I’m so thrilled to share our second BEFRIENDED piece. I became an instant fan of Corey Ann Haydu’s when I read her debut OCD LOVE STORY last summer. Today (!!) her second book LIFE BY COMMITTEE hits bookstores everywhere and I am happy to say that I cannot choose a favorite between the two — I love them equally and oh-so-much.
Today, we’re taking a slightly different approach to celebrating her book release. A few weeks ago I saw Corey tweet about the dedication in LBC:
To my cherished friend Honora, who is brave enough to share her secrets, and kind enough to listen to mine.
I don’t know about you but I’m pretty curious (a.k.a. nosy) when it comes to dedications and when she explained this was about her best friend and I knew Magan and I were talking about getting this feature started… it felt like fate. So because of all of that, I’m chatting with not only Corey about her new book, friendships, accepting your imperfections but also the subject of her dedication — Honora.
Bicoastal best friends answering all the questions on a blog run by long distance best friends. It doesn’t get any better than that.
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Corey, it must be incredibly difficult to narrow down the dedication page. Was it something about Life By Committee that made you think about Honora? Or was it always what you wanted the dedication of your second book to be?
Corey: I definitely didn’t know while I was writing the book who I was going to dedicate it to. I think that’s something that comes after, when I have a sense of the themes and the heart of the story. I was at my apartment, chatting online with Honora when I realized the book was for her. LBC is about the scariest parts of yourself and the things that are difficult to talk about and the vulnerable places that you need to share and want to share and also desperately don’t want to share. My friendship with Honora is really special in the sense that it is a space where we’re both safe to be imperfect, I think. And to share hard, big things.
The book is also about compassion and bravery and strength, and those are all things Honora possesses in huge quantities.
Honora, how COOL is it that your super good friend is a published writer (and possibly the best tweeter I know)? I know Corey surprised you with an advanced copy and that’s when you saw your name in it for the first time. What did you think?
Honora: It is VERY cool and I’m so proud of her and I should probably sign up for Twitter right now. Let’s see, Corey told me she was sending a present with something special inside. When I opened her book to the dedication page I was blown away. It was an amazing feeling, very special. I felt so honored and it sincerely touched my heart. A big smile inside. I’m blushing now.
What is it about your friendship that just clicks?
Corey: Honora and I have a lot in common, sort of on the inside. A lot of the things we’ve struggled with in ourselves and in our lives have been very similar, and we process relationships and fears and the world around us in really similar ways. And I think our friendship has been a LOT about acceptance. I always think of this one day, when Honora and I were living together in our early 20s. We’d recently graduated and my world was sort of falling apart—I had some Big Stuff happening in my family life and on top of that someone had stolen my wallet and the two guys I was half-dating weren’t calling me. I was a mess. The Big Stuff in my family was overwhelming and I wasn’t really processing very well. And I did something wacky with the dishwasher—maybe Honora will remember what? Like I think I maybe ran the dishwasher without dishes in it and then was shocked that no dishes had been cleaned? Anyway. I realized what I’d done, and I started laughing. And Honora was in the next room and came in to see what was up. And I could not stop laughing. And the laughing turned sort of crazy and manic and out of control and I couldn’t even explain what was so funny. And the laughing got so big and emotional that it turned into crying, and then sobbing. Like, this moment of hysteria and massive release in the midst of a terrible time in my life. And I was on the kitchen floor laughing and sobbing and in this state of total vulnerability and craziness, and Honora sat on the floor and laughed and cried with me. She just got it. That’s what our friendship is like.
Honora: I’m laughing to myself trying to think about what it was Corey did! All I know is it was something pretty un- Corey like. Nothing bad, but like she said, she was caught in a lapse of logic and then confused about it, which I get. Sort of deer in the headlight, “what is going on with my reality? Yikes, it is affecting me. Am I going to laugh or cry? I’m doing both! Ahh! Release, releasing is good.”
I feel like Corey gets me on so many levels and we do process things very similarly. When sharing tough stuff with her I feel safe, not alone, and accepted. Truly accepted. I can meet her where I’m at- no editing needed and she’s so darn quick on the uptake! And then we do share a humor…I’m laughing just thinking about laughing with her- she has a great laugh. I trust her completely.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you met?
