May 07, 2013
Baltimore-born Elisabeth Dahl has published short fiction, essays, and poetry but scored her debut novel, Genie Wishes, in an unlikely but emerging market for writers—middle grade (MG) fiction. Genie Wishes, which was released in April 2013 from ABRAMS/Amulet, is the story of Genie Haddock Kunkle, who, when the novel opens is starting fifth grade with her best friend, Sarah. Fifth grade brings a host of little earthquakes for Genie—she is elected class blogger and is forced to speak her mind to the entire fifth grade, a new girl—sophisticated Blair—joins their class, and worst of all, Blair and Sarah are becoming fast friends. As Genie approaches the first major crossroads of her young adult life, Dahl handles her with grace, charm, and quiet insight. I spoke with Elisabeth about the difficulties of transitioning from literary fiction to MG and why the books of our youth still hold such power over us.
MB: Have you ever heard the song “Ben” by Michael Jackson? If not already, I don’t know that I could recommend it in good faith. At the same time, if anyone could reprise the last line of the song, it’s you, in your voice. (“I’m sure they’d think again if they had a friend like Ben.”)
BP: I love that song so much, not only because of my name, but because it is about a filthy sewer rat. The ethereal flute-like piping of Michael Jackson’s voice is what I wish I sounded like, but I’ve been burdened with a subwoofer that sounds a little like a drunk Darth Vader imitating the ringside monologue of a professional wrestler.
It’s not every day that 14 cats get stuck in a tree and I’m the only person around to rescue them.
What is your earliest memory?
Cutting my foot on a piece of glass while my mom was trying to get me to put shoes on. I was 3 .… moms usually know best.
If you weren’t an actor, what other profession would you choose?
Professional UFC fighter.
April 13, 2013
My daughter is two. Already sounding out letters, she’s learning the concept of reading, taking pleasure in memorizing shapes and sounds, proudly scrawling the first few letters of her name. On the night before “take-a-book-to-school” day a few weeks ago at her daycare, she had difficulty choosing from her favorites. Three feet tall, chubby-faced, she towered over the picture books she’d spread on the living room floor like a colorful hopscotch grid, her dirty blonde hair frizzing around her head in wild curls, her glasses cockeyed. “This one,” she kept saying. “No, this one!”
When do we begin to decide what books we love? At what point do we start choosing to read books about one subject, but not another?
“You should read Story by Robert McKee,” Nico said.
This was 2010. Nico had agreed to produce the screenplay version of my first novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix–a screenplay I hadn’t started yet–and he was no doubt concerned about what I might hand over. I’d never written a screenplay, but with more than a decade of daily writing under my belt, I felt I had what it took to crank out a feature-length version of my own novel. Still, I bought a copy of Story as insurance. It lingered in a pile of books for a few months, and after the first draft of the screenplay was finished, I sold it back.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
For a film with a daring director, a talented cast, a captivating plot or, ideally, all three, there could be no better advocate than Roger Ebert, who passionately celebrated and promoted excellence in film while deflating the awful, the derivative, or the merely mediocre with an observant eye, a sharp wit and a depth of knowledge that delighted his millions of readers and viewers.