Recently I read the novel Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. Full disclosure, I know Maggie. We both attended Mighty Summit in 2012. At the time, her first novel Seating Arrangements had come out a few months earlier. After her second novel, Astonish Me, came out recently, it prompted me to buy both of them and read them. Then I learned she was coming to Politics & Prose in DC (a famous little bookstore on my side of town) for a book reading so I wanted to attend, see her, and of course get my books signed. You can actually watch it here. I’ve only been to one book reading/signing that I can remember and I think I should consider going to more. I thought it was really interesting to get to know the author more intimately. At the very least, I’ll be watching some on the Politics & Prose website.
Maggie said a few things at the book signing that I thought were interesting:
She said Astonish Me started as a short story when she was at Stanford.
She’s interested in how people encounter their limitations and in this case (of ballet) their body.
Wrote it in 5 months.
Did research watching YouTube videos of the NYC ballet, the Royal ballet, and ballet documentaries.
She says she still handwrites when she get stuck.
When asked a book she recently read and loved she said Americana.
When forming characters she tells herself “try to work harder, try to think harder” to understand the character.
At the end of the reading, people could get up an ask a question, and a cute older women got up and just said that she had a comment. She was 83, used to be a ballet dancer, and just wanted to tell Maggie how much she loved the book. It was so cute, and moved Maggie to tears.
I just wanted to share a few parts of Astonish Me that I thought were interesting/well written: Continue reading…