Jen Michalski returns with a new short fiction collection (available for pre-order now) and how she found Outsiders by S.E. Hinton for the first time. We talk about S.E. Hinton's YA ouvre, the movies she inspired and the Outsider House Museum in Oklahoma.
Hello, my name is Jen Michalski. And my favorite thing is S.E. Hinton.
Welcome to the Finding Favorites Podcast. Where we explore your favorite things without using an algorithm. Here's your host, Leah Jones.
Leah Jones 00:18
Hello and Welcome, to Finding Favorites. I'm your host, Leah Jones. And this is the podcast where we learn about people's favorite things without using an algorithm. I am very excited tonight; Jen Michalski is back and she is the reason I have authors on this podcast. She changed the whole trajectory of finding favorites. And I'm thrilled that you're back. Jen, how are you doing?
Jen Michalski 00:46
Great. I'm so thrilled to be back as well. I've been waiting for weeks to do this. I'm so excited.
Leah Jones 00:51
And you're back because you have another book coming out.
Jen Michalski 00:55
I do. Yes.
Leah Jones 00:56
The Company Of Strangers.
Jen Michalski 00:59
It'll be out January 10th with Braddock Avenue Books, and it's a collection of short fiction.
Leah Jones 01:05
So they're short fiction, is it? Is it all COVID era writing, or is it like expand your career?
Jen Michalski 01:15
It's a mix. I mean, I actually I moved to Southern California three years ago, which spans the time I was last on your podcast, but some of that a few of the short stories in this collection were written here. Most of them were written in Baltimore, though. But the cover is really great. It's a cover of some surfers standing in front of a California sunset, and it was so weird, like we live, I guess about it's a 10-minute drive from the beach. We were coming home from the grocery store we were at a traffic light I just looked over, and these surfers were sitting there, kind of chatting. There was this beautiful sunset behind them. I just took the picture from the car and it turned out so good that I just wanted to be the book cover, even though, not all the stories were set in this area. I just felt like, because they were all just kind of standing in their own little thoughts. They weren't exactly talking to each other; they were all holding the boards, it kind of reminded me of a lot of the stories how people that we know are strangers, but then we also have these intimate connections with people we don't know! Our whole life is just sort of not really quite knowing what another person is thinking.
Leah Jones 02:30
When did this book become a sparkle in your eye?
Jen Michalski 02:37
Well, it makes short story collections, they take a long time to build because you just have to collect so many stories. And I think they started to play around with a collection even before I left Baltimore. They were different titles, and it just never felt quite cohesive. So you just put it aside, actually wrote a novel while we were here in Carlsbad during COVID. I'm still finalizing the draft of that to start sending out. But, I did finally write the last story in this collection is a Novella, and I wrote it here. It just felt like the right piece for this collection. The title came from one of the stories in the collection. I don't know, there's something that you finally know when you have the right combination of stories. But it does take several years to come about. So, a lot of this is pre COVID. But I was very active during COVID. Because we just didn't go anywhere for two years and we just moved here, so we had no friend bubble either. So we were it was just me and my partner and our dog. The perfect time to have your own writing residency. It's definitely changed a lot of how marketing has been, still everything's kind of online. I don't have as many I have yet to build, it took 10 – 12 years to build the connections. I had the writing community in Baltimore, and it's coming about even slower here because things are still not quite back to normal. But I think every industry has been changed by it. It's just something you have to go with the flow and that's life.
Leah Jones 04:29
Yeah, I think we've seen a significantly from… I mean, My day job is marketing and financial services, and very few of our teams are back to in person conferences. It's still a lot of webinars, a lot of the meetings that used to be required to be in person are all on Zoom. People aren't getting on planes anymore like they used to. So I see it in work, I see it at my synagogue; just where we've had people who when I understand haven't felt comfortable to come back in person or liked the balance that attending online events brought to their life without the commute in the city. Because of Chicago, the effort to get somewhere in Chicago sometimes can be 30 to 60 minutes to get somewhere in the city. I just seen people clinging and now that it's cold and the sunset today is at 4:19 p.m. The people ran outside during the summer and now they're coming back to online events.
Jen Michalski 05:46
Yeah, it's a strange thing, though. I joined a library book group here in Carlsbad when we moved here and we've been online the whole time. We actually met the other night and it's like this, is anyone interested in just not doing a meeting in person, but just meeting in person? Because I actually have never met any of you outside of these little squares, and you probably live 10 minutes away. And then some people were like ‘yeah’, and some people were like ‘uh’. I know that attendance to the book club is skyrocketed because people can just get on their computer in their pajamas and they don't have to. It can be a pain in the butt after work, make sure you're still dressed or take a shower or comb your hair and go out to talk about a book that you may not have finished reading, even an hour. So I get it. But it just felt weird, and I know people younger than us, their whole lives have been brought up this way. It's really just a little old, so we're just like, “Oh, my God, no everything is...”. I mean, I know, we've been sort of preparing for it with social media. But I just think about the old days when you're bowling league was social media, you'd go out once a week and that's how you get information and gossip and connection.
Leah Jones 07:04
Yeah, I've talked to friends about a friend of mine whose dad has passed away. But when her dad was alive, he was the one that would take her mom and they would go to the bar in a small-town Wisconsin, because that is where they saw their people, they caught up with people and how much of her mom's social life has suffered. Because she was never the one who had to take the initiative to go to the bar, because her husband would come home and say, “Alright, now let's go here, let's go there”, and how hard that can be to maintain.
Jen Michalski 07:42
Yeah, I love that story, though, that's great.
