Hi lovely reader, I wanted to do a quickie intro to Barbara Bottner and why we are honored to have her guest post. If this were Japan, Barbara would be considered a national treasure for both the number of books she's written and the quality of them. Barbara has also mentored many of the writing greats and is also an exquisite person. She and I co-taught a picture book course years ago and it was amazing. Below are just some of Barbara's many books and below that is Barbara's wonderful post. So without further ado, here's Barbara!
Hello, I’m Barbara Bottner, author of nearly 50 children’s books for all ages. I often use my own experiences for my stories. After a hiatus of over thirty years from writing YA fiction, concentrating on picture books and work in TV and print, my new free verse novel is coming out May 19th. This novel, I Am Here Now, from Macmillan, is fiction, but it is greatly inspired by my own experiences. I’m going to share about the parallels in my life that helped me write this story.
I Am Here Now takes place in Parkchester, a planned community in the Bronx, in 1960 as we hurl toward war with Viet Nam.
There are four teen characters. There’s Rachel, Maisie’s best friend; and Rachel’s heart throb boyfriend, Gino. And finally, Richie, who Maisie relies on for friendship and a possible romance. Richie shares with Maisie his dismay about living with his father’s Viet Nam war trauma.
“Tomorrow or the next day, Richie and I will sit together and mumble our sad stories.”
The story is set in the Bronx. I was born there and lived there until the age of seven. Like my home, the Bronx was in decline and experiencing increased turbulence.
For Maisie, the tense uptown streets create a growing, urgent need to escape, as mirrored by her impossible situation with her very disturbed mother.
Like Maisie, I was always an art girl. Art spoke to me as no human could. It allowed me to see other worlds and to feel deeply connected to them. It showed me there was a way to express the pulsing, intense, uncontainable feelings I had and to turn them into something useful and lasting and even beautiful. Art sustained me and still does. Maisie is an aspiring artist and her love of painting is an important thread. It’s healing, self-realizing, and ultimately offers her a way forward.
As in the novel, I had a best friend whose mom was, for her, a challenge, but for me, a lifesaver. I always thought that was an interesting dynamic in and of itself. Kiki, Rachel’s mother, is a painter and a mentor to Maisie. This leads to trouble with Rachel who becomes jealous (and has reason to).
Also, this is a sibling story. Maisie has to find a way to cherish her younger, more compliant and more lovable brother Davy, who’s secretive and dealing with his sexual orientation before being gay was even remotely acceptable. This comes out of my life as well. My brother grabbled with his orientation at a time where homosexuality was illegal and considered a curse.
Maisie is a troubled, desperate girl, especially when her father disappears in the middle of the night. Later on, Richie flees his situation as well. As a result, Maisie becomes a thief of sorts; first she steals into Rachel’s family. Then, finding Gino irresistible, she steals her best friend’s boyfriend.
Refusing to reach out to her father because of his abandonment, she faces off with her mother until her fate as well as Davy’s hangs in the balance.
If you'd like to help support this glorious kidlit matriarch, buy her books here:
https://shop.booksandbooks.com/book/9781250207692 Books N Books, Miami Florida or here: