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Monday, January 24, 2011

Featured Title: BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE, by Thalia Chaltas

Hello, readergirlz, and welcome to another Monday Featured Title!
Some of you may know that I've recently taken a personal interest in writing in verse, so I'm extra-excited to be welcoming Thalia Chaltas to the blog today. Her verse novel, Because I Am Furniture, is lyrical, beautiful, and moving - a wonderful example of how strong, well-paced narrative can be woven from elegant poetry.
Anke’s father is abusive. But not to her. He attacks her brother and sister, but she’s just an invisible witness in a house of horrors, on the brink of disappearing altogether. Until she makes the volleyball team at school. At first just being exhausted after practice feels good, but as Anke becomes part of the team, her confidence builds. When she learns to yell “Mine!” to call a ball, she finds a voice she didn’t know existed. For the first time, Anke is seen and heard. Soon, she’s imagining a day that her voice will be loud enough to rescue everyone at home—including herself.

Her book is also a perfect pick for this month's theme, Hope. Don't believe me? Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say:
“Incendiary, devastating, yet—in total—offering empowerment and hope, Chaltas’s poems leave an indelible mark.” (starred review)

If you're wonder what it's like to craft a novel from poetic vignettes, you're in luck! Thalia has offered us a glimpse into her writing process: 

Writing a novel in verse is such a different animal than prose. It starts out similarly. I like being still and listening to a character’s voice and what she has to say. Then I hate the process of dumping it on the page - that first draft is always physically painful for me. These two steps are the same for me in verse and prose. But writing a novel in verse means the editing step is enormous, and I absolutely love that process.

In my novels, each poem in free verse is the main character’s experience, a short written out video clip of the character’s perspective. The “clips” are put in chronological order to show the story. The problem is, I don’t necessarily write them in chronological order; I write them as they come to me via the character. There is an amazing amount of moving poems around to see what fits where, a frustratingly beautiful ache of a puzzle.

Because of this, I have a sticky tab technique where each character has a different color. For each poem, I apply characters’ sticky tabs to the page if they are in the poem. Then I turn the manuscript edge-on, to see whether the characters are well dispersed throughout the novel – are the pink Yaicha tabs clumped together somewhere? Is there too much space between Jed’s appearances so we forget where he is at times? Do I need to write another poem?  This visual technique is helpful when moving poems around to create a better story line.

Thanks for having me, and good writing to you all!

Fascinating! I love the idea of having a visual cue to the progression of a story arc. Here's a shot of Thalia's tab system in action: 
In addition to being incredibly organized, I just think those bright colors look so pretty! I'll have to try out this technique with my next project, which will also probably incorporate some verse. 
So readers, what do you think of Thalia's process? And if you're someone who likes to write across different formats and genres, what are some of the ways that you make the transition from one to another? 


Little Willow said...

Welcome, Thalia. I loved Because I Am Furniture and I'm so glad we are featuring it here.


Thanks, Little Willow! You've been so supportive, all of you. I'm happy to take part in anything readergirlz!

Sherrie Petersen said...

This was the first novel I ever read in verse and I absolutely loved it. I am still in awe of Thalia's talent. I'm so glad she's being featured on readergirlz!

Melissa Walker said...

I love this: "a frustratingly beautiful ache of a puzzle." The editing process is my favorite part, too, but I don't know if I could be so organized!

The work shows in Thalia's writing--just fantastic!

Micol Ostow said...

Melissa, Thalia - I am in awe of writers who love revisions. For me, the first part is the best (even if it's not the best version of the book). Maybe multicolored tabs would make revisions seem more festive?

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thalia's book is beautiful, and I love this glimpse into her process! And yes, for us visual people, sticky notes and graphs and such are really useful.

Unknown said...

What an interesting process. Thanks for sharing.

Shannon, StorySnoops said...

I read I Am Furniture for our site last year and was very impressed by it. So beautifully written, while, at the same time, being a very engaging read. Great book!


Lorie Ann Grover said...

Yay for verse! I'm so happy we've featured Thalia and BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE. It's a beautiful, real work.

Her process is so different than mine! How fun to discover that. I write chronologically all the way through. Even with multiple voices.

Thanks, Thalia!