COVER REVEAL: Everything Else in the Universe by Tracy Holczer
I have always believed in, “write what you know.”
Not so much in a literal way, such as, “I grew up in an apartment building and so I’ll write about a kid growing up in an apartment building.” But more along the lines of writing what I know about the emotional truth of that experience. I did live in an apartment when I was a kid and my experience there was filled with people who were in transition, for whatever reason, both literally and figuratively. As a child, this left me feeling a little unsteady on my feet. As a writer, I can hone in on that unsteadiness, frame it in whatever way works best for the story I’m working on, whether or not it takes place in an apartment building, and go from there. The theory goes that if I plant the seeds of my own knowing, I can grow a fictional story based on my own emotional truth. And whether a child likes funny or sad or serious or mystical, there better be some truth in there. Because kids, more than anyone else, know when they’re being conned.
But sometimes a story springs to life with literal elements from the writer’s own experience. Although I re-wrote Everything Else in the Universe about a hundred times, including one complete draft in verse (whereby I discovered I am not a poet), the main elements that stuck came from my real-life childhood; a boisterous Italian family, a disabled father, and my nonni Cea’s very large, very pink kitchen where she cooked all her delicious food. I spent many hours there eating, laughing and listening to opera and the Rat Pack over her state-of-the-art 1970’s speaker system.
Armed with all this literal and emotional truth, I added a twist to the process of writing this story. I wrote to find answers to personal questions I’ve always puzzled over. How much responsibility does a child have to help with a disabled parent? Does a child play a part in his/her own loneliness? What does it mean to have a friend vs. be a friend?
There are no uniform answers, of course. Our ideas about life are as unique and individual as we are. But one of the things I held close while writing was the idea that it’s the pondering that connects us, not so much the answers, and if we look for the connections, we’ll find them. While set in 1971 during what some might consider the apex of the anti-war movement, it’s not a war story. The story is about family and friendship and the first time in a child’s life when perspective is forced to expand in order to hold a new experience.
I’m so excited to share Everything Else in the Universe with middle grade readers! Coming to bookstores in June 2018.
About the book:
Twelve-year-old Lucia Mercedes Evangeline Rossi (Lucy for short) is absolutely not a superstitious person, not like the belly-button aunts or hairy uncles in her vast Italian family. She is thoughtful, reasonable and has a perfectly logical explanation for everything, thank you very much. Except how to fix her father when he comes home from Vietnam. Wounded in the war and unable to continue as a surgeon, Dad has turned moody and quiet, unwilling to wear his prosthetic arm, even though Lucy knows this is the first step to recovery.
Lucy wants to help her dad more than anything, of course, to show him they are still a team. But Lucy’s parents have other ideas. To get her out of the house for the summer and give Dad some space, they send her next door to Uncle Giovanni and Aunt Rosie’s to spend her afternoons. Uncle G’s is busy and noisy and being there is another reminder of how Lucy doesn’t even fit in with her own family.
But then she meets a curious boy named Milo. Together they stumble on a mystery when they dig up a purple heart inside an Air Force flight helmet buried deep in the woods behind Uncle G’s backyard. Lucy and Milo embark upon a journey to find the rightful owner, and along the way, Lucy will have to abandon her good sense and reason, ask hard questions of herself, and learn how to be a friend, all while hoping to answer the most important question of all: will her father ever really come back to her?
The latest from critically acclaimed author Tracy Holczer is a beautiful, heartrending tale of family, friendship and the meaning of home set against the fraught backdrop of the Vietnam war. This tender depiction of a father and daughter, who love each other fiercely, will stick with readers for a long time to come.
Tracy Holczer lives in Southern California with her husband, two daughters, one rather fluffy dog, and four cats. A 2014 Indies Introduce New Voices pick and Indie Next pick, her debut middle grade novel, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, hit many state award lists and is a Charlotte Huck recommended read. Her second novel Everything Else in the Universe is forthcoming Summer 2018