Writing The Recital has been a deeply personal experience. Since I started taking it seriously in the summer of 2014, I've excavated my personal history, harvested ideas from delicate experiences, borrowed perspectives, and cultured a strong sense of responsibility. I've put a lot of hype behind this book. I invested significant time and energy and money into The Recital. It has to be good. The most important thing I want it to do? I want it to inspire the kids.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of filming a book trailer for The Recital. I got to work with a pair of junior high actresses Isabella & Morgan. A talented pair, they were excited about being a part of the project. For Morgan, a musical theater actress, it was her first time in front of the camera. For Isabella, she had a tall responsibility: she had to play Edith Solstice, the lead protagonist in the story. I could tell she was nervous when we first met and shook hands.
Honestly, I might have had more jitters than Isabella had during the whole shoot.
The Recital is based heavily on my experience as a seventh grader. The world changed significantly and rapidly, just as it's dramatized in the novel for Edith. I've been in Isabella's shoes before, as a talented thirteen year old with promise and dreams. You want to do your best every day. You want to impress your Mom (and if you're lucky, your Dad, too). But being at your best daily is impossible. On those days when you're not at your best, you risk disappointing the people who are watching you. Isabella might have been afraid of letting me down. Was she going to be the actress she needed to be for the book trailer? The actress she wanted to be? I was afraid that I'd let her down as a director. I chose her to star. I had to guide her in the right direction. What if I couldn't lead her properly? Also, I was afraid that I'd let her down as a novelist. She's my target audience. This book is for all the junior high kids of today as much as it is for the nostalgic adults who never let themselves grow up past fourteen years old. When they see this trailer, or open this book, I will have to meet certain expectations, connect with them emotionally, and execute on all aspects of production.
The best part of filming with Isabella & Morgan was seeing their faces light up when I gave them copies of The Recital. I autographed the books for them, in my favorite purple ink pen, and left them a message that ensured my confidence and faith in them. I see them both as budding stars, even if they don't stick with acting. I thanked them, because working with these two spirited, youthful teenagers was a humbling experience.
Their moms told me they yelped in pure joy when Isabella & Morgan saw that I mentioned them in the Acknowledgements section. They probably went to school the next day--if they hadn't already done so on Instagram--and told all their friends about the fun they had. It would be a point of conversation when they got home with their parents and siblings.
This is important to me because that's something I rarely got to experience when I was a kid. Opportunity came scarce in an impoverished neighborhood. My elementary school was poor. It doesn't even exist anymore. The same thing nearly happened to my high school. I hardly came home with something exciting to share with my mom or my sister. Today, after school programs are getting thin for kids. Education is an after-thought in America. Teachers are jaded and overworked. Kids are distracted or neglected, just like their parents or teachers.
I have to do my best, every day, to contribute to the community. I want kids like Isabella & Morgan to feel like they are significant, respected, loved, and admired. I want them to feel like there is someone out there that empathizes with them--even if it's a fictional character in a contemporary fantasy young adult novel. I want them to blossom with hope and aspirations without reservations.
That is why I write.
Watch The Rectial's Book Trailer: