Julie Halpern's fantastically funny novel Into the Wild Nerd Yonder was named one of our January recommended reads by the postergirlz. I asked Julie if she wanted to write a little something about this month's theme. In her own words, she had "a heck of a time coming up with a blog post about risk-taking," so I asked her another question: "What makes you smile?" Here's what she had to say:
I don’t consider myself much of a risk-taker, although I have done my share of risk-taking: moving to Australia after college with nothing to do, no one to visit; spending a summer on people’s couches in NYC while interning for Nickelodeon; and writing a partially fictitious novel based on my personal experience with depression in high school. However, I just don’t have enough risk-taking in my life that I could write an entire blog post about it. Or maybe it’s just that I’m such a non-risk-taker, that writing about it stresses me out.
So instead, I’ll write about something more pleasant: what makes me smile. I’ll get the obvious answers out of the way first. My daughter, Romy, is non-stop inspiration for smiles. She is sweet and funny and adorable and snuggly and by far the best thing I’ve ever created. Ever. The second smiley thing is, of course, my husband, Matt (otherwise known as children’s book illustrator and author, Matthew Cordell). He is an amazing father, friend, and husband, as well as an insanely talented illustrator and author. And he’s hilariously goofy. Add to that my beloved and large Siamese cat, Tobin, plus the rest of my family, and thus completes the obvious smiles list.
Thinking on the question of smiles reminded me of something I spoke about at the ALAN Conference this year: why do I write humorous books? And the answer to that is simple: I like to feel good. Writing, for me, is fun. I generally like the characters I’m writing (or love to hate the baddies), and I like the places and events that occur in my novels. It’s a pleasure to sit down day after day with these people and experience their stories as I go along (My writing process involves only a little advanced planning, but mostly the character invades my brain and I just write what they have to say). I cannot imagine being a writer who writes deep, dark stories about serious issues in a serious manner. Or a writer who writes murder mysteries or war stories or apocalyptic tales. As much as I love to read all of those types of books, I’m so happy that there are other people out there writing them. I don’t think I could sit with the sadness and death and horror of those characters day after day. It would really eat at me. These days, I rarely even choose to watch a movie that I know will be sad, just because I don’t want to make myself feel that way. Maybe I’m overcompensating for the bouts of depression that have plagued my life, but I don’t really see it as a bad thing. I know what makes me feel good, and I’m trying hard to keep that up. How could anyone argue against smiling?
- Julie Halpern