Corey: We met within the first few days of orientation our freshmen year of college at NYU. Honora lived on the floor below me. She cracked me up—she had a great spirit. We were in Studio together at Tisch, which is the arts school at NYU. This meant we spent 8 hours a day three times a week with 12 other people in basically the most emotionally and physically vulnerable states you could ever imagine. It’s a really hardcore way to make friends—but MAN do you get to know each other. We also lived together for maybe four years.
Honora: I think when Corey mentions that I cracked her up…it was my particular, lets say, joie de vivre as recent Midwestern transplant to the East Coast. I was very excited to be “out and about.” (I still am). And in studio, we just clicked. I recognized a solid, interested, hardworking gal. Pretty cool, looking back, how simple it was to connect with her.
What’s one thing about Corey that her readers should know?
Honora: Good question! Maybe that she got a C in one of our classes together. It was a “mask” class where we danced around to tribal music and were supposed to intuit the energy of the mask (often without seeing the face of it) and create story and then admire how magical it was that the archetypes played their “correct” roles. (Disclaimer: It was a pretty fun class).
Anyhow, the teacher thought Corey should get a C because she showed up on time to every class so clearly she was “too perfect” and needed to learn a lesson. It was CRAZY! I’m so glad I showed up late and hungover at least once! It just goes to show how people can “type you” and put all their mess onto you, meanwhile Corey is a real person-hard stuff and all- and a “C” isn’t helpful in the least. It was pretty rotten of him.
Tab’s friends in Life By Committee ditch her when she gets cute and starts wanting to talk about boys and caring about clothes. Ugh. This made me feel for her SO much because abandonment like this stays with you forever. Did either of you face a similar issue with friends? Would you have approached the situation like Tab did?
Corey: I had a very similar experience to Tabby. I based little bits and pieces of her life on my time in high school. I had a really close group of awesome friends all through middle school, and early on in high school they decided they were disappointed in who I was becoming as a person. They very publicly let me know. It was devastating. I didn’t really recover until I was in college and able to start over and make new friends. In high school, I coped by having boyfriends. But especially at that age they are no substitute for friends. So I don’t recommend that!
Honora: I think I lucked out on that end. In terms of abandonment, third grade stands out as the hardest year with friendships. It was when those “friendship necklaces” were introduced to us…where you and your BEST friend each have a half of the heart on a chain and together you complete the heart and you are BEST friends. Which is great except that there are three other people you want to be your best friend and you thought that you were their best friend even though you got the necklace with this other girl who seems like a “good” best friend and they asked someone else to be THEIR best friend which emotionally crushed you…it was VERY stressful. I do remember feeling excluded and abandoned at times that year, people started forming clubs and cliques. Most all that cleared up by 4th grade, thank goodness. As I think about it, third grade was the first time I remember feeling that pang of sadness, maybe shame? That was awful!
It’s no surprise that friendship struggles are a focus in YA books. These relationships define so much of who you are. But these moments often parallel how tough it is to be a friend and find trusted friends as an adult too. What lesson have you learned about adult friendships that surprised you most?
Corey: I’ve learned some friendships aren’t meant to last. It’s sad, but some people you are meant to be very, very close with for short periods of time, but not forever. And other people, like Honora, are meant to be in your life forever. And you probably don’t know which is which until you’ve put in like a decade. And that’s okay! A friendship can still be wonderful and meaningful even if it fades after a few years.
Also I have learned about BOUNDARIES! Those are really important. You should have them in all your relationships.
Honora: I moved to Los Angeles about 4 years ago and it was hard to figure out how to nurture my friendships appropriately, since so many friends are out of state. In the past year I’ve relaxed a bit I knowing that I don’t have to worry about “managing” things and it’s ok not to talk to everyone all the time. Some friendships will fade into FB “likes” and some will grow or stay more intimate. I’m super grateful for the internet and gchat. I guess I’m surprised with how powerful technology has been in communication with friends who are long distance. I know people talk a lot about how it’s perhaps less intimate, which I get, but in my experience, friendship and intimacy have translated pretty well across state lines via technology, etc. Uh oh- I should probably watch Her immediately.