Leah Jones 07:45
You really have to think about is this activity outside of my home, worth the risk, worth the healthcare risk? Or the benefits I'm gonna get for it? The social benefits, which I think are significant. I think the benefits of seeing people in person are significant. Is that more important? Or how do I balance that with the risk to my physical health? I wish I could time travel 50 years and see the research about what this time did for us.
Jen Michalski 08:27
Hopefully we're still alive and 20 more, and we'll have some linking of how it's working out.
Leah Jones 08:34
For the launch of this collection will you have an opportunity to go back to Baltimore and celebrate with your folks in Baltimore? Or is it going to be mostly online events? How are you thinking about rolling things out?
Jen Michalski 08:50
It's mostly online last year, I went back to Baltimore, when “You'll Be Fine” came out. I am not doing it this year. Like I said, I've done a lot of just more interviews and I've written essays and done podcasts and things like that. It's actually felt really comfortable to me. This is someone who I used to host a reading series in Baltimore for many years and co-hosted one for years before that, so very accustomed to being on stage and being with people. But I don't know, I just as I've gotten older, the energy has gotten less for me to be able to get out and do that. Maybe that's why I identified with S.E. Hidden history because she's very reclusive and she never goes out and does any sort of events now. And part of it was she said, there was an article online about someone was like her handler when she was in Texas to do a book festival or something. She's just like because basically, I get asked the same four questions every time, so I can imagine there's this in their system. I love music and I was listening to Aisles a Mile (based on Google search it is Miles of Aisles), Joni Mitchell live album, because I just started collecting Vinyl a year ago. So I've just been on this spree. And I got that I was listening to it, and she was talking about how weird it is to play your greatest hits at these concerts. Because, if you are an artist, no one ever says to Vincent van Gogh to paint “The Starry Night”, again. I mean, sure, some people will do. But it's that we're so bound by what we've already done. Even when you see dance, if I'm going to see a band in concert, I'm going to see “X” this month, at the [Not audible[00:10:41]]. And so on a beach and I don't want to hear, I haven't even listened to their new album yet. But I definitely want to hear Los Angeles. I get it as bands, whatever entry point the fan has to your body of work as an artist, is what's important to them. And that your whole career usually.
Leah Jones 11:05
One of the podcasts I listen to is The Jackie and Laurie Show. It's Jackie Kashian and Laurie Kilmartin. They're both women in their mid-50s, who have been standup road comics for 30 plus years. And Laurie did monologue jokes for Conan O'Brien. But they have both been on the road for 30 years. And they talk about the business, the business of standup comedy, how the business of standup Comedy has changed for women over the last 30 years. And they talk a lot about the churn of comedy albums. How like first standup comic, it takes you, 8 to 10 years to have enough jokes for your first album. But then the culture and comedy are, once you've recorded an album, that's all trash, and you can't ever perform it live again. So by the time it goes on your album, it is the best, it's the best written, it's you've got the timing down, it's the best it could be. But then, because people can hear it whenever they want; comics believe well, then that's done, I can never perform it again. And it is the opposite of bands. And then they talk about how sometimes people will try to request their favorite jokes. And they're like, well, maybe people do want to hear the jokes they know. And that debate about like, do you want to always hear something new and unknown, and surprising, or sometimes you want to hear the greatest hits. I think it's interesting how it's different between mediums, media.
Jen Michalski 12:49
I would love to hear a comedian do their own. I mean, because there was certain comedy albums I listened to growing up like Whoopi Goldberg’s album, and I remember the characters she did like Fontaine and I listened to it so much, I could do the Fontaine or Joan Rivers, and I would actually be disappointed if I didn't get to hear some of those jokes; just because I grew up with them. But I totally get that and I remember a period where I went to see a lot of Lloyd Cole concerts and there was always a guy there was always request, Mr. Wrong, Mr. wrong and I couldn't see this falling boy call like I am, and requesting this song that I wonder how Lloyd felt about it because he never actually played the song
Leah Jones 13:51
So you brought her up, let's get into it. This time, the favorite thing that you want to talk about or one of your favorites is the author S.E. Hinton.
Jen Michalski 14:01
Yeah, it's funny because it's like a no, no. And writing books is to make your author or your character an author. And I've already done that in one book. And now I'm going to talk about authors on the podcast.
Leah Jones 14:13
I didn't know it was the rule.
Jen Michalski 14:15
Yeah, there was sort of an unspoken like, don't use writers in your writing because it's kind of Gaucher or whatever. But you know, they also tell you to write about what you know, so
Leah Jones 14:28
Right, we can't have both.
Jen Michalski 14:30
But yeah, S.E. Hinton was my first, I wouldn't say, literary an author, but she was like my gateway to writing novels or having feeling like an adult novel, adult age novel could appeal. To me, I just remember I guess it was like 82 or 83 and going into the North-Point library, every Saturday with my grandfather and we would just go to the white section I would read everything that was there like Lois, Duncan and Lois Lowry and read the whole Row of Nancy and yearbooks on summer, I have collected them over the years again. And I remember picking up this. I'm pretty sure I've read the book first before I saw it in 16 Magazine, because I was a huge consumer of teen magazines at that age as well.
Leah Jones 15:19
16 young and modern
Jen Michalski 15:23
So, Bob later, and I read the book, and I was thinking I grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Baltimore. They weren't exactly great creatures. But there was definitely a subset of kids that were jean jackets, and smoked after school and rode their BMX bikes, and they were all tough.
Leah Jones 15:48
And the book is outsiders. Yeah, just checking.
