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When: October 23, 2022 | 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Where: Hartford Public Library
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COVID is still with us, although easing off a little, thank goodness. Did you have a favorite comfort genre to turn to when things were looking bleak? Something that lifted you away and to a different place for a while?
I took a deep dive into mythology and folklore the past couple of years, digging into the foundations of the stories we continue to tell ourselves today. I love seeing the ties to modern themes, and how these ancient heroes and the journeys went on continue to reverberate. I try to read far outside middle grade while I’m drafting so I can keep my focus on the story I want to tell, but whispers of these myths and fairy tales have been echoing in my current work.
Where do you get your inspiration?
For me, there are two questions that usually prompt a story-in-the-making. First, I ask myself: What do I know to be true? This will inevitably form the roots to my story. Once I have that answer, I go to my second question: What scares me? This is where the journey my characters take begins to sprout. When I was writing To Tell You the Truth, I spent a lot of time researching my family history. Many of the stories Gran tells Trixy are rooted in my family lore, though they branch in new directions and outcomes. I drafted much of this book during the early phases of Covid, when what scared me more than anything was loss. Collectively and personally, we were all suddenly dealing with so much grief. That informed Trixy’s journey as she leaned into that fear and figured out a way to carry both loss and hope.
Who made reading important to you?
Every evening, my parents would sit side by side in the living room. My dad would read every bit of the morning and evening newspapers, passing some sections to my mom and, later, me. My mom would be beside him, quietly turning the pages of her thriller or novel. About once a week, we’d go to the library, and my bag of books would be so full it cut into my shoulder. Grabbing a book on the way out the door was as natural as reaching for car keys. Finishing a great book and passing it onto a loved one was how you showed you cared, that you wanted your stories to overlap. Reading was stitched into the fabric of our daily lives. I’m so grateful to my parents for modeling a love of literacy.
What is your favorite book to give an adult or a child?
My favorite book to give a child is Power to the Princess by Vita Murrow. This book of fifteen retold fairy tales shifts autonomy to the princesses. Rapunzel is an architect who focuses on making buildings functional and accessible to everyone. Little Red Riding Hood is an environmentalist who works to re-establish a solid ecosystem. It’s a delightful book to read and a beautiful gift to give!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
From the time I was ten years old, I wanted to be a writer. That was how old I was when I won a short story contest at my local library. Okay, to tell you the truth, I placed fourth. I’m pretty sure there were only four entries, too. But I fell in love with writing, with the awareness that even as an awkward, painfully shy child, I could fill a page with my thoughts to share wholly with someone else. Suddenly, all of my other lifelong aspirations (namely to become a professional roller skater) were pushed aside. I was a writer. To be clear, I wasn’t a good writer. Not yet. But I was determined to become one.
Who was your childhood hero?
Nellie Bly. Bly is often considered to the founder of investigative journalism. Born in 1864, Bly was barely in her twenties when she started reporting on huge issues, including divorce reform, the abuse of women in medical facilities and corruption in government. She was fearless about pursuing stories that mattered to her and sharing her perspective. As a kid so shy I could barely whisper my order to a waitress, I couldn’t imagine the boldness Bly embodied.
Beth Vrabel is author of the critically acclaimed book To Tell You the Truth, Cybils’-nominated Caleb and Kit, ILA award-winning A Blind Guide to Stinkville, JLG selection A Blind Guide to Normal, The Reckless Club, and the Pack of Dorks series. As a former journalist, she speaks from both a professional point of reference and personal experience. She lives in Canton, Connecticut.
Trixy needs a story, fast, or she’s going to fail the fourth grade—that’s a fact. But every time she sits down to write, her mind is a blank. The only stories she can think of are Gran’s, the ones no one else ever believed but Trixy gulped down like sweet tea. Gran is gone now, so it’s not like Trixy’s hurting anybody to claim one of those stories as her own, is she?
But one story leads to another until the only tale left is the story she vowed never to share, the one that made Gran’s face cloud up with sadness. Trying to find a way out of this tangled mess, Trixy and her friend Raymond hit the road to follow the twists and turns of Gran’s past. Maybe then Trixy can write a story that’s all her own, one that’s the straight-up truth.