Lucy Silag is the new Community and Engagement Manager at Book Country. She’s worked as a bookseller (at Bookshop Santa Cruz, an indie out in Northern California), in book publicity (at Doubleday and Spiegel & Grau, two imprints of Penguin Random House) and as a writing teacher and tutor (at the University of Iowa in Iowa City). Lucy is the author of the Beautiful Americans trilogy of novels for young adults, and has written essays, travel articles, and book reviews for newspapers and magazines.
Hi there! The importance of a writing community became clear to me when I was a fiction student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, so I am thrilled to be a part of this thriving, diverse writing community.
I figured the best way for me to introduce myself to BC writers and readers was to tell everybody about a couple of the books that I am really, really into, and why.
At the University of Iowa, I taught a lot of different types of writing. One semester I chose to teach Emma in a creative writing course. This was selfish—I just wanted an excuse to spend a month talking about Jane Austen. Like all Austen fans, I adore her turns of phrase and the sweeping romance of her novels. But I especially like Emma because of the way it is plotted—if you do a timeline of the events in the novel (as we did one morning in my class), you see how amazing Austen was at engaging the reader in multiple storylines at once. Also, I find Mr. Woodhouse’s hypochondria totally tragic. Most of the screen adaptations tend to mock this element in his character, but in the most recent BBC Emma miniseries (the one with Romola Garai), Mr. Woodhouse is the heartbreaker that I think Austen intended him to be.
A friend of mine teases me because every time I go to her apartment, I always pull down her copy of Emma (which I, incidentally, gave to her) and start flipping through it. When I recently moved back to New York, her housewarming gift to me was an absolutely gorgeous illustrated and annotated edition of Emma, the type of book you should keep on your coffee table. I actually don’t have a coffee table yet (my apartment is still only half-furnished), but it was the perfect gift because I am the type of person who would actually go through this book again and again. I have moved too many times in my life to be very sentimental about collecting and keeping all my books (e-reading has been an absolute godsend!) but this is a book I will never, ever give away.
The same semester I taught Emma, I also taught The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank—the most recent edition from Modern Library with a foreword by Francine Prose. Prose’s superlative book Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife makes the argument that Anne Frank was a genius—a teenage girl with incredible gifts for writing and revising. Anyone who is interested in writing from the perspective of a teen should revisit The Diary of a Young Girl, because it’s such a perfect study of the emotional transition from child into young adult. I wanted my students to see both Emma and the Diary not as historical artifacts but as examples of really dynamic, relevant fiction and memoir from which we can all learn an enormous amount about writing.
Right now I’ve got a few books going: Between, by Book Country author Kerry Schafer; Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, which Nevena recommended to me; and the audiobook I am listening to on the subway, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. They are all really good, so I am having trouble putting any of them down! It’s an embarrassment of riches here at Book Country. I am so excited to find great new reads here on the site. I am particularly interested in reading Young Adult and New Adult, since that is what I like to write, and I am a sucker for a well-written memoir. Please connect with me on Book Country and let me know what you are working on, reading, and thinking about. I can’t wait to get to know the community—thanks for having me on board!