Jen Michalski 15:54
And they were just like, I don't know, there was just this picture of, and I sent you the picture of the cover that I was in my library, to link to the podcast, but that cover, and this boy is looking so tough. And I guess I could just relate to Ponyboy he was thoughtful and literate, but also an outsider. It was we were definitely in a neighborhood that was blue collar middle class. So I felt like, there was something, there was still like a glimmer of like a romantic hope that you could be this thoughtful character in an area that was always just very coarse. For me, it was just getting called a lot of names a lot of fat names, or which names or this and that, and for someone who is overweight and questioning their sexuality in the 80s. It wasn't like, something I wanted to deal with. But I felt like I could relate to these characters. And I, it's interesting, because, well, apparently the book is based on a true story, S.E. Hinton when she went to high school in Tulsa, there were there were Greasers and socialism. A boy she was friends with him and he was a greaser gotten beaten up while he was walking home from school. And she was upset about it. And she went home and just started writing. And that was it. That became like the first or second chapter of the book when they get jumped later in the book. But yeah, it was marketed as an adult novel. There wasn't like a young adult market like there is today. The market is huge. Middle aged, middle grade, and you just have your own Barnes and Noble, right. So it wasn't selling but there was this like sub market that it was selling, and it was to kids, because teachers were teaching it in schools. And I wondered, what made teachers decide to teach it in schools other than the fact maybe there weren't books that really spoke to other. I don't know if they read The Catcher in the Rye, back then in the 60s. But I mean, we did in high school. To Kill a Mockingbird, but maybe they hadn't become what they were at that point in 1967, that they were in like the 80s and 90s when we read them. Tthat's actually how the movie was made. In 1980, the movie version of The Outsiders. In 1980, there was a librarian at the Lone Star school in Fresno. She wrote, the director, Francis Ford Coppola of all people, on behalf of her seventh and eighth grade students about adapting the outsiders. It was like 100 kids who have cosigned to this letter, and he was so touching. I have to do this for them. This is Francis Ford Coppola; this isn't some starting out director or this is a big deal. And I thought it was so cool that he just says, yeah, we got to do this. We got to find in a lot of the guys who were casted in The Outsiders, it was one of their first films. It was their springboard for greater fame, and you think about who was cast in The Outsiders movie?
Leah Jones 19:20
It’s really a who's who?
Jen Michalski 19:23
Yeah, of 80s. Matt Dillon and Patrick Swayze, Ralph Michihiro (on Google I could find Ralph Macchio), Rob Lowe. Oh, my God! Even Top Gun. Tom Cruise. Emilio Estevez. It was just huge. All of the guys that were and see Thomas how C. Thomas Howell was his debut role. I was reading back then they would all stay in the same hotel, but to get them in their roles like Francis Ford Coppola would give the guys who were playing the socials are the more of the upper, the better rooms. And they just try to create a sense of resentment or on cloud that he did that sort of method acting for them.
Leah Jones 20:17
I need to look for the show notes. I think it was Rob Lowe. It was either his interview on like Andy Richter’s three questions (as per Google Search, The Three Questions with Andy Richter)or Armchair Expert, where he talked about, because they are high school students, for the most par. Some of them knew each other, from the scene in LA, from the acting scene, and the stories from that set are phenomenal. Sometimes some camaraderie, some competition, and then they just all go on to have these incredible careers.
Jen Michalski 21:03
The staying power is amazing to me. Because I even bought the idea because it was recently on TCM and HBO Max is one of the movies to watch. And I was afraid to rewatch it. So it was not a lot of his age gracefully from our game. He didn't want to, and I was surprised that it's still stood up. And it took itself seriously, it wasn't corny. And I could see there was a lot of natural tension in the book, and Sen knew how to write a compelling scene that made you want to find out what happened to these boys and care about them. And then there's continued conflict. So it was really a good primer on how to write a novel. I don't think it's not like she went to a writing program, we were so inundated with Emma phase and this and that. But I mean, she really was able to find a natural piecing and conflict. And it just worked so well as I was impressed. And what I thought was funny is that, it seemed like the one of the most gut wrenching or just difficult parts was figuring out what to title it. I read an article in Slate, because I just thought she came up with The Outsiders. But she actually had called it a different sense of that was the original title. And that, I don't mind that, but it doesn't say it doesn't just off on the shelf, reading the spine doesn't really jump out to you. But some of the titles that the editors had suggested to her during this process were. And they have some copies, if you go to the Slate article, they have some copies of the letters correspondence between him or her editors. Some of the alternate titles were Northern Division Street, which that sounds it's very West Side Story sounding. The long-haired boys, very descriptive. The boys in blue jeans, and the leather jackets was another one. So at the last minute she came up with The Outsiders and that worked.
Leah Jones 23:27
Yeah. It's hard to imagine it under any of those names.
Jen Michalski 23:32
Yeah, I think I would just completely date itself and be irrelevant. So but yeah, I just thought it was going back to the movie watching that, and the title, I just felt like she was definitely influenced by products of her time to like rebel without a cause. So you probably were watching and West Side Story. And I think about that too, in my own writing. So I think about the things that influenced me when I was 13 or 14 in writing and when I was coming up in that age in at 45. Just starting to read more mature works, but also reading Sweet Valley High still because everyone likes that saccharin in their life. But I just remember the big authors then we're again the literary Brat Pack. So it was Bret Easton Ellis and Jamie Kinder, Kinder Nene. So Less Than Zero and Bright Lights, Big City. And I didn't know much about writing that and I just took this as gospel and I spent a little too many years writing books in first person and in second person and just these very bare deadpan observations, thinking that was the way to write. It wasn't until getting to college later and reading more widely that I was able to put that away. Although I actually just read an essay recently that will be out in the Cincinnati review because it just stuck with me. Reading Bright Lights Big City that young, I was talking to someone about my collection, and they made the observation and five of the stories a good third of the book had stories and second person. And how that's also sort of a no, no, like when you're writing. It just people don't really gravitate to it much. But I apparently have gravitated to it a lot.
