An Interview with Newbery Medal-Winning Author Clare Vanderpool, Part 2

walking-away-by-simple-insomnia-on-flickrClare Vanderpool, Newbery-Medal winning author of the novels Moon over Manifest (Delacorte, 2010) and Navigating Early (Delacorte, 2013), got her start by attending a writing workshop at The Milton Center, with which Image was associated in its early years and whose programs are now run by Image. While under a Milton fellowship in the mid-90s, I read one of her earliest works and now discuss her accomplishments in a two-part interview.

Moon over Manifest, set in depression-era Kansas, features 12-year-old Abilene Tucker, whose itinerant father arranges for her to stay in a small Kansas town where he spent his boyhood. There, Abilene is met by a variety of townspeople that have a story as mysterious to her as the reason her father has sent her away. Navigating Early, set in post-WWII New England, tells the tale of young Jack Baker, whose military father puts him in a Maine boys’ school following the death of Jack’s mother. Jack has to make his way in a new world, and finds himself befriended by a strange boy, Early Auden, who sets the two of them on an adventure to find something that everyone, except Early, believes is lost forever.

Continued from yesterday.

AGH: The idea of a youth setting out on a journey, on a “quest” to find himself, is in the line of romances, of chivalric literature, where the hero sets off to prove himself and earn his name. The second novel even has parallels to the Fisher King myth. Was that kind of literature an influence?

CV: I’m sure it was. My two sons grew up reading Tolkien and the Redwall books, so I knew how much questing books were valued by young readers. I read these books as an adult, but really all the books I’ve read throughout my life have gone into a story vault and somehow come out when I need them. [Read more…]

An Interview with Newbery Medal-Winning Author Clare Vanderpool, Part 1

11789685473_f05bf47558_kClare Vanderpool, Newbery-Medal winning author of the novels Moon over Manifest (Delacorte, 2010) and Navigating Early (Delacorte, 2013), got her start by attending a writing workshop at The Milton Center, with which Image was associated in its early years and whose programs are now run by Image. While under a Milton fellowship in the mid-90s, I read one of her earliest works and now discuss her accomplishments in a two-part interview.

Moon over Manifest, set in depression-era Kansas, features 12-year-old Abilene Tucker, whose itinerant father arranges for her to stay in a small Kansas town where he spent his boyhood. There, Abilene is met by a variety of townspeople that have a story as mysterious to her as the reason her father has sent her away. Navigating Early, set in post-WWII New England, tells the tale of young Jack Baker, whose military father puts him in a Maine boys’ school following the death of Jack’s mother. Jack has to make his way in a new world, and finds himself befriended by a strange boy, Early Auden, who sets the two of them on an adventure to find something that everyone, except Early, believes is lost forever.

A.G. Harmon: In your first novel, Moon Over Manifest, you have your main character quote Melville—“true places are never found on any map,” i.e., are more than their locales or their coordinates on a grid. Did that quote influence the novel?

Clare Vanderpool: It definitely was the catalyst of the novel. The notion of a true place and what it is resonated with me. For me, that conjures up a lot memories. I’ve lived in the same place my whole life (Wichita), and memories are around every corner. But for young Abilene (sent by her itinerant father to a town where he’d once lived) who has never had a home, it became a real question. So the idea of finding what a true place is for the character became what the book was about.

AGH: Later, Abilene has a gloss on that—that “true places are found in many places, including on a map.” Are we to take it that a place is indeed its story (pace Melville), but that it can become more than that too—that it is more incarnational—both a place and more than a place? [Read more…]

A Conversation with Pinckney Benedict

This post originally appeared as a web-exclusive feature accompanying Image journal issue 57.

Pinckney-BenedictMary Kenagy Mitchell for Image: You have a novel titled Dogs of God, and in your new story in Image, “The World, the Flesh, and the Devil,” a feral dog is one of the two main characters. What do dogs have to teach us?

Pinckney Benedict: Dogs give us an excellent metaphor for our own relationship to God: We can see, from our human perspective, how limited their understanding is. And sometimes they make terrible blunders—which we could prevent them from making, if they would listen to us—because they have relatively short horizons. And sometimes they do astonishingly well, by our lights, on very little information and with no moral boundaries.

We’re something like that—magnified to the nth degree, of course—in relation to God. The way I love my dog, even though he’s a spastic moron who eats things that no one or nothing should eat, and then he comes home and vomits on my carpet: that, multiplied infinitely, is how God sees me and also how he loves me. So I can be aware of how limited and shameful I am, and not want to simply burst into flames with humiliation. What I want for my dog is what God wants for me, times one billion. [Read more…]

A Conversation with John Terpstra

This interview originally appeared as a web-exclusive feature for Image issue 63.

terpstraJohn Terpstra has been in church since before he was born. “I have heard everything there is to say about the place, for and against; both its necessity and its redundancy. Have felt it all, in my bones,” he writes.

Issue 63 of Image includes his essay about church, titled “Skin Boat: Acts of Faith and Other Navigations.” Part of a book-length work of the same name now out from Gaspereau Press, the essay interweaves images from Terpstra’s experiences as a poet, woodworker, and lifelong pew-sitter, as well as language from spirituals, the Old Testament, Old English literature, and conversations about church with his wife, friends, and neighbors.

I asked him about the nonfiction he’s been writing lately, and about how this book came to be written. [Read more…]

A Conversation with Scott Cairns

This post originally appeared as web-exclusive content in Image issue 68.

scott-cairns-picScott Cairns, the author of numerous volumes of poetry, a convert to Orthodox Christianity, and a longtime contributor to Image, has often advocated what he calls a “sacramental poetics”—the idea that a poem should not so much describe something as do something. Mary Kenagy Mitchell interviewed Scott Cairns for Image.

Image: Your poems use an exacting, prophetic voice, but they’re also very funny. Where does that voice come from? Is it with you all the time when you’re going through your day, driving around doing errands? Has it always been with you? Or is it something you consciously invented, that you have to work to generate?

Scott Cairns: I think it’s been with me for a while—thirty years or more—but is surely something of a hybrid of a host of literary voices that appealed to me early on, as I was becoming serious about reading and writing. I’m sure there are traces of C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden, William Stafford, Wallace Stevens, Rainer Maria Rilke, Constantine Cavafy, and G.K. Chesterton in that hybrid. Also, I grew up in a house where the pun reigned supreme—that may be, in part, where the humor comes from.

Image: One of your poems in the new issue of Image [68] is called “a psalm of Isaak.” What’s the significance of that? I think you’ve used that name more than once in your poems, right? What do the Isaak poems have in common? [Read more…]