Ep 4: Maria Semple Thinks “Today Will Be Different”

Maria Semple stops by Just the Right Book to chat about her new best-selling comic novel, “Today Will Be Different.” The screenwriter-turned-author tells Roxanne why her daughter calls her “mad mommy” and dishes on the rumored A-list actress who might play one of her characters in a movie. Also in this episode, some books Roxanne is loving right now.

Books in this episode:

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

The Corrections by Jonathan Frazen

The Red Car by Marcy Demansky

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter

Did You Ever Have a Family  by Bill Clegg

fates and furies by Lauren Groff

A Child’s Anthology of Poetry By Elizabeth Hauge Sword


Read the Transcript


Just the Right Book Podcast
Ep 4: Maria Semple Thinks Today Will Be Different
Published 12/14/2016


Beginning of Recorded Material


“Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today anyone I speak to I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. Today I’ll play a board game with Timby. I’ll initiate sex with Joe. Today I will take pride in my appearance. I’ll shower, get dressed in proper clothes, and change into yoga clothes only for yoga, which today I will actually attend.

Today will be different.”


Roxanne Coady: I’m Roxanne Coady and welcome to Just the Right Book. What you’ve just heard is an affirmation or mantra from Maria Semple’s new book, Today Will Be Different, read by Maria herself.


Many of us have mantras that we repeat to help us stay positive and happy, and I find that I keep little notes in my to-do notebook, and I write down things as they strike me. One of the things that I find I keep coming back to over and over again is my mantra to try to be present, and that sounds really simple but maybe this happens to you too.


You are listening to somebody and then you realized, you just didn’t even hear what they said or you’re driving and you forget where you are in the trip. What I’m finding by really trying to remind myself to be present that it does this kind of magical thing. You do enjoy more fully whatever it is you’re doing. Whether you’re taking a walk or you’re in a conversation with a friend or your spouse or your child.


It does make for a day that feels even fuller in a good way, not in a full way that we’re used to, that we’re multi-tasking and distracted and doing a million things and then feeling like nothing really registered. Right now, my mantra is to be present, check with me in about a minute and I might have another one, but that one has been hanging around with me for a while.


I had the pleasure of speaking with Maria recently, and she told me why her daughter sometimes called her “mad mommy, and I love that term.” You’ll hear Maria say it, mad mommy, and talk about the rumored A-list actress that may play one of her characters in a film. Later in this episodes, stay tuned to hear some of the books I’m loving.


So my guest today is a very funny, very savvy writer who has written for hit TV shows like Arrested Development and Mad About You. She’s been nominated for Primetime Emmy and won Writer’s Guild Award. Maria Semple’s last novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? sold millions of copies, spent over a year atop the New York Times best-seller list, was translated into 18 languages, which we’ll talk about. Her previous book was and is the book everybody must read. Her new novel, Today Will Be Different, is just as funny and just as smart. Maria, thanks for being on Just the Right Book podcast.


Maria Semple: Thanks, Roxanne!


Roxanne Coady: I could relate to Eleanor right from the get-go. Eleanor starts the day and is sure like many of us are that we’re going to manage that day differently than we’ve managed. How does she begin her day?


Maria Semple: She begins her day with a mantra which is the first page of the book.


Roxanne Coady: That’s how she starts, right? This is really going to shape her day. Her first derailment is as a working mom is the dread we all have.


Maria Semple: Yes, the phone call from the school saying that your child is sick and come get them, they’re waiting in the office.


Roxanne Coady: Yeah, so I have read different versions of things like that. One of my favorite is a mom who’s an executive or kid’s sick right away first thing in the morning. She knows it but she’s got a 9 o’clock important meeting and she figures she can get through the meeting before the school realizes he’s sick. Off she sends him, goes to her meeting, knows she’s going to get the call and then goes to get him and looks like the good mom, who, oh poor thing.


Maria Semple: In fact, I remember maybe five or six years ago there was a very much most emailed article in the New York Times about how doctors always send their kids to school and even parents are the ones that are much more sensitive about keeping their kids home, but if you’re a doctor and you really know what a kid can get through the day with, you’ll just send your kid to school. It made us all feel a lot better about those selfish choices.


Roxanne Coady: Yeah. Exactly, if they’re doing it, why can’t we?


Maria Semple: Yes.


Roxanne Coady: I loved the relationship between Eleanor and Timby.


Maria Semple: Thank you. I love it too.


Roxanne Coady: It just felt there was something about it. This idea that nobody holds mirror up to us like our kids. They really know us, but there was something kind of savvy about Timby, and it made me wonder. Would you say him being with you all day mitigated the day unraveling or exacerbated it?


Maria Semple: That’s a good question. I think that it … I’m actually stumped by that, about how it affects you. Well I’ll tell you what it does. It adds, I think it exacerbates it in that it adds pressure. That I feel like what I’m trying to do with Eleanor is I’m trying to just to have the walls close in on her because that’s a rule of fiction; you want to push your characters. Certainly it’s one of my rules of fiction. I want to push my characters to the edge where they can’t take it anymore, and they’re forced to act and do slightly crazy things because they’re just, they’ll feel cornered.


Roxanne Coady: No choice.


Maria Semple: They just reached their limit, and so I think with Timby there, I think because he does call her on some bad behavior. I think it does make her feel squeezed.