Leah Jones 25:36
So first person is “I”, it's the voice is the point of view. Third person we know from Seinfeld is an omnipotent observer describing everything. Wait a second, I don't remember what second person narration…
Jen Michalski 25:59
Second person is when you get up in the morning, you don't or like the first line of Bright Lights Big City, you're not the type of guy who would find yourself in a place like this. I had written, like a bunch of stories like that. But I had to think on it for a while other than being influenced by this particular book, when I was growing up is this that. I guess just being like, a queer writer, was an interesting time in history and coming up in 2006 and 2007, there wasn't a lot of queer writing, and then it suddenly exploded especially in YA Middle grade. And all of a sudden, I'm 50 years old, and I never felt there was any wave to ride. Like it, somehow passed me over, because by the time it became sought after it was a little older and out of the crucial market, I don't know. But I still felt like the need to write second person, so people could see my side of the story, I guess. I guess you're so used to reading third person and first person and perspectives that aren't your own. For me, it was a way of easing people into a character that maybe we're all the sudden, you can't escape, because you're them.
Leah Jones 27:29
Second person can be so powerful. Somewhere behind me on my bookshelf it's a book about someone who survives round after round of layoffs at a marketing agency in the crash in 2002. Or in 2001-2002, the first, or the tech bubble crash 1999. Who knows which crash it was?! And I read that book. And at the time, I was nearing the end of my career at my first marketing agency. I was reading the book, it made me really envious of everybody in the book. The protagonist was surviving the layoffs. And I was feeling envy for the people in the book who were losing their jobs. And I was like, Oh, that's a hint that my job is not good for me. If reading this book and being put into the space of somebody in a place where everybody's losing their jobs, it makes me want to quit. I then took that advice forward. So I can see what you're saying that by easing people, in with second person and helping them try on an identity and live in a story as someone who is not themselves. Because I had a reaction so visceral that I resigned and started my own company. From One Night, One Novel.
Jen Michalski 29:08
Please, put that that novel title in the Book Notes as well, so I can…
Leah Jones 29:12
I will. I know it's five feet behind me, but I don't want to. I will put it in, it'll be in the notes. So is your essay coming out about writing in the SEC? Is it you reflecting on writing in the second person?
Jen Michalski 29:26
Yes. And yeah, it was just a lot of the issues we just discussed. And part of it was our Springboard was those influences, those inciting incidents you had as an impressionable young person. It really depends on what around and for me this particular books were on the table. B Dalton, I remember the Less Than Zero Hardback, How to Ever be with the Elvis Costello trust glasses with the red and blue lenses and I was taken by that. And that was part of the reason why I got the book. So with S.E. Hinton, probably being a zeitgeist of her time and just what was going on around her. But, she didn't always write about Greece Susan socials though, or socials. When I was a child, I thought it meant that I was reading it in the book, and I thought it was Socs, S. O. C. S. It's good to see the movie and ironed that out. So I was one of those kids had a big vocabulary, but had no idea how to pronounce the words because they just read them, and it's still to this day, sometimes if I'm going to talk, and I want to use a big word. I will go to Google and Google and listen to how it's pronounced just to make sure because I know I've mangled so many words in my life just by seeing on the page and learning them that way.
Leah Jones 31:02
I feel a lot of college was finding out what words I had been saying wrong in my head for my whole life at that point. Absolutely.
Jen Michalski 31:11
Yeah. And I had a roommate who pointed out every single one.
Leah Jones 31:17
Jen Michalski 31:18
Yeah, she also wrote a book called Tex, which was about a boy and I think also in Tulsa, who lives with his brother, there's a real absence of parents. Her books that I've discovered, she wrote that was then this is now which I think was the last of the four that she wrote for people and that was in maybe 71, or 72. But there was some drug use and that it's in psychedelics. And I was a little too young to understand identify or actually scared me a little bit. It was like, Go Ask Alice which scared the crap out of me. It did its job until I got to college and tried all those drugs. But, for a while I was definitely afraid of psychedelics and any sort of drug. She also wrote Rumble Fish, which was sort of like the outsiders also, a boy and his brother. She had this great thing with nicknames because in Rumble Fish, the main character is Ricky and his brother was the Motorcycle Boy, and The Outsiders, Ponyboy, Soda Pop. So there were some great names that she had. Rumble Fish was also directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It was really arthouse film. I remember seeing it in the 80s when it came out and it came it was in black and white, except for there were some Siamese fighting fish – betta fish in a pet store late and then the movie. And the only thing in color in the whole movie, these fish which is kind of wild. I think the brother is colorblind.
Leah Jones 33:09
I know I saw The Outsiders. I know I read it. But I don't think in Rumble Fish I was aware of, but I don't think I ever saw it or read it.
Jen Michalski 33:20
Well, it's probably one of those that will come out again and TCM like I said, it's a Coppola film. And it is very artsy. It was probably a little more than it needed to be. It was very high art. But it was also this, I think about all the things I was introduced to from other things like I knew that Stan Ridgway, Wall Obudu did the soundtrack or the title song for Rumble Fish. So I kind of got into him and his music through The Outsiders. I discovered who Robert Frost was and got to read his poems and I did buy a Betta fish after Rumble Fish. We had some in the household for many years. I remember discovering Oscar Wilde through Morrissey. So it's funny just how that sort of crossover either like you'd read about bands and music and books or you read about author, learn about authors through song lyrics. Was there anything that you were introduced to a band or a book when you were growing up that just ran with it and it just became part of your identity.
