This Is the Story of You - Interview and Giveaway

Hi everyone! I goofed up and missed my date for the blog tour for Beth Kephart's This Is the Story of You. Sorry about that! Here it is: make sure you read through to the end and enter the giveaway (open to US & Canada, ends 6/14/2016).

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The publisher also provided the blog tour giveaway prize. 

This is the Story of You
By Beth Kephart

YA Fiction

A masterful exploration of nature’s power to shake human foundations, literal and figurative.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
This beautifully written book works on many levels and is rich in its characterization, emotion, language, and hint of mystery.
School Library Journal, starred review
We fall in love with Kephart more and more every year.
An exploration of the unrelenting power of nature and a reminder of the one thing in the world that is irreplaceable: family.

About the Book

On Haven, a six-mile long, half-mile-wide stretch of barrier island, Mira Banul and her Year-Rounder friends have proudly risen to every challenge. But then a superstorm defies all predictions and devastates the island, upending all logic and stranding Mira’s mother and brother on the mainland. Nothing will ever be the same. A stranger appears in the wreck of Mira’s home. A friend obsessed with vanishing disappears. As the mysteries deepen, Mira must find the strength to carry on—to somehow hold her memories in place while learning to trust a radically reinvented future. Gripping and poetic, This Is the Story of You is about the beauty of nature and the power of family, about finding hope in the wake of tragedy and recovery in the face of overwhelming loss.

About the Author

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of nineteen books, including Going Over, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, and Small Damages. A National Book Award finalist, Kephart is also a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. Kephart teaches workshops at many institutions, to all ages and creative nonfiction workshops at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a popular keynote speaker and frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, and many national journals. She blogs daily at

Q&A with Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart: Hello, Read Now Sleep Later (Such a GREAT blog name; I’m there; I get it; do I sound sleepy?)


Q: Did you have a "Project Flow" in school? If yes, what was it; if not, what do you think it would have been if required?

BK: I did not have a Project Flow, but I have a book named FLOW, an autobiography of one of Philadelphia’s rivers. I’ve been out there teaching FLOW and natural history and environmental empathy to young people for a long time—a program that is actually called FLOW under the care of the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center. So these Project Flows come from a very real place in my life, and I thank you for noticing.

RNSL: The style of THIS IS THE STORY OF YOU leans toward more poetry than prose. How much of that was intentional as the writing unfolded? How much of it just develops organically because of how you create your work?

BK: I hang my head. I confess. I can’t help it. I write language as I hear language. Language as mood, passion, need.

RNSL: When you write, are you often influenced by real life, or are more of your ideas born in your mind and on your page? For example, the way Jasper Lee puts words together or collects sand, or the rituals of the Year-Rounders?

BK: I am very interested in studying the real world and projecting it back onto the page. I have written of the Berlin wall (Going Over), Florence and neuroscience (One Thing Stolen), Centennial Philadelphia (Dangerous Neighbors), Juarez (The Heart Is Not a Size), etc. All of my books—fiction or nonfiction—are deeply researched. Jasper Lee’s words erupted; I’m not sure from where. The rituals of the Year-Rounders were both observed and researched.

RNSL: This novel is very lean, all the excess trimmed away. Was there anything "left on the cutting room floor", so to speak, that you wish you had kept in?

BK: Well, much was edited, but the edits were what I felt to be the edits required by the excesses of my own language. I had a very particular story I wanted to tell. I saw no need to clog it up with tangents. There is a storm. It had an impact. A mystery emerges in the aftermath. There are best friends and a brother-sister, and sisters, and a daughter-mom, and an old woman, and teachers… There’s a whole community here. No one gets short shrift. But I’m not interested in false, novel-extending plot tangents. I guess I never am.

(I hang my head again.)

RNSL: Did you have to do any research for this book? For what elements, and how did you go about it?

BK: Of course. We’ve all lived storms. But how well do we know anything until we really study it? So I read all about storms. All about rising seas and vanishing cities and sea monsters and dolphins and survival. And then I talked to people who had survived Storm Sandy. And of course I did more research on Hunter syndrome.

RNSL: Names are very significant to Mira. Can you tell us about some of the names you chose for characters, like why you chose them?

BK: I am LOVING your questions, by the way. Mira’s last name, Banul, is the last name of a student I’d had at Penn—a young man who taught me so much about courage. Nearly every survivor we meet on the beach has the name, and a characteristic, of a friend (reading the acknowledgments provides a tip to some of that). Deni Norfleet’s last name is the last name of a very solid minister friend. And, etc.

RNSL: What's your preferred weather?

BK: Autumn.

RNSL: Do you have a favorite poet, and if you do, who is it, and why?

BK: Many, many, many poets to love. Mary Oliver. Jack Gilbert. Gerald Stern. Stanley Kunitz.

RNSL: What's the most memorable piece of writing advice you have ever received?

BK: I was never taught writing. Which is odd, since now I teach it myself at the University of Pennsylvania and at workshops across the country—and even wrote a book on the craft of memoir (Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir). I think less about advice, I’d have to say, and more about the impact of books I read. Can I be as urgently poetic as Michael Ondaatje or Colum McCann, say? As precise as Sallie Tisdale? As elegiac as Patricia McCormick? As wise as Ali Benjamin? As clear as Mary Oliver? I read across all genres. I ask myself what is working and why. And then I go back to my own pages.

RNSL: My co-blogger Thuy always asks: Cake or pie? (Or both? And why/what flavor?)

BK: Cake cake cake never pie. And my mother’s chocolate chip cheesecake with a graham cracker crust, which I miss so much and have missed so much, ever since she passed away.

RNSL: Thank you so much, Beth! Readers, I loved this book. Full review to come. I hope you'll love it, too.

Giveaway Time!

Enter to win a copy of Beth Kephart's This Is the Story of You. The prize will be provided by Chronicle Books.

  1. Open to the US/Canada only, ends 6/14/2016.
  2. No purchase is necessary to enter the giveaway. Void where prohibited.
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