Title: WHAT I LOST
Author: Alexandra Ballard
Pub. Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to endure the program so she can go back home, where she plans to start restricting her food intake again.She’s pretty sure her mom, who has her own size-zero obsession, needs treatment as much as she does. Maybe even more. Then Elizabeth begins receiving mysterious packages. Are they from her ex-boyfriend, a secret admirer, or someone playing a cruel trick?
This eloquent debut novel rings with authenticity as it follows Elizabeth’s journey to taking an active role in her recovery, hoping to get back all that she lost.
Today we welcome Alexandra for an interview!
1) Has writing always been your passion? If you had to choose another passion, what would it be?
I’ve always loved to write, but it took me a long time to get up the courage to sit down and start being an actual writer. I circled the idea for a long time, working as a magazine editor and middle-school language-arts teacher before deciding to go all-in. But even when I was not actually composing stories on my computer, I was always asking What if? in my head. Even now when I am cleaning or walking I’ll often talk out conversations between imaginary people in my head. My two daughters roll their eyes at me and always say, “Notebook, Mom, notebook!” when they catch me. But I think that habit has given me a better ear for dialogue. And it’s a great way to make time go by faster.
If I didn’t write, I’d be a professional baker. I love working with my hands. When I left my job as a teacher, I started a cake business in my kitchen, and I loved it. But once Elizabeth, my main character, popped into my head, I felt compelled to focus my time and energy on her. And then, when I got my book deal, it made more sense to focus completely on my writing.
But I still love to bake. It is my number-one stress release. Just last night I made strawberry hand pies. Yum!
2) Your chosen to stand in front of a class and talk about writing. What is the most important piece of advice you can give to these young people as they start their journey?
I hate to be so cliché, but my advice would be to just do it! Sit down every day, open your computer or notebook, and write. When I was starting out, I had a hard time committing to my daily writing. There were days when I looked for any excuse or distraction to skip writing. And, without a book deal, it was hard to take myself seriously.
So, I made a deal with myself. I’d sit down in front of an open Word or Scrivener file every day. That’s it. But I had to do it seven days a week. With the pressure off to create something great, it was easier to start typing. Plus, it gets boring sitting in front of an empty screen.
Another piece of advice I’d give is to find a writing group or partner. I joined a writing group early on and it was the best thing I could have done. Each week we’d meet and write to prompts, then read what we wrote aloud. It was inspiring and motivating for me to be with other writers, to hear their words. I wrote almost all of the first draft of WHAT I LOST with them. I don’t know if I could have done it alone.
3)If you could choose 3 historians to interview, who would they be and why?
Well, I don’t know about historians, but if I could interview famous historical figures, here’s who I’d choose: Dorothy Day, Robert Coles, and Winston Churchill. Dorothy Day and Churchill are dead, but Coles is still alive. I’d love to get their impressions on the state of our world today and what they think we should do about it. They are all such great thinkers and have done/did so much to make the world a better place. All of them shared the ability to see the bigger picture, which we could use more of these days.
4) You're traveling the world and you have to pick 5 uncommon places to visit, where do you choose to go?
1. The Icehotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
2. Donsol, Philippines, to swim with whale sharks
4. South Africa
5. Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan
5) Name the 5 most influential books you've ever read.
That list is always changing. I’ve read so many books over the years that moved me. When I was in high school the book ANYWHERE BUT HERE by Mona Simpson stuck with me for a long time. Stephen King’s book ON WRITING has helped me be a better writer. Shel Silverstein’s books, but especially A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC, showed me how much fun playing with words can be. The biography JULIA CHILD: APPETITE FOR LIFE by Noel Riley Fitch and the memoir PERSONAL HISTORY by Katherine Graham made me feel fierce and proud to be a woman.
6) If you could choose to interview just one author, who would it be and what is the first thing you'd ask?
I’d interview Joyce Carol Oates. She is so prolific, and her work is so high quality. I’d want to ask how she writes so fast and so well.
7) What would you say your best writing habit is? your worst?
My best writing habit is that I write every day and that I’ve finally gotten into the habit of actually saying that I am a writer. It is amazing how that helps with moral on bad writing days. The worst is that I toggle between the project I’m working on and social media incessantly, sometimes without even noticing. I’ve had to install Freedom on my computer and hide my phone from myself.
8) Out of your top ten favorite books, one is chosen to become a screen play, which one is it?
I would love to see ANASTASIA KRUPNIK by Lois Lowry become a movie. Anastasia is such a strong, brainy girl and it would be fascinating to see her world come to life on the screen.
9) Do you have a special place where you like to write?
My favorite place to write is up in the Santa Cruz mountains at Mount Madonna, a yoga and spiritual retreat center in Watsonville, California. It has amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and is as peaceful and quiet a place as you are likely to find anywhere. They serve delicious vegetarian food there and when I can get away for a few days and immerse myself into my writing it is like heaven. On a day-to-day basis I rotate between three or four coffee shops where I live.
10) What is your brain food for writing?
Coffee! Since I do almost all my writing in coffee shops I tend to drink a lot of it. I’ve switched almost completely to decaf, because I need to sleep sometime. I also eat a lot of baby carrots when I’m writing. I don’t know why. Maybe the crunch? And of course, ice cream. There’s nothing like a bowl of Cherry Garcia to get you through a deadline.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks so much for being here with us today, Alexandra!
Alexandra Ballard has worked as a magazine editor, middle-school English teacher, freelance writer, and cake maker. She holds master's from both Columbia (journalism) and Fordham (education) and spent ten years in the classroom, beginning in the Bronx and ending up in the hills of California. Today she writes full time and lives in the Bay Area with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. What I Lost is Alexandra's first novel.
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6/2/2017- - Excerpt
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6/6/2017- - Guest Post
6/7/2017- - Interview
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