Leah Jones 34:37
I was given for my high school graduation, one of my close friends in high school was the Sunday night DJ on the college radio station. And he gave me a copy of The Stranger by Camus for graduation of a particular translation of it was like a new modern translation of The Stranger. And I do have gone on to collect translations of The Stranger. Because it's a pretty, it's a globally published book. So I have a few different English translations. One that I bought the Shakespeare book company in Paris, I bought a copy of The Stranger. But then I also bought a copy of it in French, from a random guy selling books on the banks of this Sand River in Paris. And I bought it in a copy in Argentina, a friend who went home to China bought me a copy of it. So that's kind of a book that I have a long relationship with.
Jen Michalski 35:49
So how many copies do you have now?
Leah Jones 35:52
Seven or eight?
Jen Michalski 35:53
Wow. Well, if I see any of my troubles, I'm going to send you.
Leah Jones 36:00
What I still need for all the times I've been to Israel; I haven't bought a copy of it yet in Hebrew. So that is high on my list. But I'm sure there are. I was very confused when my period started because pads in the 80s didn't have like a belt. And are you there? God, it's me, Margaret. She had the pads with a belt. I was very mentally prepared for the belt. And then there wasn't one. So I remember just like not being prepared because of what I had read in the book so many times. But Judy Blume actually went back and she has continuously revised the technology. And are you there? God, it's me, Margaret, to be like, what was actually available.
Jen Michalski 36:58
We're gonna have to do some research on that. I just remember that terrifying me reading about I was why is this happening? And then I think I got this the nine or the 311 school from a guy and my brother's friend, Paul; because my mother took me aside one Saturday morning. She's like, I want to talk about something. And I was okay, and she's like, I heard you talking to your brother. Wow, this is so dated. I heard you talking to your brother while you're playing Atari this morning. And you told him that when you got your period, it's when you peed red blood, as if there's any other color. If he peed red blood when he had a baby. And first I was I don't know, I didn't say that. And I still have no recollection of saying that. And then I knew she make it up. Because I couldn't see her making up something like that. But in your teen, you have these blackouts or something because you just do not remember things you said and I didn't say that. But, probably said all kinds of shit. We were playing Atari. I do not remember because and then she sat me down and told me how it really worked. And then a week later, I got it. I was like, God, she cursed me!
Leah Jones 38:16
She jinxed you!
Jen Michalski 38:19
Didn't she like it? But I got scared. I'm kinda can't imagine growing up in a family where he didn't talk about it at all. I've heard so many stories of girls they started bleeding all day, and I thought they were dying. I mean, can you imagine it. I'm glad for this public service that Judy Blume has done, but it just scared the crap out of me when I read it. But I think it's because we're probably both precocious and you're reading above our grade level. And we're probably reading things that we should have still been reading fifth grade, whatever.
Leah Jones 38:54
Once I started reading, my sister was a stronger reader earlier than I was. And then I might have told you this story on our last interview. I want a copy of Stuart Little as a prize for something at school and my twin sister read it first. She read it before me and I was like that is the last time you're reading one of my books before me. And then from then on, then really until the start of COVID, I was a reader. And then COVID broke my brain.
Jen Michalski 39:26
Does your sister collects any books?
Leah Jones 39:34
She reads a ton still. She reads a lot on the Libby app now. I did get her a copy of, they did a 50th anniversary release of Bunnicula. And it's like a red velvet cover. So I got her a copy of that. I don't know if she has other books she collects, but she'll text me when she hears this.
Jen Michalski 40:07
Yeah, because I want to know, I'm gonna put that in your notes too. The books that your sister may be collecting.
Leah Jones 40:13
Leah Jones 40:27
And Then We Came To The End, that is the book about losing your job by Joshua Ferris.
Jen Michalski 40:39
Okay, I'm gonna look that up. I mean, look it up on living. That's the first place I'm going to look. Great, it's a great app. Yeah, I'm just so amazed that going back to The Outsiders that it just has so much cultural staying power. Because, I'm sure kids are reading it now have no idea what Greasers and socials are and I think I had some awareness just because in the 70s, when I was a child the 50s were seeing such a huge resurgence. So it was exposed to American Graffiti and Shannon on Happy Days, whereas kids are just, what's happy days? What's a greasy?
Leah Jones 41:15
Well in episode two of one division?
Jen Michalski 41:18
Oh, yeah, I guess they do kind of get sneak it in there. Right.
Leah Jones 41:22
They sneak it in there a little bit. Yeah.
Jen Michalski 41:25
I don't know if there's still reading it now. But I do know that you can there's merch that still on the internet that you can get stay gold Ponyboy. But then there are some people that really work were introduced to it late and it was surprising. I was reading, there's an article I think in the New York Times or New Yorker from Lena Durham, who was, I didn't learn about this book until I was in college. And it's because someone in one of my classes that I had a crush on told me to Stay Gold. But you can buy sweatshirts and T-shirts that have Stay Gold on them. And all these online Cafe press like stores. The coolest thing that I discovered about The Outsiders is that the house that they filmed in the movie, that the Curtis Brothers lived in. It's now a museum. It’s The Outsiders house in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So I knew we were talking about bucket list earlier. And this is actually would be something on my bucket list. Because I think I've driven through Oklahoma was unremarkable on the way here to the West Coast. But if I ever get back, I'd like to stop and see The Outsiders house. There's just a lot of not seen photos from the movie from behind the scenes and things like that. What happened was, I think it was scheduled for demolition and there was a there's a hip hop artist named Danny Boy O'Connor. And he was a big fan or he is a big fan of the movie and the novel. And he bought the house in2016. And he was able to save it. And now you can, I think for $10 go and get a little tour and see all the rooms and see all the photos and stuff like that. I'm sure there's a gift shop there too. And I'm excited about that.
