Saturday, November 26, 2011

Interacting with Other Human Beings (it's so complicated!)

When you start university, you meet hundreds of new people. In my first week here, I must have meet fifty people a day. And very quickly, I realized a few things about meeting people:


1) Sometimes, having something specific in common (same hometown, same program in high school) is a great jumping off point to start a great friendship

2) Sometimes, even the most specific, most significant thing will not make two people friends (being from the same high school, being in the same program)

It seems as though it has to be the right mix of things. You have to have an entry point of some sort, or the conversation dies and you never speak to the person again. And you also have to have a conversational flow, a genuine interest in the other person.

For example, there's this one girl who's an english major and drama minor, just like me. And, best of all, she's from Toronto. On paper, we should have a ton to talk about. In reality, our conversation lasted five minutes. Sometimes, it's just not there.

I know, this isn't really a new phenomenon, some new discovery I've made. It's just something I like to think about. I'm also fascinated by the types of conversations you have when you first meet someone, by the way we instantly judge people whether we mean to or not, because of their clothes or hairstyle or accent or whatever. I was thinking about all of this a lot since school started, and as all these thoughts swirled around my brain, I kept coming back to one conversation.

It was the second or third day since I had started university. I was eating lunch with a girl from my frosh group and we were talking about music. She was Quebecois, and only knew Quebec music. I knew some popular stuff, but mostly just my favourite bands, specifically, Great Big Sea. I must have mentioned GBS in that conversation, because a minute later another girl approached the table.

"Did I just hear you talking about Great Big Sea?"She asked

"Uh...yes." I answered ('Cause I'm so quick witted and articulate like that). "Uh...why?"

"I love them!" She said. 

From there, we discussed Great Big Sea songs and cds and concerts. Somehow, we transitioned into talking about the Barenaked Ladies and YA author John Green and all kinds of awesome stuff like that. I remember walking away from that conversation with such a good feeling. It took me a little bit to figure out why.

What I eventually figured out was this:

What was so amazing about that conversation was that I was excited. I was discussing something that I was interested in, that I was passionate about, and that was just SO MUCH FUN.

That conversation really made me think about myself. What made me excited and interested and passionate. What did I enjoy talking about, more than anything else? For me, this is the list:

1) Great Big Sea
Already mentioned. Great Canadian (specifically Newfoundland band). If any of you knows them at all, you should know my favourite song from their cds is probably When I Am King. My favourite concert song is far and a way Ordinary Day. Sean McCann is my favourite singer in the band. I'm kind of a teensy bit obsessed with his voice.  
2) Barenaked Ladies
Another great Canadian band (from Toronto! Woot! Woot!). Best song: If I Had A Million Dollars. Best singer: Steven Page.  
3) Young Adult novels 
Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen, Megan McCafferty, John Green, E. Lockhart, Judy Blume, Ann Brashares, Robin Benway, Deb Caletti, Simone Elkeles, Stephanie Perkins, Jenny Han. Name any of the authors and I can talk for hours. I'll debate romances and main characters and endings and just about anything else to do with these books. Hence the blog.  
4) Romance
TV, movies, books, doesn't matter. I LOVE ROMANCE.  
5) TV
TV in general I'm also obsessed with (which you've probably noticed). It's kind of funny, actually. Someone will say something like "I only watch a few shows", assuming that I haven't seen the shows. But then I tell them--"Name the shows. I watch so much tv that I will inevitably know at least one show you watch". And it's always true. And even if I don't watch the other shows, I still know a ton about them. Ratings. Plots. Actors. Which brings me to my next thing... 
6) Celebrities
Name any two celebrities and I connect them. Name any movie and I can name all the actors in it and probably the director and maybe even the screenwriter. I am completely insane. 

Looking at this list of things, I guess I could kind of hate myself. I mean being obsessed with TV and celebrities is not something most people would think is a good thing. But, you know, they're my things. By this point, it doesn't even feel like I picked these things. They're just a part of me. And you know, I'd rather be passionate about a few specific, weird things than nothing. Otherwise I would never get to have fun, awesome, exciting conversations.

Moreover, I'd rather be able to talk intelligibly about a few things than broadly about many things. A few months ago, my mother asked me why I read so many YA novels--why didn't I branch out more? By response was that I would rather master one genre than dabble in many. I would rather know YA inside and out, top to bottom. I like that I have read so much YA. I like that when I read books like Anatomy of  a Boyfriend, I can relate it immediately back to Forever. I like that when I read a John Green novel, and I see he wrote another book with David Levithan, I can think "Oh, I know him. He's the one who wrote Dash and Lily's Book of Dares with Rachel Cohn". Now, I actually read YA books just so I can round out my awareness of the genre. This week, for example, I read Maureen Johnson's Little Blue Envelope series not so much because I was interested in the premise, but because I knew they were important books in the genre. I would rather know those books, and relate them to other books, and read tons of online blog posts and articles about YA, than just read a book alone, separate from all that. I would rather be passionate than well rounded.

I started this post talking about how people relate to each other and somehow I've gone off into discussing the deep dark corners of YA. Slowly, I promise, I'm circling back. You see, writing that last paragraph was so fun for me. Thinking "hmm, what YA author should I reference here? What book should I mention here?" was really engaging for me. Talking about what I'm passionate about, no matter how bizarre it may be, is SO MUCH FUN.

Okay, I'm trying to circle back but it's not quite working. Basically, my point is this:

It's fascinating how people relate to each other, and if you can find someone you relate to well and share passions with, hold on to that person. Because it will be SO MUCH FUN.


From what I see, that's what life is. Finding those people you have SO MUCH FUN with, those people that you want to hang out with more than anything. Sounds simple, right, when you're meeting fifty new people a day?

(see what I did there, finally circling back to the opening paragraph? Huh? Huh? Aren't I cool?!?)

It's not simple. Not at all. It's tiring and frustrating and so incredibly rare. But that's what makes it so special.



  1. John Michael CummingsNovember 27, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    re: book review request by award-winning author

    Dear Katherine,

    I'm an award-winning author with a new YA book out this fall. Ugly To Start With is a series of thirteen interrelated stories about childhood being published by West Virginia University Press.

    Can I interest you in reviewing it?

    If you write me back at, I can email you a PDF of my book. If you require a bound copy, please ask, and I will forward your reply to my publisher. Or you can write directly to Abby Freeland at:

    My publisher, I should add, can also offer your readers a free excerpt of my book through a link from your blog to my publisher's website:

    Here’s what Jacob Appel, celebrated author of
    Dyads and The Vermin Episode, says about my new collection: "In Ugly to Start With, set in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, Cummings tackles the challenges of boyhood adventure and family conflict in a taut, crystalline style that captures the triumphs and tribulations of small-town life. He has a gift for transcending the particular experiences to his characters to capture the universal truths of human affection and suffering--emotional truths that the members of his audience will recognize from their own experiences of childhood and adolescence.”

    My short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. Twice I have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. My short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

    I am also the author of the nationally acclaimed coming-of-age novel The Night I Freed John Brown (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2009), winner of The Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers (Grades 7-12) and one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY.

    For more information about me, please visit:

    Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing back from you.


    John Michael Cummings

  2. What a great post! I like your thoughts on getting to know one genre- like YA- really well. As a librarian in a public library, you do have to be well-rounded- in knowing tons about all genres- but to have that edge in YA lit is really fantastic. And since starting my blog and being loud about my love of YA lit, I have met a lot of new people who share that love. And been introduced to a number of amazing books I might not otherwise discovered.


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