Sunday, September 03, 2006

September 3, 2006

I just finished reading Elizabeth Berg's newest book, "We Are All Welcome Here." I laughed, I cried, I learned a bit about Freedom Schools started by African Americans in the early 1960s. It's a great read, inspired by a letter the author received from a woman who's mother spent her adult life paralyzed from polio.

Another good read is "That Girl Lucy Moon," by Amy Timberlake. I actually got to interview this author for the Daily Herald. Here's the interview:

‘Lucy’ takes on junior high injustices
Posted Saturday, September 02, 2006

Rachel Baruch Yackley

Name: Amy Timberlake
Born: Hudson, WI
Reside: Recently moved to Chicago from St. Charles
Family: Husband, Phil
Occupation: Writer
Web site:
Little-known fact: “I was born on Friday the 13th. That means it’s a good day for me.”

First it was “The Dirty Cowboy” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), which earned many awards and rave reviews, and now Amy Timberlake has done it again, with “That Girl Lucy Moon.”
Lucy Moon was written for an audience between the ages of 9 to 12, but I couldn’t put it down. Adolescence, independence, abandonment, rebellion, politics, and love are all concepts that Timberlake successfully brought to life through Lucy’s delightful story.
Published by Hyperion Books for Children, and just released yesterday (September 1), this novel was already selected by Kirkus for it's special edition "Debut Fiction," and garnered a very positive review. It was also chosen by Booksense, the independent booksellers organization, as a Fall 2006 Booksense pick.
Timberlake will be appearing at Town House Books & Cafe, 105 N. 2nd Ave. in St. Charles, at noon on Saturday, September 9, for a reception and book signing.
Recently Timberlake spoke to me from her new home in Chicago, while noise from the Air and Water Show pierced the background.

Lucy Moon lives in a small town. Did St. Charles have any influence on the setting in this book?
No. I grew up in a town in northern Wisconsin, right before you cross into Minnesota, called Hudson, Wisconsin. There are 10,000 people in town. There was always the sense that everyone knew everything.
The book started with my husband saying, “You should write about Hudson.” I was always telling stories about my home town. The book is completely fictional, but I started with writing down memories.
We were living in Virginia at the time. There’s no snow there, in the winter. So I just started with this image of a sledding hill. Across from where we lived (in Hudson) was a public sledding hill. I loved sledding at dusk, which is really dangerous. Out of that really came the whole book.

Where did Lucy Moon come from?
Lucy’s a compilation of me and of who I’d like to be. It’s more like, gosh, if I could be the person I’d really like to be.
When I went through adolescence, I lost a part of myself -- the self-confidence, the obnoxiousness. Adolescence was really hard, and junior high was really hard, and it took me a long time to come through it.

This protagonist is quite the activist. Were you an activist as a child?
Somewhat. I was very self-serving. She’s got a bigger sense of things.
When we learned about petitions in third grade, I felt there was this one girl who was the teacherÂ’s pet, and I got everyone to sign a petition to stop this bad behavior.
I was in band and played the flute. We always had to wait for other instrumentalists to learn their notes. We (flute players) went on a strike.

When you were writing this book, were you hoping to have a positive affect on your readers, maybe inspire them to look around and get involved?
Not specifically. I had such a hard time in junior high that I just wanted to say, here’s a story. I wanted to tell a good story, first of all, but I also wanted to be honest.
Also, I wanted to write a book that felt real to me. When I read it now, it seems kind of like a fairy tale, but with pieces of reality.
Things happen, and you deal with it. But the truth is that many difficult things, hard things, sometimes happen at one time, and you have to deal with them all at once. I wish that one thing could happen at a time and we could deal with it, and then there would be another.
It would be great if kids were inspired by this story, even speaking your mind instead of just sitting there. I would be really excited about that.
One thing I seriously tried to put into this book was I left elementary school, where everybody seemed relatively sane, and started middle school, and everything was different. Nail polish, bras. It was just three months (between grades)! Hey, you went to camp, I went to camp, how did you guys come out so differently?

“That Girl Lucy Moon” is so different from your young children’s picture book, “The Dirty Cowboy.” How did that story come about?
“The Dirty Cowboy” came out in 2003. It was my first book. I’d been writing before that, but Dirty Cowboy was the first book to get published.
I was working on my masters in English/Creative Writing at the University of Illinois in Chicago. I was thinking, at that point, that I would be writing for adults. I wasn’t sending much (writing) out, and then there was a big period when I was blocked.
I was writing an historical novella about counterfeiting for my masters thesis. I finished it and they gave me my degree! Yea! It was a huge thing to finish that.
But then, I was done, and didn’t know what I should do. I was sitting by a river and thought I should write the story of The Dirty Cowboy. My dad and my grandfather used to tell me this story. My great grandfather was a journalist and had written about the story in a newspaper. It turned into a tall tale, over the years.
I think (“The Dirty Cowboy”) got rejected 14 or 15 times, then FSG (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) picked it up. My family was really excited, because it was a family story.
To contact Rachel Baruch Yackley with comments and future column ideas, send e-mail to