Leah Jones 43:28
I met my friends who have moved to Tulsa in the last couple of years. And it's I think for like a weekend; I think there's lots to do there. It seems like there's a good food scene, it seems like they're having an according to their Instagram; really enjoying how they moved from Chicago to Tulsa. And they’re really enjoying it. And there’s really kind of a, I think because it's so affordable. There is kind of some either, they're recruiting people, they're openly recruiting people to move to Oklahoma, to move to Tulsa, to change the environment. It's not quite the word I want –get more people there, get more things happening.
Jen Michalski 44:16
Yeah, I see that a lot on some of the politics forums. There's always a bunch of people who are just like, we need to get a bunch of progressive minded people to move to some of these states and try and make a dent. And I think it's slowly happening just because living in California, it's so expensive. And even any room in the Pacific Northwest, the West Coast has become completely unaffordable. But in all the people move to Texas, but then they have property taxes and laws that are not very good for people, queer people, and people of color.
Leah Jones 44:58
I think businesses moved to Texas because they were drawn in by the nose, either it's no sales tax or no income tax. So they recruited all these huge companies to move and Plano just became nothing but corporate campuses. There was an era in my life when I went to plan out all the time for different companies. And then I think all those people have finally realized that the politics of Texas is not South by Southwest. They just couldn't imagine what it was really like there. And at that state, I interviewed James Tallarico, for answering the call, which is volunteering I do with military vets who want to run for office. People who've done public service, who are trying to decide if they are running for office is their next way to serve the country. And James Tallarico is a state Representative, so he's at the State Level, outside of Austin, and their state legislature meets once every two years for six weeks. Because their constitution was written before airplanes. So you think about how long it would have taken to travel from the Panhandle to Austin to the Capitol and back, and how are you going to ask a farmer or rancher to do that more than once every two years. And the whole state is governed with these convening laws developed before airplanes. And that, to me, that boggles my mind. And it partially explains how they're so capable of gerrymandering and strangling the people of Texas because their legislature never meets.
Jen Michalski 47:10
Leah Jones 47:14
But I do think going to Tulsa to see The Outsider Museum would be really nice.
Jen Michalski 47:19
I'm totally think you can do that. Like you said, in a long weekend and when it maybe gets a little warmer too. But yeah, I was trying to think, are there any other literary places or things that I'd want to see turned into a museum and it's kind of hard. I know that the house in James Joyce's the dead is the street. There is a house in Dublin that his aunt's owned and it was the inspiration you can go see that. I don't know if they give tours or whether it's a private home, but so I would definitely do that. I wish there was a House of Leaves house, but how would that work, I don't know. But I would definitely go to Milwaukee to see anything liberated, surely related. But that's not a book but that's as far as I got. So I'd love to. If anyone else has any suggestions from books or gift shops; I would love to hear the trends. This isn't my favorite right now.
Leah Jones 48:29
So I just picked up a graphic novel biography of Eugene V. Debs. So Eugene V. Debs was a Socialist Presidential candidate from my hometown in Terre Haute, Indiana. So his house across the street from my elementary school, had murals in the attic depicting his life. I don't know if it was the house he was born in or the house that he ran his presidential campaigns from is still in Terre Haute, Indiana. And he wrote speech upon speech and pamphlet upon pamphlet. So I think that's a good House Museum to visit.
Jen Michalski 49:13
Oh, and of course, though, I mean, I'm from Baltimore. So the Edgar Allan Poe house in Baltimore is one as well.
Leah Jones 49:22
There's also an Edgar Allen House in Providence, Virginia.
Jen Michalski 49:27
Oh, it is there? Oh, yeah, that's right. I think I do remember that. And there's probably something in Philly too, sort of this rivalry like who gets to claim him?
Leah Jones 49:36
I feel it's cliche. But I wouldn't mind going to Key West to see the Polydactyl Cats.
Jen Michalski 49:50
Oh, yeah. You should go. Well, I did. It was a long time ago in college. I did see it, did go to the Ernest Hemingway house.
Leah Jones 49:56
But I don't know, there's not a Little House on the Prairie house. I don't think. Every wardrobe is the possibility of being the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe wardrobe. Any freestanding wardrobe you have to check them all.
Jen Michalski 50:18
Well, I am not a huge Harry Potter fan as some people. So I don't know if there's a place in London, where he lived the suburb that he lived in, or there's not anything like that, right?
Leah Jones 50:31
You can go to the platform nine and three quarters in London. So they have it. They've got a photo setup. And then on September 1 at 12, o'clock noon, every year they put it on the board, and they do a train call for the Hogwarts Express, on the day when they would have gotten to school. I don't know why I know that. But I do. Because there's the Christmas Story house in Cleveland.
Jen Michalski 51:05
Oh, I don't know that. That was that existed, too.
Leah Jones 51:09
Yeah. And it's a house in a residential neighborhood. And they've bought a few of the houses nearby, so you can walk through the house where they filmed it. And then I think other houses have the gift shops available. And then there's just a ton of signs – “Not to park on the street”. Because it is a residential neighborhood and the people do want to have their life. And that house I think is for sale, it's on the market, that museum.
Jen Michalski 51:46
Yeah, I had a really great book a long time ago, that was basically all the different locations in San Francisco in the Bay Area. Where different scenes from Alfred Hitchcock movies had taken place. And it did remember going up to Bodega Bay for the day. We were out there lost and just looking around and seeing where the birds were flying.
