Thursday, March 24, 2011

BOOK LUST interview with Nancy Pearl now live online and airing locally

Renown librarian and author Nancy Pearl interview with Brenda on BOOK LUST

WATCH online or on Seattle Channel 21 3.24-28

Nancy Pearl's far-ranging and insightful interview focuses not only on my new memoir, but also on all of my work, including the New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," Duck and Cover, Becoming the Enemy, my creative non-fiction books, such as Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals, and my new Young Adult novel-in-progress.

As every reader, who hasn't been living under a rock for the past decade knows, Nancy Pearl is the Uber-librarian, named by Library Journal as "Librarian of the Year for 2011." Well-deserved praise:

ljx110101webPearl1(Original Import)
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images


Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images
"No one other than Nancy Pearl has so convinced Americans that libraries, books, and reading are critical to our communities. Her passionate advocacy has done that nationwide for thousands of individual readers and library workers in the trenches at the local level. She has spread book lust via broadcasts to the nation on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and from local radio and TV outlets and through her blog posts and tweets."

Nancy has done for all readers what J.K. Rowling did for children -- engaged and delighted and directed us to rediscover the life-saving magic of books. In Pearl's own introduction to her bestselling Book Lust, she writes:

"I spent most of my childhood and early adolescence at the public library. The librarians at the Parkman Branch Library found me books that revealed worlds beyond what I saw and experienced every day. . . I was transported when I read them."

In our interview, Nancy and I talk about how books enriched our childhoods and were hand-held portals to other worlds we could explore with the power of imagination. She cites Space Cadet as a childhood influence she read while eating her lunch under the table at the library. I credit Wrinkle in Time as my early inspiration.

I confess I was a little nervous about this televised interview, preferring the acoustic intimacy of NPR interviews. 

Writers are usually most comfortable in our studios, not in public. As one of my author friends quips, "I have the perfect face for radio!"

We writers are introverts, not used to the glare of television lights, the camera angles, the stillness of sitting, trying to keep our hands from flying around as they do at the keyboard.

When I do radio interviews I can hook up my headset and pace around my apartment in my bathrobe, gesticulating to the cats, my only visible audience. There is the illusion that it is just a friendly phone chat and that thousands are not really listening in.

But the camera is the EYE of the public and there is no escape. So I was scrambling to find the perfect interview outfit -- "authorial but not stodgy, comfortable but not uncool."

The minute Nancy engaged me with her generous curiosity, I felt completely relaxed and heard. Not just seen by a camera, but understood by an Ideal Reader who invites authors to talk about how it really is to write books, to live them, and to courageously birth them into the world. A world that may or may not welcome them. 

Somehow it doesn't matter, because Nancy Pearl is reading your book. All seems right with the writer's world.

Now, when I write I can imagine Nancy Pearl reading along with me -- encouraging, completely "getting it," and most of all asking the ultimate question every writer longs to hear: "What happens next?" or "What did you really mean?"

One of the great pleasures for me in interviews that are not reduced to sound bites, is being able to thank those who have championed and guided my work. In this interview, I tell stories about my mentors, including my first writing teacher, the novelist Diane Johnson, whose many novels include Le Divorce, Le Mariage, and the most recent, Lulu in Marrakech

Diane took me under her capable wings when I was 18 at the University of California, Davis, and she is still inspiring me with her writing and her criticism. Here's a link to her latest New York Review of books essay:

Then there is the late Fiction Editor at The New Yorker magazine, Rachel Mackenzie, to whom all of my work is, in a way, dedicated. In 1978, she discovered and edited my first novel, River of Light. I write about meeting her when I worked at The New Yorker in the new memoir and her influence still runs deep. Here is an author photo of Rachel from her ground-breaking book on heart surgery Risk:

Continuing in my "Let Us Now Praise Famous Women" mode, I could never have written this new memoir without the mentoring of my beloved literary agent, Sarah Jane Freymann, to whom the book is dedicated. She and her husband, Steve Schwartz, gave me sanctuary in their New York City apartment when I began the East Coast book tour and Sarah Jane even accompanied me on the L.A. and San Francisco lags of the tour. I cannot imagine a better guide in the wilderness of writing.

Sarah Jane Freymann (top), Jessica Shinsheimer, Katherine Sands, and Steve Schwarts
Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency

Sarah Jane, along with my esteemed and clear-sighted DaCapo editor, Merloyd Lawrence, who published my new memoir under her own imprint, were the guiding lights of I Want To Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth. Even though I'm at work on a novel now, I still write Merloyd several times a week, seeking her counsel, her wisdom, her wit. And I hope we can work together again on another book.

I wish I could return to Sarah Jane and Merloyd Lawrence a universe of financial and literary rewards for all they offered my writing -- at least here I can tell stories about them that might help other authors and readers.

I hope you enjoy the Book Lust interview and share it with other readers and friends. And thanks again to Nancy Pearl who gave me the opportunity to talk about writing as if my life depended upon it. Which it does!

P.S. For those of you who are local, here is the Seattle Channel schedule:

Book Lust with Nancy Pearl featuring Brenda Peterson
Brenda Peterson, whose newest book is I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth, discusses how her childhood upbringing has influenced her novels and memoirs.
Upcoming Broadcast Times:
  Friday, March 25, 2011 2:30 a.m.
  Friday, March 25, 2011 4:30 p.m.
  Friday, March 25, 2011 8:30 p.m.
  Saturday, March 26, 2011 12:00 a.m.
  Saturday, March 26, 2011 1:00 p.m.
  Saturday, March 26, 2011 8:00 p.m.
  Sunday, March 27, 2011 4:30 a.m.
  Sunday, March 27, 2011 10:30 p.m.
  Monday, March 28, 2011 1:00 a.m.

Past Broadcasts:
  Thursday, March 24, 2011 10:30 p.m.
Book Lust with Nancy Pearl featuring Brenda Peterson
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