Honora, were you nervous to read Life By Committee? (Sidenote: I was totally nervous to read it just as a “twitter” friend of Corey’s. What if I don’t like it????) What was your greatest takeaway of the book?
Honora: I guess there was an element of nervousness, because I loved her last book, OCD Love Story so much and I wanted to enjoy this one just as much. Once I realized that there was a cozy coffee shop in this book I knew it was going to be ok. And it was great. Personally my greatest take away is the feeling I get while reading it. I feel a particular sense of safety…it’s weird…like while reading it, I know I can handle the uncomfortable and get excited and witness stressful stuff but in the end it will be ok. I find so much comfort in Tabitha’s humanity.
Something I think that is going to surprise readers is that Tab’s friends are geeks and omg, geeks can be mean and they can be dismissive as much as the popular people. Their reasons for ditching her were so petty and said a lot more about them than Tab changing. Why did you feel like this was an important part of Tab’s character history?
Corey: Mostly it was something I hadn’t seen in YA. Bullying is such a buzz word right now, and I think we always frame it as a popular person bullying a “nerd”. I don’t think it’s that simple. I wanted to give voice to the way adults, too, play into stereotypes (if you’re cute and blonde you must be the villain) and how dangerous that is. And how confusing to not fit into a box that the whole world is insisting you must fit into. I wanted Tabby to not want popularity, to just want friends.
What’s most difficult: Tab accepting that her old friends were not who she thought they were or having to dive back into the friend pool and find the courage to trust people again?
Corey: I know when I lost my friends, the hardest thing was letting go. I was convinced it was a temporary thing. I tried to keep being in the group, even after the public shaming. I thought it was going to be okay. Accepting that it wasn’t was such a challenge. And I went to a small school, so finding new friends wasn’t much of an option. I remember how badly I wanted my Friday night sleepovers with my three best friends back. I couldn’t stop thinking about how close we were and how abruptly it changed.
Favorite Muppets song? (Readers, this is Life By Committee related. I promise.)
Corey: Rainbow Connection, of course.
Honora: YES Rainbow connection. On repeat.
When I think of both of your books, the first word that pops into my head is AUTHENTIC. You attack all situations in your books with such honesty, even when it’s painful and maybe not the popular opinion. Do you find it challenging to approach your writing this way because I’m sure it makes for an emotional writing experience? (Where does the question mark go there? Ha.)
Corey: First of all THANK YOU. I can’t think of a word I’d more like to be associated with my books. I think I’d find it more challenging to be insincere or to hide what’s painful. I’m not really interesting in trying to make things look pretty—in my life or in my books. My life really opened up and got easier when I stopped trying to be perfect and to feel perfectly and to think things would all work out.
It can be emotional, for sure, because I’m writing from an open place and sometimes am using pieces of my life. But it’s usually satisfying and zen-y and new age-y. Like… we’re all so connected and if we could all accept the terrible things together, we’d be okay.
Even though OCD Love Story and Life By Committee are built on completely different ideas, were you surprised by any themes stringing the two together?
Corey: Absolutely. I’ve noticed I write a lot about alienation and loneliness. About experiencing things that other people don’t understand, or your friends don’t understand, and the desperate hunt for hope and compassion. That’s probably the name of my someday-memoir: The Hunt for Hope. My characters tend to be unsettled and in tough spots, but they WANT to be better, they want to have a beautiful life, they’re just unclear on how to get there.
Thanks so much for chatting with me today! I can’t wait for everyone to read LBC and I loved hearing about your friendship! What are you two doing to celebrate the release? I hope cheese and champagne is on the list!
Corey: Since we are in a bicoastal friendship, it will have to be chai lattes over gchat together! But we’ll see each other at some point (maybe even more that once!) this summer, and of course cheese is ALWAYS on the menu.
Honora: Thank you! I am SO bummed to be out of the country for the release…so we WILL be having chai lattes over gchat and maybe we will get fancy and do a Google “hangout” to celebrate, at least until I get to see her in NYC this July.
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So much thanks to Corey and Honora for sharing your friendship story & talking so thoughtfully about
Life By Committee! It was a total blast!
Further reading » Befriended: Emery Lord