Jessica Day George

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake's Friends Are Real?

I have red hair. Some of you have met me, and you know this. Some of you haven't, so there it is. I have red hair, it's natural, and I like it. I have never once wanted another hair color.

My mom takes the credit for my positive redhaired attitude, because she (and this is not an exaggeration) filled my room with red-headed dolls.

I'm the youngest of four and the only redhead. My parents don't have red hair either, but my maternal grandmother did, and my mom always wanted to have a redhaired girl. She (sort of) jokes that she only kept going with the kids until she got her redhaired girl. So it's understandable that she wanted me to like my hair. So she tried to surround me with positive images of redheads. Anne of Green Gables was big around our house (which is funny, because Anne hates her hair color), and so was Strawberry Shortcake.

And this is where it started to get weird. I have not one, not two, but three Strawberry Shortcakes. (One is a ballerina, one came with a carrying case.) So if I wanted Strawberry to play with someone, she had to play with her clones. I asked for a Blueberry Muffin, since blue was my favorite color at the time, but was told, "She doesn't have red hair!" I asked for a Care Bear, the blue one with the rainclouds on its stomach, but was rebuffed on the grounds that they were just bears, no red hair to be seen! Later my dad took pity on me, and after the second movie came out, he gave me a Care Bear Cousin I still treasure, Gentle Heart the lamb.

I have an Annie doll, complete with limo and wardrobe, but none of the other orphans to interact with her. I have one of the first Cabbage Patch kids, with red yarn hair, one of the later ones with "cornsilk" red hair, and one that talks (it was pretty creepy, sometimes it said, "I have a secret, I HATE puppies!") I have a Hugga Bunch (remember those, anyone?) and her baby, both red-haired. By the time I was in high school, I had a shelf running the length of my room (specially built by my dad, who is the MAN when it comes to wordworking) just to hold my redhaired dolls.

Now, back to the Strawberry Shortcake part of the story. I had heard of Miss Shortcake, and seen a cartoon of her and her food-named friends, and then I received one of my own. And I loved her, and her shiny hair and her smell of strawberries. And then my friend Heather got Lemon Meringue.


"She's Strawberry Shortcake's friend!"

"Strawberry Shortcake's friends are REAL?"

I thought they had existed only for the purposes of the cartoon, which also featured the vaguely nasty Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak. My oldest brother could do (and still ocassionally does) a dead on impression of the Pieman, which is both awesome and disturbing, and later I learned that you could also purchase this toy, although I can't see how he would have been that popular. Thus began my campaign to own some of Strawberry's friends, repeatedly thwarted by my mom, who seemed to think that if even one doll entered my room without red hair, I would immediately reach for the Miss Clairol and go blond. When they came out with the Strawberry Shortcake baby dolls, I asked for ANY ONE but Strawberry, and I heard my mom telling my red-haired grandmother that for my birthday I wanted one of those dolls, the Strawberry one of course! My heart filled with dread, I had Strawberry Shortcake! Three of them! Plus stickers, t-shirts, and a bike! My grandmother, who also liked her red hair, sent me Baby Apricot. I loved her. She had white hair, and smelled of apricots, and had a little pink outfit. I was fascinated by her hair, which was so shiny and wonderful. I didn't want different hair, but I wanted to look at different hair . . . was that so wrong? I think my mom was reassured by this. I didn't start hating my hair, and I continued to play with the redheaded dolls, it's just that one of them was different.

I soon became obsessed with My Little Ponies, and my parents switched from dolls to ponies when they realized that buying them was much, much cheaper than buying me a real horse. Though not by much, since I ended up with 96 ponies, plus every stable, castle, mansion, dance studio and ice cream parlor. By now I think my mom had calculated that her early indoctrination had worked: I loved my hair, and we could all relax. So it was that when, in Jr. High, I asked for a bald boy Cabbage Patch Kid newborn, my request was granted, and we all laughed about how many redhaired dolls I had lined up with him.


I can't say that I didn't experience the teeniest pang of jealousy three years ago when, for my son's first birthday, my mother gave him a Care Bear. A blue one.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Teen Writers, Come One, Come All!

