cut our bare feet. Before the heart in my chest went pounding, all the while wondering, Is this really happening? when it was, most definitely it was. Before all that—all we wanted was to go swimming.

From Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. Tomorrow on The Tuesday Interview

Photo by Keegan Gibbs via Aubrey Road

and the goddaughter said

Joe Davis designed this site for me and the goddaughter said, "it's like a secret."

Friday, November 4, 2011

through honesty

I am always very precisely implicated in my films, not through narcissism but through honesty in my approach. Agnes Varda

Thursday, November 3, 2011

she said that we'd see buffalo

We fought. When my mother and I crossed state lines in the stolen car, I’d sit against the window and wouldn’t talk. I wouldn’t even look at her. The fights came when I thought she broke a promise. She said there’d be an Indian reservation. She said that we’d see buffalo in Texas. My mother said a lot of things. We were driving from Bay City, Wisconsin, to California, so I could be a child star while I was still a child. Anywhere but Here, Mona Simpson via distraction no. 99

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

the tuesday interview: andrew sean greer

I still find it surprising when writers I admire say yes to my interview requests. Andrew Sean Greer is one of those writers. He's our writer, a Bay Area writer, and he's always struck me as someone you'd like to have around, someone who, as he says, is "game for a mysterious adventure."

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Andrew Sean Greer: I'm finishing the third draft of a novel called "Many Worlds" that is a literary novel set in multiple universes. As for these characters, I finally get to have some people with a sense of humor!

RQD: What art or artists have an effect on your work?

ASG: Poetry and painting has the greatest effect on me; poetry because they are doing the hard work down in the mines, and what they bring up always inspires my own work, and painting because there is something about the intensity of the painted flat surface that mesmerizes and moves me outside all reason. I find portraits to be fascinating. But for intensity, something like Cy Twombly or Serra's recent show of drawings at the Met really do it for me. Big overpowering movement. Cleverness does nothing for me; emotion is all I'm interested in with art. That probably goes for fiction as well.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

ASG: Now I don't return to things because I love them; I return to them because they help my writing. These are related but not the same. And I'd say Proust and Grace Paley and Wallace Stevens. They always knock my socks off and get me going.

RQD: What are you reading now?

ASG: I'm reading Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?

ASG: I read antique children's fiction--you know, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and Tom Sawyer, and the Boxcar Children and all that--that gradually turned into fantasy and science fiction and then turned into philosophical fiction by high school like Camus. Strangely enough, I still find those old books satisfying in ways that sci fi and even Camus are not, anymore. I think it's the quality of the writing and characterization. And the sense of people game for a mysterious adventure!

Drawing: Richard Serra "Late September" 2001

Monday, October 31, 2011

disciplining imaginary children

"I do remember disciplining imaginary children in the backseat of my car." Tom Waits on Fresh Air
Illustration: "Birds" by Alyson Fox

no other reason than a sky

As I Walked Out

Don't tell me you've never dreamed of this –
of waking in a room with a wide open window,

the air clear and ringing after night rain;
of needing no other reason than a sky

the unbelievable blue of which
sends you flitting deftly through the house

past the year-old jar of nails and flies,
the pile of dishes in the sink, and out the back door

where you're caught for an instant in the brightness
because the future's so much easier than you'd thought –

slipping your heart under the rosebush like a key,
everything you need in the canvas bag

resting lightly at your hip

Sunday, October 30, 2011

what are we going to do now, asked tommy

“I don’t know what you are going to do,” said Pippi, “but I know I can’t lie around and be lazy. I am a ThingFinder, and you’re a ThingFinder you don’t have a minute to spare.”

“What do you say you are?” asked Annika.

“A ThingFinder.”

“What’s that?” asked Tommy.

“Somebody who hunts for things, naturally. What else could it be?” said Pippi as she swept all the floor into a little pile.

“Oh, all kinds,” said Pippi. “Lumps of gold, ostrich feathers, dead rats, candy snapcrackers, little tiny screws, and things like that.”

Tommy and Annika thought it sounded as if it would be fun and wanted very much to be ThingFinders too, although Tommy did say he hoped he’d find a lump of gold and not a little tiny screw.

Photo: Cricket via Uncrate

Friday, October 28, 2011

it is a brave thing

It is a brave and stupid thing, a beautiful thing, to waste one's life for love. The Confessions of Max Tivoli, Andrew Sean Greer

Monday, October 24, 2011

the tuesday interview: hannah moskowitz

There's something about Hannah Moskowitz. She's sorta funny and real. She's written these wonderful books that all the reviewers call raw and poetic and they're right. And she tweets a lot. I started with Break, about a boy who sets out to break every bone in his body. But of course, there's Invincible Summer and you can preorder the hardback of Gone, Gone, Gone now.

RQD: What are you working on now? What interests you about these characters?

Hannah Moskowitz: Right now I'm working on another draft of (what is currently titled) Marco Impossible, my next middle grade book. It's told from the POV of the best friend of an openly gay 13-year-old, so I get to play with a lot of stuff that you don't usually see in MG. There's kissing.

RQD: What other art or artists play a role in your work?

HM: Tom Stoppard, definitely, as far as plays go. Motion City Soundtrack, Death Cab for Cutie, and Bright Eyes for music.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

HM: Indigo's Star by Hilary McKay. I have no idea how many times I've read it.

RQD: What are you reading now?

HM: Right now I'm working on Now Playing, the sequel to Stoner and Spaz, but it's taking me a while because I'm an English major and I have to read a lot for school. My reading-for-pleasure time is very limited during the school year. It pretty much sucks.

RQD: What did you read as a kid?

HM: I read a TON of Middle Grade from a very early age; my mom used to read it to me when I was very young. And since I still read it, that's the age group that feels so timeless to me. There's a part of me that will always be twelve, I think.

Album cover: Death Cab for Cutie Narrow Stairs