The Children’s Book Review | November 30, 2015
The Children’s Book Review: Which five words best describe UP TO THIS POINTE?
Jennifer Longo: Endurance and resilience conquer all.
If you had to take a vacation with one of the characters from UP TO THIS POINTE, who would it be? Why?
Ernest Shackleton, definitely! In life, he had no fear about exploring the most remote, uninhabitable and therefore most pristine and beautiful places on the planet. Plus I would feel completely safe he’d get me in and out of any dangerous situation alive – bonus! I could absolutely learn a lot from him about resilience and bravery, too – always a good trait in a travelling companion.
What has been the best reaction from a reader, so far?
One reader made me so happy I cried – all the things she loved about the book were the entire reason I wrote it in the first place. The reader said she loves ballet books and was so happy that this book wasn’t a typical ‘Dancer works hard and achieves success’ story. She was surprised it was instead about a dancer who works incredibly hard but meets unavoidable failure. She said she loved that the story was about the dancer learning to navigate how to make an entirely new life for herself, or give in and be lost in regret – seriously, for a writer, a reader who loves all the things you love most about your book – that’s the most amazing gift and makes me feel so proud.
What’s on your nightstand? Any books?
Always and only books! A huge, teetering pile of mine and of my daughter’s that we read together. We just finished LITTLE WOMEN and we started the latest Jeanne Birdsall PENDERWICKS book, PENDERWICKS IN SPRING, but we’re three pages in and it’s so heartbreaking (in a good way!) I can’t read it without crying – I think we’re still recovering from Beth March’s death, good grief! (Spoiler alert!) Right now I’m reading a ton of books for research for my next novel: NO SUMMIT OUT OF SIGHT by Jordan Romero, about the youngest person to ever climb the seven summits. And I’m in the middle of IN DEFENSE OF OUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS by Mary Woodward, which is this beautiful book about the community reaction to the WWII Japanese exclusion that began on Bainbridge Island in Washington State. Reading and drafting a new novel means I get to hide in a writing cave for months and I’m never happier!
For your writing energy: sugar or salt, tea or coffee?
Salt and Lattes & green tea.
Writing tools: computer, pen and paper, or all of the above?
Pen and paper and colored index cards for outlining, editing and notes – computer for drafting.
Can you tell us one more thing we may not know about UP TO THIS POINTE, your writing style, or yourself?
My writing style is heavily influenced by education in theatre. Most of my life has been spent reading and writing scripts, so I love dialogue most of all, and I seem to gravitate to a first person present tense narrative, which might be because it feels more theatrical and active. Both UP TO THIS POINTE and my first book, SIX FEET OVER IT, began as full length plays, written and performed as thesis projects for graduate degrees in Playwriting and Acting.
I often think of plot details or entire stories structured around the non-fiction and memoir books I love to read, which is where my love of all things Antarctica/Shakleton/Scott began. Also, I breathed, slept and ate ballet classes from age 8 to 18, and my daughter started classes when she was 3 and now she’s 13 and she’s in class five days a week. I think what attracts us both to ballet is the discipline and intense challenge involved in perfecting the technique of such a beautiful, brutal art form. It is a competition with one’s own body, your own limitation. It’s learning to access your greatest strength, to work with gravity and against your own fear. I think it’s an amazing metaphor for life in general and one I revisit in everything I write.
Written by Jennifer Longo
Publisher’s Synopsis: A refreshingly original contemporary YA, unlike anything readers have seen before. Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, John Corey Whaley, and Libba Bray.
She had a plan. It went south.
Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.
Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing Amundsen and Shackleton to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart. It will take a visit from Shackleton’s ghost–the explorer who didn’t make it to the South Pole, but who got all of his men out alive–to teach Harper that success isn’t always what’s important, sometimes it’s more important to learn how to fail successfully.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | Jan. 19, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0553537673
About Jennifer Longo
JENNIFER LONGO was a ballerina from ages eight to eighteen, until she eventually (reluctantly) admitted her talent for writing exceeded her talent for dance. The author of Six Feet Over It, she holds an MFA in Writing for Theater from Humboldt State University, where her obsessive love of Antarctica produced her thesis play about Antarctica’s Age of Exploration. Jennifer lives in Seattle with her husband and daughter and writes about writing at jenlongo.com.
This interview with Jennifer Longo about Up to this Pointe was conducted by Bianca Schulze. Follow along with our content tagged with Coming of Age, Cultural diversity, Humor, Social Graces, and Speed Interview to discover more great books.