A Cafe Chat With Author and Playwright Sandy Asher, by Lindsay Bandy

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IDA Design

Good morning! Today, we have the pleasure of chatting with award-winning author Sandy Asher here at the Eastern Penn Points Cafe. She’s the author of TOO MANY FROGS!, WHAT A PARTY!, HERE COMES GOSLING!, STELLA’S DANCING DAYS (my daughter’s favorite!), the editor of WRITING IT RIGHT!, AMERICA – THE OWNER’S MANUAL….and the list goes on! Check out her web site for more info here.  If you have time this afternoon, you can catch her at the Lancaster Barnes and Noble, reading and signing books in the children’s area from 2:45-3:45. But wherever you are, be sure to take a few moments to get to know Sandy right here!

Lindsay: Good morning Sandy, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! As we settle into our cozy booth, what will you have to drink?

Sandy: Regular coffee, please, with a little milk.  I’ve always said I have no personality, just caffeine or the lack of it.  I’d like to summon the caffeine option.

Lindsay: Anything to munch on?

Sandy: Sure.  What have you got?

Lindsay: The special of the morning is a gigantic Belgian waffle with fruit and cream. Oh, waiter, we’ll have two of those, please!

So, Sandy, you recently pulled an all-nighter writing a 10-minute play for the Lancaster 24-Hour Plays Program. How did that go? 

Sandy: It was surreal and thrilling and terrifying and wonderful and often all of those things at once.  Unlike anything I’ve ever done before and totally worth the sleep-deprivation.  I’m still amazed that I actually wrote a 10-minute play from scratch between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and it made sense!  Although I have to admit that around 2 a.m. I was so punchy that the draft I printed out didn’t even seem to be written in English.  Two of the other writers came to my rescue, taking a break in their own work to read my script out loud to me.  That really helped!  All in all, it was a great experience with generous and hugely talented colleagues.

Lindsay: What was it like watching the performance the following night?

Sandy: Nothing compares to the sound of an audience laughing in all the right places.  I was so grateful to director Sands Hall and actors Max Phillips, Shawna Stoltzfoos, Patti Uhrich, and Brittany Wheeland for “getting it” and sharing it so beautifully.  Completely memorized and staged between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.!

Lindsay: You’re quite involved with the literary life of Lancaster City! Can you give our readers a little teaser about what to expect from the Lanc Co Lit Fest, coming up on Friday, December 5?

Sandy: The Ware Center is a beautiful venue right in the heart of the city, and Lancaster is a joyful place to be on First Friday, so the setting is perfect.  Add to that 11 Lancaster County authors and illustrators reading from their work, chatting informally at their tables, and autographing books.  Stir in a giant book sale, light snacks, and the Lancaster Literary Guild, the Library System of Lancaster, and United Way’s High Five Lancaster sharing information about their programs at other tables, and top it off with the announcements of the next Lancaster County Poet Laureate and the first Lancaster County Children’s Laureate.  Sounds good, yes?

Lindsay: Yes! Sounds great. Got anything else in the works for Lancaster?

Sandy: You bet!  Looking forward to reading and signing books at Barnes and Noble this Thursday, November 20, 2:45 – 3:45 p.m. as part of Lancaster Country Day School’s book fair, and to working with you, Lindsay, on the Story Circle Schmooze, Sunday, Februrary 22, 2015, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Tellus360, another great venue here in Lancaster.  And I’m absolutely delighted to be serving on the steering committee bringing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to our preschoolers throughout our county.

Lindsay: Looking forward to seeing you this afternoon, and to our Schmooze! (Registration will open soon, folks!)

I know that over the years, you have written across genres and age groups.What do you find is the greatest challenge in moving between, say, picture books and novels? 

Sandy: I don’t really notice the “moving between.”  An idea chooses its own form, and then my job is to bring everything I’ve got to serving that idea within its chosen form, be it poem, story, play, article, or anthology.  It’s almost as if the idea invites me into a room furnished with particular opportunities and challenges and closes the door behind me.  We have to work together using only what’s in that room.

living room

Lindsay: I love your answer and your analogy. As someone who also moves between genres, I think it’s perfect!

What are you focusing on now?

