BEDITSHOA: Susan + Hillary + Ira

I was supposed to tell you about these.

It occurred to me after writing yesterday's post—in which I mentioned reading Into the Wild Nerd Yonder during my July beach vacation—that I never finished blogging about that trip! I didn't take any more pictures of the beach, but I did come away with a handful from my side trip to Wilmington, NC.

I went to visit my agency sister Susan J. Steward, who lives in gorgeous historic downtown Wilmington, which is everything a Southern town should be: the houses have massive porches and white columns, ferns drip from hanging baskets, and flower gardens peek from between wrought iron fences.

But because it's on the coast, it also has an artsy, surfer flair.

Susan and I spent the afternoon strolling around, talking about writing and books. Unfortunately, I dropped (and broke) my camera about halfway through, so I never took any pictures of the houses! But here are a few other things that made me smile:

A giant skateboard bench.

A fence decorated with keys.

Orange and green store = Planet, home of the squirrel undies.

Me on the Riverwalk with Planet bag. (No undies actually purchased!)

A painting of Captain Jack in the coffee shop.

Venus Flytrap sculpture. (A native plant!)

With my fabulous hostess, Susan.

One of my favorite things about my job is how many incredible friends I've made, people I never would have met otherwise. Special thanks this time to Agent Kate for having such cool clients. I can't wait to hang out with Susan again!

So I read several excellent novels during that week at the beach, but Hillary Frank's The View from the Top was the other one that left a lasting impression. Here's the jacket description:

TOBIN won't miss anything about life in Normal, Maine, when he leaves for conservatory . . . except for his dream girl.

JONAH would give up his player ways—and his best friend—for a chance with his best friend's girlfriend.

LEXI desperately hopes that her crush will see her in a new light, but fears that her love will remain unrequited.

MATT is anxiously clinging to the past, afraid that he won't be a part of his girlfriend's brighter future.

MARY-TYLER wishes people would look past her weight and wealth and accept her for who she is.

And then there's ANABELLE, the one who ties them all together. As she sorts out her love life and tries to make sense of her increasingly complicated friendships, Anabelle begins to question how well her friends really know her . . . and how well she knows herself.

I was interested in this book because I read Hillary's first novel (about art school) Better Than Running at Night when it was released in 2002, and though many of the details have since escaped my memory, the tone has never left. Interestingly, I've talked to a number of people who've had this same experience! There's something compelling about the way she can string a sentence together.

It's haunting.

I inhaled her latest in one breath. The novel is told by six characters in seven stories, and each character's story begins where the last left off. (In other words, the plot moves forward. It's not a Rashomon.) Sometimes, as a reader, when I'm thrown from point-of-view to point-of-view, I feel like the work suffers. I get antsy for the author to return to the interesting character. Not so here. I was impressed by how different each voice was, but how the overall tone (that word again!) worked seamlessly as a whole.

This book falls into the category of "hard to describe." It's a deceptively simple story with real characters, but . . . that's a complete undersell. It just works. I think the key is in the language, but I still can't explain WHY or HOW her language so captivating.

It just is.

I recommend The View from the Top to all fans of contemporary fiction. There's humor, there's heartache. It's good. Really, really good. I'm curious to revisit her first novel and to read her second, I Can't Tell You. (Which, unfortunately, I only learned existed after reading the bio on this one. Me, upon finding out: "You mean I could have had another Hillary Frank novel six years ago?")

One cool tidbit is that she's also an independent producer for several pubic radio programs, including MY FAVORITE RADIO SHOW EVER, This American Life. Which means . . . she probably knows this guy:

Ira freaking Glass.

Who I do not not not have a crush on. At all.

Except I totally do, because not only does he host the most fascinating show on radio (and in such a *human* way), but he also did an amazing four-part video series on storytelling. I've posted this one before (and at least twice), but it's always worth re-posting. I love it so much that for several months while writing Lola, I kept it as my homepage:

I don't think I will ever get tired of hearing those first two minutes. Thank you, Ira.

He also gave this INCREDIBLE interview for Slate a few months ago on the subject of being wrong. Again, storytellers take note. There's a lot of wisdom packed into that one interview.

I can't think of a smooth way of ending this, so in summary: Susan J. Steward rocks. Please read Hillary Frank's new book. And if you're in the business of creating—anything!—watch the Ira Glass video.


  1. Stephanie. Thank. You.

    I have no idea who Ira is, but that video is awesome. I needed to hear that so badly. I can never hear that too much.

    My current mantra is: You will get better. Some days it's the only thing that makes me open up that word doc.

    Thank you for sharing that. I love you hardcore right now!!

  2. Thank you SO much for that video. I had never seen it before (HOW, I'm not sure) and it is AWESOME.

    Love all the pictures too! So wish I lived closer. I think I need to figure out a reason to drag you back to Cali... :)

  3. Oh I love Ira Glass, he has the BEST voice, but I'd never seen that video, thanks.

    Is there a story behind the fence of keys? I love it!

  4. Haha--squirrel underpants. Thanks for all the fun pictures of your trip!

    Also, now I need to jet to my library's website and stick a hold on The View from the Top. I checked out Flash Burnout, am almost done with it, and find that your recommendation was not wrong. It's fantastic. Thanks for pointing out these books :)

  5. Loved that video! Thanks for sharing and can't wait for Anna to come out. :o)

    Have a great week!