Befriended with Corey Ann Haydu: Dedicated to Friendship

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.

Corey Ann Haydu Life By Committee

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.

Corey Ann Haydu Life By Committee Best Friend Chat

Bicoastal best friends answering all the questions on a blog run by long distance best friends. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Enjoy!

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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.

Corey Ann Haydu + Honora: Best Friend Chat at Rather Be Reading BlogWhat 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.

Continue reading

Estelle: Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

Life By Committee by Corey Ann HayduLife by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperTeen
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: secret relationships, online communities, friendship
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)

Summary: Tabitha has been pretty lonely since her friends ditched her, citing her looks and interest in boys as reasons she has “changed”. Now, she has Elise and (secretly) Joe, a popular hockey player who has a serious girlfriend by day but tells Tabitha all his secrets at night. One day she stumbles on an online community called “Life By Committee.” It’s a safe place where she can divulge her most buried secrets and through “assignments” take control of her life. At first, Tabitha is inspired by this group, their drive, and feels empowered but when the assignments start to affect more of her world, she’s not sure what to think or how to get out.

Perfectly imperfect is how I like my book characters and Corey Ann Haydu delivers with Tab in Life By Committee. Not only is Tab a fan of Muppet music, a book lover to the extreme, and a totally normal teenager who helps her parents out with their cozy coffee shop in Maine, but, like any of us, she can’t help what she thinks, she doesn’t always make the wisest decisions, and she’s just trying to figure it all out.

Figuring it out includes a laundry list of things, by the way. Like why exactly her best friends turned totally petty and judgmental on her when she started getting into makeup and boys. (This doesn’t mean she stopped being a nerd.) Or why she can’t control her feelings for Joe, who makes her swoon every night with their online chats but still has a girlfriend. Or if her dad (Paul) can get it together and stop smoking up before her new sibling arrives?

As you can probably guess, Life By Committee pops up exactly when Tab feels like she has nowhere to turn. A small community of online “friends” she can admit her deepest and darkest secrets too? Who give her the courage and the extra push to move forward with what scares her the most? I mean, what can go wrong? Cue the foreboding music, friends.

All I could think of was Dawson during Season 1 of Dawson’s Creek as I got deeper and deeper into the book, and Tab got sucked further into LBC. (“My palms are sweating.” Except he was talking about Joey, and I was just freaking out about how this initial safe place turned wrong so fast.) To be a part of LBC, you divulge a secret and then are given an assignment by the LBC leader, Zed. In order to keep your secret a secret, you must complete the assignment or else.

At first, like Tab, I saw that assignments as something that would help another member seize the moment. But as the stakes were raised higher and higher, it was obvious the assignments would be affecting more than the LBC member but friends, family, reputations, and more. See? Scary stuff. I was internally freaking out about Tab and how she would exit the group without ruining absolutely everything, and stranded in a worse place than she started.

Even now, I feel incredibly anxious just thinking about it.

Life By Committee made me think a a lot about how we relate to others, and if we just see what we want to see. How could I not with the superficial reasons Tab’s friends had for dropping her? Or even how Tab felt for Joe. I wanted so badly to believe in Joe and think he was being real with her, that they had a future together. How secrets between friends and family members create such detachment that bridging it feels like climbing Everest. Or how loneliness and disconnect cause us to latch on to people and places, which provide no true help at all.

I was nervous to read LBC because Haydu’s OCD Love Story is one of the finest, most authentic debuts I’ve ever read. And I love that she created something so separate from her first book because the plotting and the characters are just as memorable but for different reasons. One thing she does continue to celebrate: the shades of gray that makes us human. We are not just ONE thing or ONE kind of way. Our thoughts, our actions, our feelings are constant changing, and we are not always going to do the right thing. Like someone asks in the book: “what if change were a comfort?” What if we weren’t so scared of it?

Even though it was very early into 2014 when I read LBC, the fact that it was so impossible to put down, the premise was so well-executed, and I related so much to Tab already secured it in my list of memorable years of the year. The writing is so fast-paced and at times so quote-worthy, I absolutely can’t wait to get a hard copy even if it means being a nervous wreck all over again reliving some of the most intense scenes I’ve encountered in YA.

So what am I saying? Haydu has officially made my auto-buy list. Also: read this.

Extra kudos: I love when a book cover fits the story absolutely so well. This is one of those circumstances.

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