Day 20 of 30

COLUMBINE (RIP to the victims and continued prayers for the families)

Fifteen years
ago today

at a high school
in Colorado

Eric and Dylan
became mascots

for massacres
and rebranded

trenchcoats
as warnings

that maybe
we need more

cheerleaders
at home

About the book cover

Recently, I received an incredible comment from “Hillary” who read WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST, enjoyed it, but felt that the book cover was a bit dissonant in relationship to the actual story. She states:

“So I’m wondering, as the author, what are your thoughts about the book’s cover? To me it seemed incongruous with the story. Striking in its imagery of the hard, cold gun encased in the beautiful and colorful, soft knitting. And probably attention-getting on a shelf full of books screaming “buy me” and perhaps marketed to a certain segment of the reading population. But I didn’t think the gun was central to your story, and in that way I thought it was misleading in its representation of the characters, and Ali, and the tale you so lovingly told.”

First let me say, thank you for your comment and for even asking about why we chose what we chose for the cover. I really appreciate you reading the book and engaging in some critique of some of the choices made.

To answer your question, the book cover is a bit incongruous. You’re right. And that’s what my editor and I both wanted. I can’t stand book covers that tell the whole story. I prefer symbolism, some distance from the plot, some inference. It’s sort of like the old Velvet Underground album cover with the banana. The banana has nothing to do with the album. It’s just a dope piece of art by Andy Warhol. Now, I’m not going that abstract here. What we were trying to communicate in an eye-catching way, is the relationship between hard and soft, between aggressive and compassionate, between violence and peace. That’s a motif throughout the story, that Ali battles with, his father battles with, Noodles, Malloy who lost his legs, the neighborhood in general. So the handgun, a symbol we naturally equate to violence, has been knitted over, which is something we naturally equate to tranquility. Not to mention the knitting is a direct reference to Needles, of course, and the gun, more of a reference to John and his struggles and what his son thinks…(I don’t want to spoil the book for those haven’t checked it out yet!)

And lastly, Hillary, you’re right. It is a “Buy Me” cover. But more than that, it’s the kind of cover that (hopefully) will spark questions like these. When a young person sits on the train and reads it, another teenager might ask, “what is that?” and to me, that alone is HUGE. Why not be provocative if it promotes reading?

I hope this answers your question, or at least gives you some of the thought process behind the gun. It wasn’t just an arbitrary image, or even just a hook. It’s just symbolic, which is my preferred style.

Thank you so much, Hillary, for commenting and engaging. Seriously. It means the world to me that you’ve read the book, thought about it, and realized that the cover didn’t work for you. I’m all about discourse, disagreement, analysis, and all that, so please know that in the future, if there’s something else of mine you read in the future or another one of my covers you see that you don’t think works, air it out. Let me know. And I mean that! :)

J

Day 18 of 30

JENE’S GIRLS

Jene got three little girls
who look like their daddy
but God already took daddy
back to the lighthouse

so these three little girls
already know what it’s like
to capsize in the blue
out of the blue

found out mommy could
inflate
could become a raft
to get her girls back to shore
to safety

where she teaches them
that the water is
fickle
spastic
uncertain
and mommy as a raft
may not always have air

and even though daddy
is in that lighthouse
shining on
the three of them
Jene teaches
the three of them
to lock arms

tight

and forever
be each other’s
life guards

Day 17 of 30

THE TYPE OF WOMAN

the type of woman
that even with her body
imploding in slow motion
tubes running through
her like subway tunnels
beeping machines
beeping beats of a
fluttering heart
beaten arrested muscles
fossilizing under
paper skin
yeast-filmed tongue
swollen
obstructive as
she coughs
and hacks up
the words

baby
reach in my purse
and grab my
lipstick

Day 16 of 30

CREATION

Seems like
God made man
marionettes
molded from
wet sand and ether
born in a
furnace world
our weird
toy hands tight
on the thermostat
turning up

Seems like
glass has always
been our destiny
both transparency
and reflection
always our purpose

Day 15 of 30 (HALFWAY THERE!)

DREAMS (so many terrible working titles)

Dreams
aren’t meant to
sit on their hands

they’re meant to
fling plates
against the wall
flip over desks
get sent down
to the principal’s
office where they
beg
for parents
to be called

where they
beg
for parents
to come
get them