Jen Michalski 52:22
But yeah, she wrote those four novels, she wrote one more for YA, it was called Taming The Star Runner in 1988. I had moved on by then. So never read it. It's not on Libby. So I couldn't read it with this podcast, but I'm gonna definitely try and look it up over spring break and see if I can just find a physical copy somewhere and see how it compares to the S.E. Hinton Canon as it were, The Outsiders that was then and this is now, Rumble Fish and Tex.
Leah Jones 52:57
I need to ask my sister. That Was Then This Is Now, I'm pretty sure we had. I think we had The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, and That Was Then This Is Now. But I don't think Tex and Taming the Star Runner; I don't think we had those.
Jen Michalski 53:16
Yeah, Tex was last of the four big ones. And that one was published in 79. And then there was a nine-year interval between Tex and Taming the Star Runner. But Tex action, all those four books, The Outsiders, That Was Then This Is Now, Rumble Fish and Tex are all made into films. I know we talked about The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, but Tex was also a film with Matt Dillon, who played a Dolly in The Outsiders. And then, That Was Then This Is Now, I don't think I saw it. And I don't think it was any of the sort of Brat Pack. It's as it was. But yeah, I don't think I saw them with any of that. She's had a great career. It would be lovely to have other novels adapted into movies. And one of them still being read [Not audible[00:54:21]] and taught in schools. But yeah, she was just a big part of my life as a reader and as a writer growing up and I owe a lot to her books and her perspective and her just writing a story that she wanted to write that she didn't see. I'm sure she was growing up reading things Gone With The Wind or whatever. Her name is Susie Hinton, and the editors obviously wanted her to publish as S.E. Hinton because I think that they were worried that people wouldn't believe a woman could write a man's perspective.
Leah Jones 55:08
Right? How could she write about teenage boys?
Jen Michalski 55:10
Right? [Overlapping of discussing not audible [00:55:12]]. But that helped me too, also write in both sexes and genders. And I mean, there's just a lot that I that I owe to her. She was sort of my gateway drug to writing in a lot of ways. The ways she pitches you Harriet the Spy, I could spend another podcast talking about that. It’s one of my favorites. That's a real character who is also very complicated and complex, and human and terribly unlikable at times and frustrating. And you never saw that sort of character and children's literature before. And she also did all those lovely illustrations in the book herself. S.E. Hinton she wrote a few other books, but they weren't quite as popular. There was one. I think it was a Long Secret that came out a few years later that was told from Beth Ellen's kind of point of view. I'm still omniscient, but it was more about my thumb, and it wasn't Harry, it was more of a minor character in this book. But yeah, sort of similarities. Last thing I'll say, I remember just getting that from my aunt. My aunt went on vacation to a beach town or something. It was Virginia Beach, and she went into a bookstore. She knew that I like to read. I was 10 or 11. And she was asking the clerk what were some good books for young girl to read. And my aunt was like, I don't know, 22 at that time, and this clerk, my aunt was explaining to me thought that she was asking for books for herself. She thought my aunt was like, I don't know. 17, 15. I don't know. It's just kind of strange. I always looked young. She had that rough Mattia sort of young glow about her. So the clerk at the store recommended. And this is what my brother and I got. Because my brother didn't really care about reading, even though he was an English major in college, and brought home the aforementioned Bunnicula, The Secret Garden and Harriet the Spy. So I have her to thank for my introduction to Harriet the Spy, and The Secret Garden. And this bookstore clerks know what they're talking about. Definitely ask them for suggestions.
Leah Jones 57:45
So if you had the opportunity to do a fireside chat with S.E. Hinton, and, you know she's tired of answering the same old, same old questions. Do you have some questions that you kind of teed up? Should you ever run into her in an airport or on a stage?
Jen Michalski 58:09
No, I haven't. I just, I would be a little embarrassed. Like, what do you ask? How do you ask that perfect question? I guess I would just ask her if she still writes on the side things that she doesn't want people to see. I think as a writer, you just never stop writing. So I can't imagine she's stopped even if she's been reclusive. I think she likes horses and has a horse farm or something. Or she still lives in Tulsa. She likes not being a celebrity. She likes being she said a resident.
Leah Jones 58:47
Jen Michalski 58:51
So I don't get that happens. I mean, it's just happening to a lot of authors are like that. I mean, in Baltimore, we have and Tyler, also very reclusive, but also, he's written what 10 novels or something about Baltimore. So it's just how I think it's how Hinton and Tyler and lots of writers, including myself, just connect with people, because it's hard. And I'll do it because I have no shame to strike up a conversation with someone in public in line. We're just it's not what we're good at that sort of likes, soft skill of like, the early promotion or putting ourselves out there. So it's just, it's always ironic to me that authors are responsible for so much of their promotion when they're just so bad at it because they just don't like to even talk about it.
Leah Jones 59:41
It's so the opposite of writing. I have benefited from the need of authors to go and do their own promotion because they truly after you came on, your publicist reached out and was like that was amazing. Can I introduce you to some other authors? And she introduced me to a whole bunch of them. And so I still have authors coming on to this day because you came on with your last book. So it's been really fun. I've met so many people, and I have been able to start reading again. Because really, that COVID just wiped it out for me.
Jen Michalski 1:00:24
Oh, I understand. Me too, they were years what it wasn't reading at all, like less than a book. And I think joining a book club helped. Because then you felt like you had a deadline, you read that extra chapter every night, even if you didn't want to. But it felt like using a muscle I hadn't used in a long time. Once I started reading, and finding books I really enjoyed; I became hungry again for more and having that experience and emotional connection. So yeah, I'm glad that you found your way back to it.
