GUEST POST: Surfing, for Everyone? By Alice Kaltman
Hey guys! Happy Tuesday! Today's guest post is brought to you by the lovely, Alice Kaltman! Alice is a fellow Electric 18, and she's hear to tell us all about how quintessential the element of surfing is in her upcoming debut and how important it was to get it just right!
Take it away, Alice! :)
When WAVEHOUSE started paddling around in my mind ten years ago, I hoped to craft a contemporary drama about a shy, unusual girl named Anna, who surfed better than, well, just about everyone. I knew I didn’t want to write a completely surf-centric story. Waves would join other secondary characters; Anna’s teenile mother, her brilliant best friend, her slightly soused grandmother, her crotchety grandfather, and her elusive first love, propelling Anna through the most important summer of her life.
A decade ago there were only a handful of YA novels which incorporated surfing, and few did it well. Even now, in spite of surfing’s cool cache, there are very few YA’s that feature my favorite sport. Perhaps it is because surfing doesn’t lend itself to external descriptions only. Surfing is totally immersive and intense. Surfing is spiritual even for non-believers. Communion with the elemental world—ocean, wind, tides, weather— has as much to do with outcomes as does the skill of the athlete. Maybe one has to do this surfing thing to write about it, and there just aren’t that many writers out there who surf.
Sure, I surf. But could I write a compelling novel about an eccentric surf-loner who scribbles outlandish drawings of underwater dwellings in her free time? A wave lover whose other life circumstances and personality quirks are equally important? I had concerns. I get annoyed when sports-oriented writing is too insular, too dependent on in-the-know description and lingo. Even when a writer’s sporty enthusiasm is at full flame, it’s a problem if I feel barely a flicker.
I wanted to better. I wanted to convey Anna’s deep connection to the ocean and the gorgeous swells it sends her way. But to do so I’d have to figure out a way to write inside surfing as well as outside. If not eyes would glaze over. Minds would wander far afield. Large chunks of my book would be skimmed through. Ultimately WAVEHOUSE would be in danger of being put down forever.
It was very important to me that the ocean-y passages be authentic and accessible in ways that resonated with surfers and non-surfers alike. I wanted the visceral and emotional thrill of surfing to become universal. I wanted surfers to think, “Yeah. WAVEHOUSE nails it.” and I wanted non-surfers who normally think, “Surfing? No way. I could NEVER do that!” to think, “Surfing? Sounds awesome. Maybe I should try it.”
So here’s what I did. When composing the surf scenes in WAVEHOUSE I focused on the immediacy and physicality of the sport. I tried to communicate how every muscle in a surfer’s body has to be engaged, how all the senses come blissfully alive. I tried to convey the playfulness as well as the danger, the moments of risk and abandon. How surfing is as much about humility as it is about skill. How each wave has its own personality; warm, cold, inviting, fickle, fun, nasty, unpredictable, just like people.
Have I succeeded in writing a novel about a girl who surfs and not a surf novel about a girl? Is WAVEHOUSE as inclusive as I hoped? Inspiring? I guess the only way to find out is to read my book baby when it arrives in Summer of 2018. After that, if you’re smitten, I hope to see you out in the water, sharing the stoke.
About the Author:
As a young girl Alice longed to be a mermaid. Her idol sat demurely on the Chicken of the Sea tuna fish cans. She peeled labels off to save her image. Every night before bedtime Alice squeezed both legs in to one side of her pajama bottoms and shuffled around the house pretending she was as beautiful as the tuna fish mermaid.
Real mermaid-hood proved elusive, so Alice became a modern dancer instead. For over twenty years she worked with brilliant choreographers and performed in amazing places. And while she’s still paid to do the occasional pirouette, Alice also works as a Parenting Coach/Writerhelping out moms and dads, and talking to kids also, about their (often annoying) parents.
But Alice is most at home when upside down and underwater. She’s been swimming her entire life, and surfing for the better part of adulthood. It’s no surprise that Wavehouse her forthcoming novel from Fitzroy Books is about a surfer. And maybe it is a bit about Alice, too.
Alice also writes fiction for adults. Her story collection Staggerwing is filled with oddballs and odd events. Her work appears in numerous journals including Hobart, Whiskey Paper, Joyland, and BULL: Men’s Fiction, and in the anthologies The Pleasure You Suffer and On Montauk. Most recently her story ‘Maid Service’ was selected as a semi-finalist for Best Small Fictions of 2017.
Alice splits her time between Brooklyn and Montauk, New York where she lives with her husband and daughter. She now wears her pajamas regular style.
About the Book:
Sixteen year-old Anna Dugan is a super surfer who feels most at home when taking off on a ten-foot wave. But surf culture bores Anna big time. While other surfers follow trends and speak the lingo, Anna harbors a secret desire to be an artist, drawing houses made of waves. It's not the most practical dream for the daughter of a single mom living in Kendall's Watch, a beach town where most kids are so surf-centric they think 'Current Events' have something to do with ocean tides. To protect herself from the pressure and the panic, Anna decides to only surf at her private break, Secretspot, for the rest of the summer. But Secretspot becomes treacherous in ways Anna never imagined, and the danger has nothing to do with waves.
Anna is not only the best surfer in Kendall's, she's also the shyest. When a surf scout comes to town to gage her talent, Anna freaks out and refuses to let him watch her.
When a gorgeous stranger paddles out, smiling a bewitching smile and surfing like a god, their chemistry is impossible to ignore. A series of events are set in motion that will change Anna's life forever; events that raise difficult questions about love, honesty, betrayal and family ties. In the end, is it worth it? Dive in to Wavehouse, life-preserver recommended, and the decision is yours.
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Thank you so much, Alice! It was a pleasure having you on my blog! I hope you guys enjoyed the post and here's to a productive week of writing!
Until Next Time, Folks!