Place of Birth:
BA Amherst College, MA (English) NYU
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
I actually didn’t want to go to Amherst; I wanted to go to Brown. I didn’t pay much attention to the other schools on my list—it was like, Brown or…whatever. Who cares? But I remember—and I’m not a spiritual person or someone who believes in things like premonitions—the night of my Amherst interview, I was sitting on the patio of my room at the Lord Jeff and it was a beautiful snowy night and I was smoking a cigarette and I suddenly thought, “I’m going to get rejected from Brown and I’m going to end up coming here.” And that’s exactly what happened.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) class at Amherst:
Poly Sci 11 With Tom Dumm. We read The History of Sexuality, Volume One, and I just…I discovered a way of seeing and thinking that I’d never encountered or even imagined. The world changed for me forever.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) professor:
Tom Dumm and Austin Sarat. I think I took something like fifty percent of my classes with the two of them. Tom taught me how to think and Austin taught me how to write. Even now, when I’m writing a novel, I remember criticisms Austin made of my thesis—where’s this paragraph going? How are you using this word? I was writing non-fiction with him, but those questions are important in a novel, too.
I’ve been teaching at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn for the past twenty years, so I usually research something related to what I want to teach. This year I’m teaching an elective called “It’s the Economy, Stupid: Money and Power in 19th and 20th Century Literature.” I’m reading a lot of books about money and power.
Awards and Prizes:
- Confessions of a Not It Girl, ALA Booklist Best Romance Novel for Youth in 2004
- If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince?, YALSA Teens Top Ten Pick in 2006
- The Breakup Bible, an ALA Best Books for Young Adults nominee in 2007
- Girlfriend Material, a Junior Library Guild Selection
- The Darlings in Love, a Junior Library Guild Selection
- Maybe One Day, a Junior Library Guild Selection
Pride and Prejudice. I re-read Pride and Prejudice when I was in labor, which is really saying something about how that book can hold your attention. (Or it’s saying something about how awesome epidurals are.)
Jane Austen. Always and forever.
Tips for aspiring writers?
Write a book you want to read, not the book you think you should write.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author:
Like most writers, I wrote and read voraciously as a kid (in my case, fiction). When I got to Amherst, I became more interested in reading and writing non-fiction, and I didn’t start writing fiction again until I was in my late twenties. A good friend from high school who was a children’s book editor encouraged me to write a YA novel. So mine was an easy path to becoming an author. Plenty of disappointments and rejections came later, but the first steps didn’t include those.