I've got a really great post planned, called "Strawberry Shortcake Has Friends?" But that will have to wait for a later date. Why? Why do I tease you with this? Because, my friends, I am in the throes of launching/advertising/flogging to death a little book called Dragon Spear. I'm running around, frantically trying to remember all the places I'm supposed to be, and occasionally throwing some cookies to the kids (cookies are rich with vitamins, you know).

So let's talk about where I'll be.

I'll be at a school on Friday, and I don't think I'm supposed to invite strangers to the school, so we'll skip them. But Saturday and Sunday I will be at CONduit, Salt Lake City's local sci fi/fantasy convention, along with David Farland, Brandon Sanderson, James Dashner, and other exciting people. The link is: Saturday night, though, Dave Farland and I are slipping away to the Sugarhouse Barnes & Noble to do a signing from 7-9, so come and say Hi! Next Saturday, May 30th, I'll be at the Jordan Landing Barnes & Noble, reading and signing and handing out cookies under the kind benevolence of the inestimable Manager Angie! That's at 2 in the afternoon, giving us all ample time to catch a late matinee of Disney*PIXAR's Up. ("My master made me this collar so that I can talk . . . Squirrel!")

And the NEXT Saturday, June 6th, I'll be here:

Teen Writers Conference
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Weber State University
Ogden, Utah

Ages 13-19

$39.00 Registration fee (includes lunch)
Don’t forget to enter the Writing Contest

Registration Deadline: May 25, 2009!

Presenters include best-selling authors:
Jessica Day George, James Dashner,
J. Scott Savage, and Lisa Mangum

Join us, won't you?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's O-U-T, out!

Ladies, gentlemen, dragons,

Dragon Spear, the third and final book about Creel and Shardas is officially out!

Look for me to be doing some heavy promoting here, people! I'll be on Park City TV tonight, and we'll post the interview on YouTube as soon as we can. I'll be at the King's English Friday, the Provo City Library Saturday, and various other exciting places! Check the events list for details!

And yes, I need to post Julie's list of favorite books, because it is fabulous! I'll get that up as soon as I get a sec!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Interview: Julie Berry!

Verily, it has been weeks since last I blogged! But behold, I return to you with something super-fancy-extra-special! An interview with Julie Berry, author of the superb Amaranth Enchantment!

Before we get to Julie and her interview, two little thoughts: Dragon Spear will be out next week! Check the events page for signings and hijinks! Second, I would take it right kindly if y'all would review my books on and other locations! That is, if you liked them. . . .

And now, ta ta ta tum! Julie Berry!

Amaranth Enchantment is her debut novel, and it was splendid in all ways. Beautifully written, well-plotted, great characters, and a brilliant new world (two, actually)! So I sez to myself, Self, let's interview Julie, and find out all the dirt!

Regarde! (As the Frenchies say!)

What is your favorite book(s)?

Impossible to narrow it down to even a sackful! Depends on my mood. I’m attaching a list I just finished preparing for the schools that I visit. I talk a lot in my presentation about my favorite books as a child, and they’re always asking me for the list, so here it is. In addition to the kids’ books mentioned, I love the usual suspects: all things Austen and Brontë, Dickens, Shakespeare. I’m crazy about Terry Pratchett, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie … on and on and on.


I like lots of movies, and there, too, it depends on my mood. My most sacred movie is (of course … bet you could see this coming) the BBC (Colin Firth) version of Pride and Prejudice. My husband and I try to watch it every second or third New Year’s Eve – a night when we can actually stay up late and finish it. Except, now that our kids are getting older and want to stay up to ring in the New Year, it’s cramping our style.

TV show? Or do you not watch TV?

Don’t watch TV. Gave that up at 14. Which means my perpetual notion of TV is “Cosby” and “Family Ties.” I do see snatches of it at the gym, though, and I’ve gotten some great laughs from Big Bang Theory and Malcolm in the Middle.

How many states have you lived in?

Three – solid, liquid, and gas.

Oh, I kill myself!

Two: New York and Massachusetts.

Where is your dream vacation location, and have you ever actually been there?

