Together, under the moniker Ella Monroe, Amy Reingold and Maz Rauber wrote the highly anticipated Capital Girls trilogy. The first installment was released in August and immediately began generating comparisons to hit series like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. Maz and Amy visited two book clubs during the fall semester, one at McKinley Technology High School and the other at Wilson Senior High School to discuss the first book. They were kind enough to reflect on their experiences in the third installment of the WinS Author Questionnaire.
PEN/Faulkner: Did either of your Writers in Schools (WinS) visits this semester remind you of your own high school experiences? How was it familiar? How was it different?
Amy Reingold: The idea of having a book club at school was unheard of… as was the concept of reading for fun. Books were considered a chore––not much better than having to do your math homework. I didn’t start enjoying reading until my senior year, after I’d spent the previous summer at Choate and was introduced to books on the Russian revolution and China’s Mao, which began my lifelong love of world events and history.
Maz Rauber: I’ve always loved to read––even to the point of stressing out my parents because I’d be lying on my bedroom floor reading a book every morning instead of getting ready for school! We didn’t have a book club but every grade had a library period once a week where we checked out books and discussed books with the librarian.
PF: What did you read when you were in high school? In the classroom? Outside of the classroom?
AR: Outside class, I read all the Kurt Vonnegut books until they blurred into each other and my college-aged brother’s books, mostly plays by Voltaire and Eugene Ionesco.
MR: In my high school in Australia, we studied everything from Shakespeare and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Catcher In the Rye. Out of school I read everything I could get my hands on, including from my grandmother’s collection of trashy romance novels to a lot of British writers… Daphne du Maurier, who wrote Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel was one of my all time favorites, as were the Brontë sisters.
PF: What would you have been most curious to ask an author if you’d been part of a WinS visit when you were in high school?
AR: I’d be curious about the writing process, the nuts and bolts of it… the discipline and the passion needed to succeed.
MR: I’d want to know how they got their plot ideas and how much they drew from real life characters and situations.
PF: Your visits to McKinley and Wilson marked your first experience with WinS. Did you find anything particularly surprising about the experience?
AR: How engaged the students were. They asked really good questions and had obviously thought a lot about the characters and their motivations. I was also impressed that they took the time to read for pleasure, considering what busy schedules they have.
MR: How excited the students were to meet “real” authors and how much they were looking forward to reading the next ones.
PF: Having gone on two different visits to two different book clubs, how did your two Writers in Schools visits compare? What struck you as the biggest difference between the two groups?
AR & MR: There really wasn’t any difference. Both groups were well-informed, interested, and seemed really committed to their schools and to reading. And both schools have amazing librarians. You could see how much respect and love the students have for them. We wish the education budget cutters who are targeting school libraries, would take the time to visit the Wilson and McKinley programs and what they’ve done to encourage a love of reading.