Sandy: Ha!  This interview.  But waiting in their own imaginary rooms are several plays, picture book manuscripts, and poems in need of revision, and programs and community projects to be developed and organized, as well.  Not to mention the demands of daily life, waiting in REAL rooms and outside my window, in a yard buried in leaves. If I let my attention wander, I’m sunk!

 Lindsay: Ha! Yes, I can definitely relate. Having focused time without drifting off to my pile of pink laundry or the sippy cups waiting to be washed or the kitty fur I should be vacuuming up is a real challenge for me! Ah, balance!

What is one important way that you have seen the industry change over the decades? 

Sandy: Editors serve marketing departments instead of marketing departments serving editors.  Don’t get me started . . .

Lindsay: Enough said! Now, imagine for a moment that you can go back and have coffee with your beginner-writer-self. What do you tell Young Sandy?

Sandy: Exactly what I did tell her when she was collecting 49 rejections for every acceptance:  It is a privilege to be allowed to do what you love doing every single day of your life.  Enjoy the process.

Lindsay: I’m telling myself. Right. Now. 

Your fairy godmother appears and grants you 24 hours to live the life of any fictional character. Who do you choose?

wand

Sandy: I started to say “Jane Austen’s Emma,” because she ends up with Mr. Knightley, whom I adore.  But my husband Harvey and I agree that I did end up with Mr. Knightley, so I don’t need to do that again.  I think I’ll choose Jo March.  I’ve lived off her radiated energy, courage, and determination since the day I first met her and would like to feel the original full-force.

Lindsay: Do you change your own ending?

Sandy: No.  Mr. Knightley and Professor Baer have a great deal in common, and we know the “real” Jo March went on writing.  I’m okay with that.

What was the last book you read that made you….

Laugh out loud – I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT by Allison Pearson

I-dont-know-how-she-does-it

Cry – AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED by Khaled Hosseini

Stay up way too late – DON’T LET’S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT: AN AFRICAN CHILDHOOD by Alexandra Fuller

don'tletsgotothegdogstonight

Change – TRUE REFUGE by Tara Brach, Ph.D.

truerefugre

 Lindsay: Do you stick to any specific creative routines or rituals ?

Sandy: I divide the project at hand into manageable segments and assign myself a segment a day – a certain number of words or pages for a long piece, for instance, or maybe one read-through and revision of a short piece.  In the case of a deadline, of course, the segments may be longer, but I try to plan out enough work to feel satisfaction, but not so much that I’m constantly falling short and getting frustrated.  Also important is to budget in time for NOT working, when I can deal with and/or enjoy the rest of my life.  (Which also just so happens to feed and refresh my creativity, but I don’t label it “work.”)

Lindsay: And now, for rapid-fire favorites! Name your favorite…..

Place to write:  First drafts, in my office at home.  Revisions, in airports and on airplanes.  It makes the time go by so quickly!

Book on the craft:  I’m an on-the-job learner, so I really don’t have a go-to book on the craft.

Animal to live with:  Well, I’m a dog person, so I have to mention Rudy first.  But there’s also this cat, Friday, who found us and decided we were his favorite animals to live with.  You can’t argue with that.

Of your own books:  The NEXT one.  It’s going to be easy and perfect and a huge success.

Midnight snack:  Chocolate ice cream is my favorite snack and it comes with no time limits.

Date-night restaurant:  Jethro’s, here in Lancaster City, owned and run by our talented neighbors Bob and Jen Esbenshade, who also happen to be the parents of Rudy’s best friend, Angus McShade.

Book-turned-movie:  I’m not often happy with books turned into movies, but I’ve been feeling sentimental lately about Robin Williams in THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, and I have to say Mr. Darcy just never did it for me until Colin Firth played him in the TV mini-series of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Broadway play:  Oh!  Too many to name.  The last was ONCE, a birthday treat.  And I must recommend one opening this spring because I saw and loved the off-Broadway hit at the Public Theater last fall:  FUN HOME, based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, recent MacArthur “genius award” winner.

Flower:  Love all flowers!  But I’ll choose the lilac, because it was my mom’s favorite, so I have a special attachment.

?????

Lindsay: Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with us, Sandy! It’s been delightful. We’re looking forward to more great things from you!

Sandy: Thank you, Lindsay!

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One Response to A Cafe Chat With Author and Playwright Sandy Asher, by Lindsay Bandy

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