Never have been there. In fact, I’ve never vacationed much. My family’s idea of a vacation, when we were kids, was to pile in the car and drive across the country to attend someone’s graduation from BYU. (I’m the youngest of seven.) Now, my family vacations by driving to upstate NY to visit my relatives. My dream vacation wouldn’t even really be a vacation, because a mere week or so would be a maddening tease. I want to spend a summer (heck, maybe a year) living in a cottage in some small English village, sipping chamomile tea in little shops, reading novels, hobnobbing with the locals, and trying to acquire an accent. If I weren’t already so very married, I’d also try to acquire a British romance. But I’ll settle for the scenery and the literary shrines.

You work for a software company. What is polymorphism?

Uh-oh. What irks me is that I feel like I once upon a time knew this. My husband would know the answer, but that’s cheating. So is Googling it. So, in the spirit of SAT-desperation, I’ll say it’s when … um … something changes form? Or can take on multiple forms? Does it have to do with when objects in an OO design model can have multiple instantiations? Help! (I only work in software sales and marketing, mind you. I’m not expected to know anything.)

Meaty Writing Topics!

You have kids AND a day job. When/where do you write?

Late at night, by the light of a gibbous moon.

You can skip the gibbous, but I do write at night. That’s the only time I’ve got. Hence the bags under my eyes.

We're both Bloomsbury-ites. I got published because I met my editor at a writing retreat. What's your publishing story?

My manuscript won a prize at Vermont College. Soon afterwards I went to a New England SCBWI conference. Flush with prize-induced confidence, I approached an agent for the first time. Long story short, she took me on, sent the submission to a round of publishers, and Bloomsbury bought it, bless their hearts.

What made you want to write in the first place?

The awesomeness of books! Same reason people cook – because food’s so yummy.

Probably like most authors, I was a book nut as a kid. Throughout my schooling years I liked many subjects, but I always received praise for my writing. Which, oddly enough, made me take it utterly for granted, and think about being things like marine biologist and doctor and chemist. One by one all those fantasies faded, but writing still remained. So I ended up with a B.S. in communication, primarily technical, from an engineering and science college, and did lots of technical and marketing writing. The dream of fiction writing was small at first but always in the back of my mind, one of those try-before-you-die ideas. But I started reading more and more children’s books in my late twenties, and began to think, why couldn’t I write one?

Did you always want to write for young readers?

I think so. Children’s books hold a place in my heart that nothing else could fill. I think it’s that way for all of us, really, even for those who aren’t kidlitophiles. There’s something so magical about those first books we learned to love as we learned to read. I wouldn’t rule out an adult book, though. Quite possibly a mystery.

Did you/will you always write fantasy?

I have written non-fantasies, and intend to do so again. But I suspect fantasy will be the lion’s share of my work, and will heavily influence my “realistic” writing.

Would you like to give us a sneak preview of what you're working on currently?

I’m trying to find my way into a mystery for teens. It’s still very fragile, so I’m afraid if I say more, I’ll squash it!

The Amaranth Enchantment

I don't want you to give any spoilers, because I loved the delightful twists in this book, so there's only a few questions here.

I love goats, personally, but why the goat?

I honestly don’t remember when the goat decision was made. It sounds silly, but my goat really just appeared in the story, with his identity fully intact. Goats are magical creatures in their own right, in that they’re almost always immediately funny. Like ducks. It’s pretty hard to talk about ducks and keep a straight face. They’re fast and beautiful and graceful and noble (as are goats), but something about them makes us giggle. I didn’t mind that any.

Some of the country names were the same as in our world, but others differed. Is this an alternate reality, or just an imaginary land in our own reality?

It’s a made up country, tucked into a more or less historically accurate Western Europe. Most of us are pretty hazy on our 18th Century European geography. All those little kingdoms … who knows? Maybe there was a Laurenz or a Hilarion. ("An" Hilarion? Yikes!)

Will there be a sequel? Or a prequel to tell us about Beryl? Or Peter? Please?

I surely hope so! I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks, Julie! It's been a treat getting to know you!

Check out Julie's website: