When I started writing it, I was trying to figure out why I was so obsessed with this garden–I wasn’t sure. It was only through talking to Chris Fehlhaber, the gardener quoted in the essay, that I began to understand it. It also took a long time to understand what exactly about Chanticleer evoked such strong emotions. I’ve visited gardens all over, but there’s no other garden I love as much.
The writing process for this one was incredibly long–at one point my draft was over 40 pages single-spaced! I loved paring it down, which feels sort of like hunting for buried treasure. (In a really circuitous way.)
Thank you for reading it! Here are some of my photos of Chanticleer. Hope you can visit it in person. You might find me writing there in my secret tree.
Hello! I’ve been in hibernation, hard at work on a new novel, which will be out from HarperCollins next year. It’s part coming of age story, part murder mystery, and part modern day “The Secret Garden.” It’s set in Austin, Texas, where we used to live, and in New York City, where I grew up.
I don’t write novels quickly (that’s an understatement)—and the process sometimes makes me feel like Edward Gorey’s Mr Earbrass from “The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel”:
Here’s a snapshot of my revision desk, with handwritten drafts and notebooks and books for inspiration. No decanter of sherry, sadly:
I’ll post more details about the new novel soon! Thanks for reading! Can’t wait for spring.
(p.s. I’m on Instagram, for more regular updates & ephemera.)
Kissing in America was chosen as the One Summer, One Book selection by the Montgomery County Public Libraries, and I’m thrilled to be visiting 18 public libraries this summer on the tour! There will be chocolate.
Here’s a photo of the posters and bookmarks they made. All the dates and times are listed at the right. Hope to see you there!
I also wanted to say thank you to Children’s Book World in Haverford for the fantastic paperback release party (with vanilla AND chocolate cake) for Kissing in America and Cures for Heartbreak, and Lisa Graff’s amazing new book, A Clatter of Jars. Thank you to everyone for coming to celebrate with us!
I’m thrilled to announce that my novel Cures for Heartbreak, which was originally published in 2007, will be released by HarperCollins on May 24, 2016 with a brand new cover! It was designed by the amazing team of Erin Fitzsimmons and Kate Engbring at Harper and the artist Thomas Burden, who also created the cover for Kissing in America.
It will be published at the same time as the paperback of Kissing in America. I’m so excited to release both into the world this spring!
Praise for Cures for Heartbreak:
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book for Young Adults
A Booklist Editors’ Choice
A Book Sense Children’s Pick
An Association of Jewish Libraries Notable Book
A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
A TAYSHAS High School Reading List Selection
A Capitol Choices Noteworthy Book
Winner of the Teddy Book Award
“Everybody, regardless of age, should read this novel–witty, warm, and gorgeous in its fearlessness.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
★ “Rabb leavens impossible heartbreak with surprising humor, delivered with a comedian’s timing and dark absurdity. Rabb is an exceptionally gifted writer…Readers will cherish this powerful debut.”—Booklist (Starred Review)
★ “Black humor, pitch-perfect detail, and compelling characters make this a terrific read.”—School Library Journal (Starred Review)
★ “A compelling as well as tearful read.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (Starred Review)
★ “When the last page turns, four new and fascinating people have been born into the reader’s consciousness.” —Kliatt (Starred Review)
Happy 2016! I’m watching the snowy view out the window while I’m working on a new book. Here’s what our back porch looked like on Sunday after the blizzard:
And a stream nearby:
I can’t quite believe it’s 2016. 2015 was quite a year—we moved across the country, left our old lives in Texas and started over near Philadelphia; we bought our first home; I published Kissing in America, which I’d worked on for many years, and for a long time wasn’t certain whether it would ever see the light of day; we’ve made new friends and settled in to our new home. (Well, almost settled in. I’m pretending that all those unpacked boxes in the basement aren’t there.)
Kissing in America received an honor recently that really meant a lot to me: it was selected for the Amelia Bloomer Project list of recommended feminist literature. I loved writing the feminist aspects of Eva’s character and her discovery of female poets, such as Elizabeth Bishop, Nikki Giovanni, Adrienne Rich, Rita Dove, and Marie Howe. That part of Eva’s life is based on my own discovery of feminism and poetry when I was in my teens: I felt like the wool had been pulled off my eyes, and I began to see the world in a whole new way. Feminsim made me understand, for the first time, how many of my thoughts, dreams, ambitions, self-doubt, hopes and expectations were a product of our society and its constrictions, and how much was actually me. Discovering feminism was like discovering the universe was limitless, with so much to be learned and made sense of—it made me yearn to try to make sense of it, and I knew that the way I wanted to do that was to become a writer.
I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about this quote from Martha Graham, as told to Agnes de Mille:
“I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but had no faith that I could be.
Martha said to me, very quietly: ‘There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.’
‘But,’ I said, ‘when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.’
‘No artist is pleased.’
‘But then there is no satisfaction?’
‘No satisfaction whatever at any time,’ she cried out passionately. ‘There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.'”
–Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham from Martha: the Life and Work of Martha Graham
And here’s an Agnes de Mille quote I love:
Agnes de Mille
“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how…The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.” –Agnes de Mille
Kissing in America received its fourth starred review, from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books! Here’s an excerpt:
“Exquisitely told. . . With poetry from Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop, and Adrienne Rich, among others, that punctuate Eva’s feelings, and plentiful humor based on Eva’s impression of love from romance novels, this is a well-balanced read that exposes readers to weighty ideas and difficult feelings while keeping them entertained and emotionally invested. Rabb has done a skillful trick: only after this story ends does it become obvious that it wasn’t really about Will or even first love but about Eva, her mother, and the many different types of love that exist and that sustain us.”
Hope you’re enjoying the end of summer. . . we’re still unpacking and settling in to our new house and town, but we escaped to the beach for the afternoon yesterday (my first time on the Jersey shore).
Kissing in America has been out for two months now, and after spending so many years writing it, I still can’t quite believe it’s out there in the world. May and June were a whirlwind of travel–I had a lot of fun at book events on the Epic Reads book tour, and at BookPeople in Austin, TX. Here I am with Liz Garton Scanlon after our event:
Most importantly, there was CAKE.
Lots of reviews have come in–here are a few excerpts and links:
The New York Times Book Review: “Funny and big-hearted . . . bursting with resonant themes of love, death, family, art and identity, fully embodied in a diverse cast of wonderfully fallible and entertaining characters.”
The Chicago Tribune: “Tender, expansive . . . Eva is a likable, sympathetic character whose horizons expand literally — during a New York-to-L.A. bus trip with a friend — and metaphorically.”
The Boston Globe: “‘Kissing in America’ is a road-trip story with humor and heart.”
In other news, we’re about to move for the second time in about six months. We’ve finally bought our first home.
(We’re not really moving to The Shire, though I would like to.)
Harper Audio has put together this amazing site–if you scroll down, you can click on the map and hear audio clips from every city that Eva and Annie visit. Then enter the contest to win prizes from all the cities in the book! You can win Skullcandy headphones (for the long bus rides in your future), cactus socks, a cowgirl locket, a signed hardcover and an audiobook, a travel journal, an I love NY mug, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame memento, a movie clapper board, and last–but by no means least–an Elvis parking sign. Do readers of Jonathan Franzen’s books get the chance to win an Elvis parking sign? I think not.
Good luck–you can enter until June 6th–and I hope whoever wins will send me a picture of their feet in the cactus socks!