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An Author Joins Us: Maria Padian of Jersey Tomatoes are the Best

March 30, 2011

 We are so happy to welcome author Maria Padian to our blog today. Maria is the author of two young adult novels, Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress, and her new book, now available, Jersey Tomatoes are the Best. Jersey Tomatoes is the story of two best friends, Henry and Eva, and the summer they spend before their junior year of high school. Both girls are talented athletes: Eva is a ballerina and Henry is a tennis star. They part from each other to spend the summer training with other teens in their fields and the experience leads to new friendships, love, heartache and a battle with anorexia. This is not an “issue” book, though. It is funny, sad and beautifully written. We loved this book, and we know that teen girls will really relate to the girls’ bond.

Maria answered a few of our questions below. If you have more questions for her or about the book, please leave them in the comment section!

Do you read YA lit and do you have any favorite authors?

I love YA lit.  I love the pace, the emotion, the coming-of-age themes, the energy, the hormones … all of it.  And while I can enjoy a good vampire-love-triangle or paranormal romance like zillions of other teen readers, I tend to prefer realistic fiction.  My all-star list would have to include author Tim Tharp (Knights of the Hill Country; The Spectacular Now); pretty much anything Laurie Halse Anderson writes; Markus Zusak (The Book Thief); Sherman Alexie (Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian); and Libba Bray (Going Bovine).  The yard gnome scenes in Going Bovine are hands-down the funniest scenes I’ve ever read.  And if I had a chance to meet one author and talk writing, I’d want to meet Tim Tharp.  I think his work is extraordinary.  Oh, and Robin Brande (Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature; Fat Cat).  I love her books.  Yeah.  I’d like to have coffee with Robin Brande and Tim Tharp. 

Tell us about your process.  Do you write everyday?  How long?

Well, I’m a morning person and I have a dog.  An Australian Shepherd.  If you know Aussies, you’ll understand that every day, rain or shine or sleet or whatever (and in Maine, we get a lot of “whatever”) I’m out in it, walking the dog.  Otherwise she loses her mind.

So every morning, after my daughter heads off to school, we walk.  It’s like a pre-writing warm up.  I use the time to clear my head and think about what I wrote the day before, and what’s going to happen next.  By the time Frisbee (the dog) and I return home, I’m ready to fire up the computer and dive in.

I’m usually good for three hours or so, but if things are really flowing I might just keep at it until early afternoon, when my daughter returns.  Once the family is home I’m distracted, so I stop for the day.

Both of your books feature girl athletes.  Did you play sports as a kid?

I love sports and I’ve always played sports, but in high school I was a music geek!  My life was way more “Glee” than “Friday Night Lights,” so it’s actually come as quite a surprise to me that my characters are such jocks.  Even the book I’m working on right now features an athlete, although this one’s a boy.  Which is a first for me:  writing from a boy’s point of view.

I’ve played tennis (and still do), basketball and softball.  I canoe, bike, hike, and ski.  I also rowed crew for a while, which is something I no longer do but really miss.  My fantasy material possession would be a scull, so I could go out on the rivers near our home and row.

How do you feel about the increasingly intense nature of teen sports and activities?

You know, I grew up watching fathers screaming at their sons from the sidelines at Little League Games.  The term “stage mother” is nothing new.  I think adults have been putting pressure on kids in sports and other activities for a long time. 

What I think is new is that right now we seem to have an inordinate amount of anxiety about the future for our children, and it translates into constant pressure and an intense focus on everything they do.  I mean, have you ever seen the mobs of spectators watching five-year olds “play” soccer on any given Saturday morning in any given American suburb?  I have.  I was one of those spectators.  And in retrospect, I think my kids would have been better off playing capture-the-flag with the other neighborhood children on Saturday morning, while I sipped coffee and read the newspaper.  Unstructured, unsupervised play time is sorely missing in our children’s lives, to their detriment and ours.  Especially because those over-scheduled five-year-olds grow up to be over-stressed teens who have forgotten why they’re doing all this to begin with.

Jersey Tomatoes is my attempt to explore this, from a teen’s point of view.  The main characters, Henry and Eva, are gifted, and they love what they do, but they face losing it all if they can’t achieve some balance in their lives.  That’s pretty much what the book is about:  taking ownership of your future and making life-affirming, healthy choices.

If you’d like to read more from Maria, please visit her on her other blog tour stops:

March 31st—The Reading Zone http://thereadingzone.wordpress.com/

April 1st—Cleverly Inked http://CleverlyInked.com

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2011 4:45 pm

    You have no idea how much this blog encouraged me. I call myself a wanna-be author, as I write but have nothing published (and haven’t yet tried). Finding a rhythm to writing has been difficult – so the part about your schedule was like reading a recipe for what I’ve tasted but not been able to make. I also am a mom and dog walker, but I homeschool my kids, so finding writing time is difficult. And our daughter plays basketball, so I also see the side of sports/time/growing up of which you wrote in this blog. Thanks for your words; they helped my writing-heart find some peace today.

    • March 31, 2011 10:46 am

      Hi Barbara,

      A writer-friend who is about ten years older than me said, years ago, when I was attempting to find a couple of spare hours a week to write amidst changing diapers and wiping high chairs: “You have no idea how much your writing life will open up as your children get older.”
      So, so true! Hang in there.
      The nice thing I’ve discovered is that as they’ve needed my hands-on attention less, my writing “career” has gotten more and more of my time and attention. One yields to the other, and it’s been a natural flow.

  2. March 30, 2011 5:49 pm

    Thank you for the feature on Padian. I had meant to add her books to my GIRLS IN SPORTS list and had forgotton her name. Perfect timing!

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