Topic: Author Interview
Honest, empathetic, imaginative
From Vivian: Excellent insight on Holly's part.
Intimidating. I'm very direct and not shy about speaking out on issues I feel passionate about.
From Vivian: Many people are intimidated by Holly, but under that tough exterior is one tough woman. Seriously, her exterior is more intimidating that the person she is inside, but she is not shy about speaking her mind (and she's very often completely right).
My husband and my children. Freedom of speech. Civil rights. You know how kids will stomp a foot and yell, "That's not fair!"? I have always had an overactive sense of righteous indignation – I may not stomp my foot and yell, but dismissing injustice with a shrug and saying, "That's life" just doesn't do it for me.
From Vivian: Believe her when she says she does not take injustice lightly, and the anger at injustice or unfairness is not limited to her family only. I know of times when I'm glad she couldn't reach some people who were not "fair."
Right now, we have a green anole named Bob and a whole slew of tiny crickets that ultimately belong to the lizard. Bob's a little shy; I'd introduce you, but he goes all brown and skittish around strangers.
You ask such impossible questions, Joyce! I have to choose just one? If forced to choose, it's going to be the obvious cliché answer – childbirth. But now, if my kids read this, they're going to ask, "Which one of us?" How about the day I walked down the stairs on my father's arm, and saw my husband smile from across the room as he waited for me to join him in taking our marriage vows? How about the moment I first held Trockle in my hands? Don't make me choose just one, Joyce – life's too full of precious memories to play favorites.
When I was ten, I got a tape recorder for my birthday. I used up a whole hour of tape singing, "Happy Birthday to MEeeee!" and running a sort of radio show in which I sang, announced that I would "never be nine again," and generally babbled nonsense. My parents found it, played it, declared it "adorable" and put it in a safe place - basically, any place where I couldn't find it and destroy the evidence in later years.
My mother said that she knew J.J. was destined to be her son-in-law the day I had her dig up the tape and play it for him. The only other people I let listen to the tape are my kids, to demonstrate to them that even the most mortifying moments can be cute, laughable, silly, and totally harmless in retrospect. So they'd know, next time they're feeling humiliated, that they'll survive – even look back, some day, and laugh.
I probably would have chosen one of my fall-back options: volcanologist or lawyer.
Holly Jahangiri died today at the age of 105. She is survived by her husband J.J., her daughter Katie, and her son William. She finally ran out of words and turned the page. She will be missed by a generation of young readers who remember learning to love reading with her books.
I should have realized it in middle school. My English teacher, Lee Thorsten, assigned an essay. I took my dog for a walk by the lake, and while we rested on a log, I wrote the essay. Mrs. Thorsten liked it – she wrote all up and down the margins, correcting this, praising that – I learned to love the red pen. I started writing unassigned essays and short stories, and Lee Thorsten read every word. She took the time to comment on all of them. I loved being able to convey my thoughts and ideas to someone else, to form pictures in their minds using nothing but words.
Along the way, I got distracted; for a time, I wanted to be a volcanologist, an actor, an archaeologist, a veterinarian, a lawyer. I even went to law school. And then it hit me – I was already a professional technical writer. I loved writing fiction and poetry. And I was pretty good at it. I didn't have to "practice" like lawyers and doctors. If I made a typo, no one was likely to go to jail or lose their home or family. And I didn't have to work eighty hour weeks unless I wanted to. I don't think I ever doubted I was a "real" writer, but it took a while to accept that that was what I was going to do for a career.
I have a contract for the second book with 4RV Publishing – its working title is A Puppy, Not a Guppy – and I'm mulling ideas for a young adult novel.
I'd like to be the Judy Blume for boys. Seriously? I don't think there are enough novels that appeal to middle-school aged boys. I'd like to see more of them become bookworms.
There's nothing "typical" about it. I come home from work, have dinner with my family, and then, if the characters are talking to me, I write.
To entertain readers, for the most part. To teach them how to do something, or to make them think, or to transport them to another world for a little while. I don't write just for myself. That has always struck me as a bleak and lonely thing. I love it when someone tells me that they enjoyed reading what I wrote.
I've always thought my writing was what you'd get if you mixed a little Edgar Allan Poe, Erma Bombeck, and O. Henry. Poe, for the chills; Bombeck for the wry humor; O. Henry for the impatient urge to quickly wrap up loose ends in a surprising twist and bring it all to closure.
I have been told that some of my writing is like Spider Robinson's. At the time, my reaction was "Spider WHO?" I've since read his books and banged my head repeatedly against a desk – Spider does Spider better than I ever could. There are shades of Douglas Adams in there, too, but less so now that I've read his work and Robinson's.
I don't. I think that's for others to do. I just hope that they find it worth reading and defining.
"Wow, this is a great book! Have you read it?"
When I was in college, majoring in Rhetoric & Writing, I was nearly scared off a career in writing by my graduate level Lit courses. There are few things I dread more than the thought of a bunch of college students picking my brain, my life, and my stories apart posthumously, playing "Let's Psychoanalyze the Dead Author." The speculation we indulged in regarding D. H. Lawrence and James Joyce would make your hair curl.
From Vivian: There is no way anyone could psychoanalyze Holly now or in the future. She is unique, and doesn't follow any drummer but her own.
I would love to be a fly on the wall listening to the nonsense students and professors might utter trying to "find" the real Holly Jahangiri.
I have my own Web site at http://jahangiri.us and a blog at http://jahangiri.us/blog.
Hidden Lies and Other Stories
Walking the Earth: Life's Perspectives in Poetry
Lost Souls, Restless Spirits
Dealing with the Demon…and nine other short stories
I hope that NEW readers – kids who are fairly new to reading – will find an engaging story that they can enjoy having read to them or reading on their own.
Please don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a Trockle totebag--and come back tomorrow when we talk with Jordan, the one who did so wonderfully with the illustrations in this book!