Kathryn Pope teaches creative writing at Antioch University Los Angeles, where she is also director of The Bridge Program. Kathryn is author of the novel, After the Strawberry, as well as editor and co-founder of the independent digital press, Seedpod Publishing. Her work has been published in Zinkzine, TeleRead, and Gulf Stream Magazine.
Lydia Poole wants to be a good person—the kind of person who does everything right and deserves to be loved.
To accomplish this, she eats only one cup of Cheerios per day and lets her weight drop below ninety pounds. When Lydia’s sister introduces Jesse, a new friend and filmmaker, Lydia agrees to be the subject of his documentary.
Jesse’s camera follows Lydia as she’s hospitalized for anorexia, as she walks the line between hoping for death and wanting life, as her weight continues to fall. With the camera running, Lydia shifts from the viewfinder’s object to the eye behind the camera. In doing so, she discovers how she wants to see her world.
After the Strawberry is a novel about a girl who disappears while trying to be seen.
What 1 book do you think should be on everybody’s must read list?
Oh! There are so many amazing books in the world. I think the most important thing is to cultivate a reading habit—to become a reader. One of my mentors (Susan Taylor Chehak) calls herself a greedy reader. I think that’s a great idea. I want to be a greedy reader – and an adventurous reader, trying new types of books, reading everything in sight, being curious in entering the wild and woolly world of words.
What are some of your favorite books?
The Gift, by Lewis Hyde
The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker
Goat Song, by Brad Kessler
Middlemarch, by George Eliot
Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, by Lawrence Weschler
What do you do on a typical day?
I wake up and have tea while I do a little writing. I go to work, where I teach and run a program that helps adults access higher education. I carry my brain from one place to the next, and it worries over all sorts of things. When I have a little time, I knit and ride a bicycle. I read books. I drink more tea. Nothing too fancy or exciting. At the same time, it all seems fancy and exciting.
Where would you live if you could live anywhere?
Coffee or tea?
I look forward to tea when I wake up, when I write, when I work, during conversation, to calm myself, to think clearly, slow down, speed up. Tea makes me happy. Assaam is the standby, but I’ll have English breakfast or even Irish breakfast in a pinch.
Did you always want to be a writer?
It happened when I was 11 years old.
When you write, do you like silence or music?
I like silence – or digital rain and wind sounds from headphones.
What comes first: a character or a plot line?
It all comes in a confusing mish-mash of chaos.
Who/what influenced your writing style?
As writers, I think we’re influenced by all the writers we read, by our teachers, and by the writers who influenced those writers. If we keep counting all the layers of influence, going all the way back, we’re influenced by all of human history, by every storyteller who ever lived.
After the Strawberry tackles some very tough topics. What made you want to write about them?
To be honest, I didn’t want to write about anorexia. I was afraid the topic would be seen as something not serious enough for real literature or not real enough for serious literature. I had silly ideas of what was real and serious.
Still, sometimes I don’t think we get to decide. The story nags us. It starts nipping at our heels, like a tiny dog that we haven’t fed. The story followed me. It must have stowed itself away in a suitcase when I moved from New York to California, because after the long ride, there it was, barking at me all the same, until several years later, after my mentor (Nancy Zafris) noticed me dancing around it, avoiding it, hoping it would go away. She thought I should try to feed it and see what happened. So I did.
Of course, I had been avoiding the story for so long because it meant so much to me personally.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to get?
I don’t know if I get to decide what messages are in the story, but I hope the story can help someone somewhere feel a little less alone.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I want to say thank you.
Kathryn, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Your comment about the story helping someone feel less alone is exactly what the YA Saves Challenge is all about. We’re so glad you could be a part of it.
If you’d like to learn more about Kathryn or After the Strawberry, check out the following links:
Kathryn has agreed to give away an ecopy of her book After the Strawberry in your preferred format. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below.