Leah Jones 1:00:58
Yeah, I've been working on, I just finished listening to a Mike Nichols biography. Mike Nichols was in Nichols in May with Elaine May comedy duo of the 1950s. He was the Director of the Graduate; he won like seven Tony's for Best Director. And it's just I think within any cultural scene, there's the person who crosses a few boundaries and just seems like they know everyone. And Mike Nichols was active in or touching or responsible for so much Pop Theater and Movie culture that was created from like 1950 until his death in 2014. And he's almost like Forrest Gump. Because he's, after JFK was assassinated, he's one of the people that Jackieo will be seen on the town with because he's trustworthy and won't make a move and can talk to anyone, and we'll get her, he's just everywhere. And it was fascinating to me, because it also just shows how wealth and network and proximity is responsible for what makes it on the big screen. Oh, well, we rented this house in the Hamptons, next to Leonard Bernstein. And I got to know him swimming with our kids. Like, it's just all this stuff that was, it was wild and but engrossing to listen to. So that's like, the big story that I just finished listening to. And then I'm reading a book of poetry called Our Cancers by Dan O'Brien. His wife had breast cancer. And then almost as soon as she was in remission, he was diagnosed with I think colon cancer. And their daughter was a toddler. And so I'm testing the waters with it. What I might still be too close to my own experience to be reading cancer stuff right now, but it's really beautiful poetry.
Jen Michalski 1:03:30
Yeah, please send that one, too. Both of those actually, I'd love to take.
Leah Jones 1:03:35
The Company Of Strangers is coming out, you said January 10th. People can preorder now, which is very important. People could preorder it now and print it out and give it to somebody for Hanukkah or Christmas. And then tell them their book is on the way in January.
Jen Michalski 1:03:55
They could and I'm actually I bought like a big pile of vintage postcards, just off like eBay or something. Because I've always just loved old postcards and collecting them and for every person that pre orders a book I'm sending them a hand chosen postcard with a personal message of things. So I just get to share that my collection of postcards.
Leah Jones 1:04:23
I love that. How should people tell you they pre ordered a copy or is your…
Jen Michalski 1:04:29
Pre order from Braddock Avenue books. I have the list of the pre orders and the addresses and then as soon as pre orders close, I'm going to sit down and look at the list and start working on picking out postcards and writing them out to people who have ordered.
Leah Jones 1:04:51
Awesome. And where can people keep up with you online?
Jen Michalski 1:04:58
I'm on Twitter still. I joined high recently. I'm not sure if I'm going to stay there, we are all still looking for the backup plan for Twitter, but it seems to be a little stable, more stable now. So we'll see. And it's just, it's strange to been on Twitter for so long and built up so many friends and relationships then have to start over somewhere else. But, I mean, I guess we're all gonna, we all might have to do it. But at the same time, part of me is like, well, you know, if I don't catch on somewhere else, maybe that's okay. Maybe that's okay, too. That'll be few more hours of each day that I'll have to do something else. But yeah, thanks for asking. I am on Twitter @MichalskiJen one word.
Leah Jones 1:05:58
Yeah, on literary journal as well, right?
Jen Michalski 1:06:00
Yes, JMWW is and you can just do a search on that JMWW. We publish stellar republishing fiction, nonfiction, flash fiction, poetry, interviews. We have a couple of columns that run each month. And we're basically a weekly journal. Now we actually are. We used to do print anthologies for a while, and then I stopped. And we've recently teamed up with another publisher of Modern Times Publishing. And they are publishing a bunch of anthologies of different literary journalism that have been around. Earlier this year, they approached us and said, do you want to be the first anthology that we publish? So in 2023, we'll be back with a new anthology, and it's going to cover the best of maybe the last 10 years. It's going to be a pretty chunky book. But all our editors voted on the last 10 years of submissions. And we got all those together, and it's in the proof stages now. So we'll have that come out in 2023; sort of a big thank you to all of our contributors over the years.
Leah Jones 1:07:15
Nice. That's exciting. Well, Jen, thank you so much for coming back to talk about S.E. Hinton.
Jen Michalski 1:07:23
Thank you for having me. I always love talking to you. I always learn so much more from you than you probably learn from me, but I am just glad for the opportunity. You're so well, you're so well rounded and well versed in so many things.
Leah Jones 1:07:36
Or I appreciate I will take that in framing. I am like a sieve or a flypaper for trivia. I'm really good on trivia teams.
Jen Michalski 1:07:48
Good. I'm gonna remember that when I pull out my Trivial Pursuit, and I gonna have to Zoom you in as my partner.
Leah Jones 1:07:55
Oh, I used to keep a backup coffee copy of Trivial Pursuit in my car. When I lived in Colorado, in case I went to a party, and it wasn't fun enough. I'd be like, Hey, guys, I have a solution.
Jen Michalski 1:08:09
Oh, that's pretty intense.
Leah Jones 1:08:12
This was in 2001. 1999 to 2001, I would go to my car and get my copy of Trivial Pursuit. Just you know, in case we weren't having much fun.
Jen Michalski 1:08:21
Now did it live in it up? Because I have to say I had a similar impulse in college, but it was usually I was really drunk. And I was like, let's play Pink Floyd. And that was a party killer. But what did this have the opposite effect. I was alright, three hours of intense trivia.
Leah Jones 1:08:41
Sometimes they would let me, sometimes we would play and sometimes it was just a bit but I literally kept one of my copies of Trivial Pursuit on my car.
Jen Michalski 1:08:55
That's ballsy and awesome.
Leah Jones 1:09:00
Awesome. Well, thank you so much.
Jen Michalski 1:09:02
Thank you for listening to Finding Favorites with Leah Jones. Please make sure to subscribe and drop us a five-star review on iTunes. Now go out and enjoy your Favorite Things.
To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean or
To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean App.