Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Little Red Book -- a little author interview

The day I got my review copy of My Little Red Book in the mail, my friend Debby Dodds brought her copy to our writing critique group. "I'm a published author!" she announced proudly.

Sure enough, Debby's autobiographical short story, "The Von Trapps and Me," is one of the 92 that editor Rachel Kauder Nalebuff selected for this anthology of women's first period stories. These mini-memoirs run the gamut from funny to sad to everything in between, but the collection of them all in one book is a testament to the potential impact of this rite of passage on girls and their relationships with others and with their own bodies.

I thought it'd be fun to interview Debby as part of the blog tour for this book. As well as being a writer, Debby is a mom, a high school teacher/tutor, and an actress (not necessarily in that order). Her story tells of the day her first viewing of The Sound of Music on TV was rudely interrupted by an unexpected "visitor."

How did you come to be published in My Little Red Book?

I saw a call for submissions on an alumni website. I'd just found out I was pregnant a few days before because of a missed period (surprise!), so the concept of "periods" caught my eye. Between bouts of morning sickness, in March of 2004, I wrote the story that appears in the book. Then in the spring of 2008, I was teaching as a long term sub in Portland, and got an email from Rachel in my inbox. Because I'd moved and changed emails, she had to google me to find me and luckily she found an email for me through the school's website. Rachel told me she'd found a publisher and wanted to include my piece in her anthology.

Wow, she really had to hunt you down! When you reread the story four years later, was there anything you wanted to change?

One of the weird things was that I'd written the piece in 2004, submitted it, and then forgot about it over the years. Then a couple of months before I heard from Rachel, in the spring of 2008, I'd found the piece on a disc. I decided to rewrite it a bit for a workshop I was doing at The Attic with Ariel Gore. When Rachel contacted me, I forwarded her the updated version and she liked it and so that's the one she printed. The re-write wasn't really that different but I think I added the stuff about the Slam books and what a nerd-girl I was in middle school.

Have you been published before?

In magazines, yes, but this is my first anthology. Last year I had stories in both Hip Mama and The Sun. I co-wrote a feature screenplay, Whackjob, and won an award for an Industrial Short I wrote in 2007. And I've written skits for my two-woman show, Girls on the Edge. But I'm so excited to be included in this great book.

Tell me more about Girls on the Edge, is this an ongoing project?

Girls on the Edge was a two-woman show that Nicole Tibbets and I performed and co-wrote in 2001. Nicole and I met while students in NYU's Tisch School of the Arts when we were doing Silverstein! (a show based on the work of Shel Silverstein). We performed in venues in LA, the Ha Ha Comedy festival and in New York City at The Duplex and The Gotham Comedy Club. It was very un-PC and political but silly at the same time.

One of my favorite moments performing Girls on the Edge was one of our first gigs at a club in Los Angeles. I was playing a bulimic Barbie who was requesting a “magic wand” from Mrs. Claus so I could better stimulate my gag reflex. After some pretty gross descriptions of my need to vomit to stay perfect, I had a speech about all my frustrations in life and what it was like to be smooth in place of my vagina, and a woman stood up and made a big deal of walking out of the club in an offended huff. I loved that so much. Nicole, because she is a much nicer person than I am, perhaps owing to the fact she’s British, was upset after the show but I remember telling her, “This is what I want to do! Affect people!”

You also did skits for Disneyland, right? What was that like?

I first worked for the Mouse in Florida at the MGM Studios theme park in a show called Streetmosphere. It was set in 1940s Hollywood and I played the Girl off the Bus. I was fresh out of college and the gig was an interesting one. We got to write our whole character history as well as many of the scenarios we were involved in. We also did a lot of interactive improvisation. I named my character “Jean Normal” and she was obviously new in Hollywood, had just arrived from Grassville,IL to become a star. She had a penchant for performing the witch’s melting scene from the Wizard of Oz for anyone who would watch. She also liked to hand out crayon drawn picture/resumes to potential “talent agents” (which was actually anyone she met.)

I worked at Disneyland in the late 1990s with a group called Comedy 911, and at California Adventure in the early 2000s in the, now sadly defunct, Soap Opera Bistro. We’d act out soap opera melodramas for unsuspecting diners while they ate meals in these meticulously re-created ABC soap sets (the Nurse’s Station from General Hospital, Chandler Mansion from All My Children, etc.). That was a fun gig but for some reason our performance wasn’t advertised as a “show” so the people eating would often be quite freaked out when we started our scenes right in front of them. I loved walking into the restaurant and starting a show by accusing some sweet-looking grandpa type who was just trying to eat his pasta primavera of cheating on me with my twin sister because he’d just found out I was secretly a murderer. Good times.

Do you have a favorite story in the book (besides yours, of course)?

"Hot Dog on a String." I've read them all and love so many of them but that one is my favorite. It's hilarious.

My two kids are both boys, so I've had fun thinking of which mother-daughter pair I'd like to pass this book along to. Who will you be sharing your copy with?

I sent copies to both of my parents. My mom, who is a character in my story, got the first copy I’ve ever autographed. She’s a librarian and is so proud of me which feels wonderful. Another friend, Andrew who is an ADA in Arizona, bought a copy and plans on passing one on to his preteen niece which I think is awesome. My daughter, Dory, is only four and a half but when she gets old enough, I’m saving one for her to read.

Thanks for visiting Worducopia, Debby! It was fun to learn a little more about you and all your adventures with writing and performing.

Other stops on this blog tour include

At Home With Books


  1. This is the first I've heard of this book...sounds like a must-buy for my preteen daughter! Thanks, Ali!

  2. It really is, Debi. When I read this book I wished I had a daughter to share it with! And I forgot to mention that all the proceeds from sales of the book are going to be donated to several women's health organizations, so buying a copy kind of doubles the power of your spending money.

  3. Great interview and how fun that you know someone whose story is in that book!