Skip to main content

#AuthorApril: J is for Julie Murphy in our #AtoZChallenge

Dear Kim,

Thank you for sharing a bit about your new INKSpell publishing family. Those covers! Shoot. They are all awesome. I cannot wait to see your cover for Starr Fall.

Speaking of covers. How about this one?



Dumplin'. Yes, D -fucking fabulousumplin! I love so much about this book, and its author, Julie Murphy that I may start to ramble a bit on this, the day of "J" in #AuthorApril. But, my dear Kim, I know that you appreciate a good ramble, so here I go...


-Me devouring Dumplin circa September 2015, Cocoon Coffee House
I was intrigued last spring when the buzz for Dumplin' started and was full on hooked by the time I saw this...



Do you think I pre-ordered?


Oh, you know I did. That Julie Murphy-- I am going to give her all the credit here, marketing teams be damned-- she knew how to run a pre-order campaign. I wore my Dumplin' pin with pride. (Secretly a bit jealous of the curvy lady it portrayed who was brave enough to wear a hip hugging red dress. Something this girl would never have the guts to do.)

By the time the book came with its cover (same fox working that red gown), I had to know every detail about her. What I'd learn after my first read of Dumplin' was that this girl, this Willowdean Dickson, was everything I ever needed a female character to be. 
She was smart. 
So funny. 
She owned her body. 
All of it. 
She was a good friend (except when she wasn't). 
And she adored Dolly Parton and reality TV. 
Sound like anyone you know?

Okay maybe not the "owned her body" but I'm working on that, because of books like Dumplin'. I have a major #CharacterCrush. Just look at the lines that Murphy feeds Willowdean:



Image from HiddenStaircase.net



Artwork commissioned by Julie Murphy produced by Simini Blocker






Our author, being a true friend to her readers, delivers us Ellen and Willowdean. Best friends were never better written in young adult fiction than Julie Murphy writes here.

The girls are in the middle of finding out who they want to be and what part of their past they can keep intact. This is a juggling act that most, if not all, female friendships go through, especially nearing the end of high school. And Murphy writes it flawlessly. 

I love that we learn more about Willowdean's character through the fight she has with Ellen. A fight that is nearly all her own fault. We are left to watch the sheer stubbornness of this character erupt day after day. It makes Willowdean real. It makes the fight real. Murphy plunks her readers in Clover City, spectators of this fight. Front row seats. Have I mentioned how well Murphy does characterization? 

Before we get to watch said fight unfurl Murphy builds this best friendship like a sculptor at her clay. There is one scene between Ellen and Willowdean that I dream about as a writer of fiction. Such a quiet moment between the two girls and yet it demands that we stop to contemplate their friendship. 


      "We lay nose to nose in my bed with the lights off. 'How did it feel?' I ask. 'Not it, but like, how did it make you feel?'
      She closes her eyes for a second. 'I felt... in control. Like, of my life.' She opens her eyes. 'And loved. But I feel funny, too.'
     ...

     I nod. I nod with fervor because pared down to those terms, I understand.
     With the tips of her fingers, El touches my cheeks and, for the first time, I notice the sparse tears rolling down my face. She touches her forehead to mine and I don't know who falls asleep first."

Friendship. Real and honest friendship played out word by word, page by page.

Kim, there is so much I want to say about this book. I feel like I could write for days about the characterization alone, because, if you will notice, I only scratched the surface with one external relationship. (And one morsel of Willowdean's relationship with herself.) I'll leave it as I strongly recommend this book and this author. 

Julie Murphy will continue to turn out beautiful words and strong characters because that is what she is made to do. Stay tuned for her next release. 

Kim, I know how much you love a good TO DO LIST. If I may, your TO DO LIST for tonight:

1. Julie's book does so much RIGHT for body image in YA lit, please also follow Sarah Hollowell (@sarahhollowell). Click on her name and consider her message too.

2. Read the interview here on SmartGirls with Julie Murphy because of quotes like this:
"Growing up I was always the biggest person in the classroom. I’ve always been tall and I’ve always been a fat person. I was always very aware of space and how much space I took up. We’re all too ready to tell women in our society how much space they can take up and that men should take up more space. At the end of the day I just want women to be comfortable with their bodies and know that they’re not born and allotted a certain amount of square footage. Your body is your body and you’ve only got one of them. The other thing is that I made this conscious decision to really aggressively love my body and not crash diet and think I was failing if I had a negative thought about myself one day. I had to learn that every day you have to wake up and say, 'I’m going to be kind to myself today and that means I’m going to be kind to my body and my mind, and sometimes those two might be in conflict with each other.' Self-love is a roller coaster."
3. Look at these Dumplin' inspired dresses. SCBWI costume party, here I come.
For the love of O.


More character costume ideas at Gillian Berry's blog.

I'm obsessed with this.
She is my inner tigress.



You'll have to wait and see my Dumplin' interpretation at the party. You better believe I'll bring some DOLLY with me!



Much Love,
Alison


Popular posts from this blog

The Querying Writer: Part II

Dear Kim,


Remember that letter I sent you way back in October? (You remember October-- back when all things seemed possible.) 





The letter, COMP TITLES and THE QUERYING WRITER, shared details from our Novel Nuts & Bolts class with Empire Literary Agent Carrie Howland. (I may have referred to her as "agent-extraordinaire" in another post.)

Though today's post will be my third about Carrie, it is titled "Part II" because my querying journey seems sequel worthy.







I started looking for an agent soon after you and I met at the NYC SCBWI conference in 2012. I had nice feedback from an agent at a conference and sent him my work. His response was kind (which I've found most responses from agents to be.) But my writing wasn’t ready. The novel he saw was the first I’d ever finished. I wasn't ready.

I swallowed that little voice that said, SEND! SEND! SEND! for two more years until I entered #PitchWars-- Brenda Drake’s crash course in pitching. In the years between t…

School Visit Recap: Assemblies to Workshops, and the CONVERSATIONS in between

Dear Kim (and friends),

This morning I put away my rainbow superhero mask, gold top hat, and banana-on-a-stick. Few things are sadder than closing your banana-on-a-stick into a dark closet. But, I guess it will rise again next month for my next school visit.

Oh, you thought my collection was somehow Halloween related? No, no. Just part of the workshop portion of my school visits. For the past two weeks I had the privilege of speaking to, and then with, students from one of our nearby districts.



Dwight Smith, the founder of My Special Word, joined me for the assembly portion of the event. We were able to share with the children Dwight's vision for the program, as well as my process for writing the books for him.

There was music. Lots of it.
Some singing. (Would you expect any less?)
And shouting! (Mostly the kids, but I got a few words in too.)



We met with over 800 kids during the assemblies and got a sense for how the school district planned to use My Special Word. I'll say,
w…

BOOK REVIEW: Starr Fall & BOOK RELEASE: Once & Forever

Dear Alison,

Goodbye January, Hello February! Last week, I let everyone peak in my drawers.  Today, I'm opening my inbox. Well, not literally. You DO NOT want to see my inbox--though I do try to keep all the accounts very tidy--sometimes the emails get a bit, what's the word I'm looking for? Expansive. My favorite emails are from fans. I LOVE them. They make me all warm and fuzzy. Seriously, touch my arm...

See? Warm and Fuzzy. Oh, wait those are my doggies;)

While, I ADORE the fan mail (I DO, I REALLY DO) I would LOVE them even more if they were added as a review to AMAZON and GOODREADS. For instance, look at some of these reviews:


Must Read!!!, January 31, 2017 By  Kelly

This review is from: Starr Fall: Book One of the Starr Fall Series (Kindle Edition) Purchased this book for my 14 year old daughter who is NOT a fan of reading for pleasure or at all for that matter. Well, the book immediately grabbed her attention. In her words..."I can't put this book down. I ne…