Roxanne Coady: There was something about even as he was doing that. I think the thing I loved is the affection that was there.


Maria Semple: Yes. That’s really what I was trying to write is I was trying to write something very realistic about a parent and a child where it would have been very easy to write him as someone who is maybe smarter than his years. I think several people have kind of lazily referred to him has precocious, when I don’t even think he’s particularly precocious. I think he’s very age appropriate. He is selfish.


He’s always trying to game the system, if he can get a donut out of it or a shopping trip or if he can get what he wants out of it. I think that’s realistic, and also he sees her for who she is, but he doesn’t know yet exactly if that’s good or bad. That’s what I think what I was really trying to do with the character. He’s not really the great chorus in that he’s not reflecting back on her that what she’s doing is bad or he’s not reflecting back on her what she’s doing is good. He’s just reflecting back in a childlike way, where he doesn’t exactly understand what’s going on.


Roxanne Coady: Yeah. Which is what makes I think kids so compelling because they’re not editing or they don’t really have perspective. They accidentally come out with these very wise statements, but it’s not coming from a place of wisdom.


Maria Semple: Exactly. That’s what I was trying to do. I feel like as an adult one of the easiest thing to do is to write a child from an adult and people go, my gosh what a brilliant child, but that’s cheating to me and that’s lazy writing. I think it’s much harder to try to get it exactly right for the age. My daughter is 12 now, so maybe when I wrote the book she was 10.


In fact, one of the sparks for the book was when I was looking for a pen one day. I had a pen, I was looking for a piece of paper, excuse me, and I went to just a random spiral notebook. In it, there was this cute picture that said: Mommy by Poppy Meyer, age eight. And it was this very cute picture of me, and then I turn the page, and in the same style it said: Mad Mommy by Poppy Meyer, age eight.


It was that same version of me but very angry, and in fact, I reproduced both of those pictures in the book, mommy and mad mommy, and it really hit me in the gut. Because I felt like what she wants is mommy but what she’s really getting a lot of the time is mad mommy. She was not wrong to have that experience of me because I think often you do let your guard down around your kid.


That you have an interaction with someone and then you get in the car, and you just start fuming about it. Meanwhile the kid is sitting there in the car seat and is kind of someone to vent to. It was a terrible realization that it made me feel bad enough that I thought I could put it in my book and get some mileage out of it.


Roxanne Coady: Well, you’re reminding me of a conversation I had had with my son when he was about 8, 9 or 10. I’d been out of town a lot, so I was picking him up from school because then I was going to be out again that night. He was young enough to be in the back seat, and I was feeling very self-conscious of not having been there for him.


I said to him “Edward, do you sometimes look at other moms and wish I was doing something that other moms were doing?” I was expecting, I don’t know, some smart answer. He said “You know, as a matter of fact, yes. You send me to school with food that is untradeable.” He said “Other people’s moms are packing good food. You’re putting in like broccoli and other thingd. I have nothing to trade.”


Maria Semple: That’s so funny. See, that’s the thing. You can’t really make assumptions about this, about what their experience of you is. I’m always kind of trying to sniff around without being too overt. You went straight at it, but I think I’m afraid of the direct answers, so I never ask the direct questions about how I compare. You just have to do your best and hope. My God, if the worst that she could say about me is I send broccoli to school then I’ll dance a jig.


Roxanne Coady: No, he went on to say other things. That’s for another conversation. Speaking of doing your best. All of your characters, Violet, Bernadette, and now Eleanor, seem to have it all yet experience some level of unhappiness. I know that lots of times I’m shockingly upset about things that in context are ridiculous but nonetheless, I can never put them in perspective in the moment. Are you sympathetic to these first-world problems of your characters? Are you impatient or by they’re being unhappy, do they strive to be better?


Maria Semple: I’m sympathetic and empathetic. I will say I’m not trying to get sympathy for them. Sometimes you get tangled up in these phantom conversations where you write about the first-world problems and responses. I don’t feel sorry for this person, as if that’s what you’re trying to sell, a sob story.


Roxanne Coady: That generally won’t work, and in your books, it works.


Maria Semple: Yeah. Well, the thing is I’m not trying to do that. I’m not trying to do a sales job and saying look, don’t you feel sorry for my characters? That actually doesn’t occur to me when I’m writing it, which is why I say sometimes I get entangled in these phantom conversations because I think people are very suspicious of first-world people and first-world problems. There’s a real suspicion of it.


When it’s like, well, I’ll be the judge of if I’m going to feel sorry for this person or not. To me, that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m actually not trying to get sympathy. What I’m trying to do is write characters who have freewill and who could exercise their freewill in a fun kind of reckless way. To me, the first-world problems come from the fact that I have first-world problems. There’s no way to slice it.


That I’m going to write what’s around me. That’s just the type of writer I am. I like to take from my life and take from what’s around me, and I consider myself a craftsperson almost above all. I want to take what’s around me and turn it into a compelling page-turning story for the reader. I’m kind of not trading in that world of, “Don’t you feel sorry for her. Let’s give you something because maybe this will make you feel sorry for her.”


In Today Will Be Different, I don’t think Eleanor feels sorry for herself, and I don’t think she asks for herself. I don’t think she has self-pity, and I don’t think she ever asks for anybody’s pity. She has first-world problems, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have problems.


I think that’s something that I know for sure is just because you have first-world problems that doesn’t mean that you don’t suffer. I’ve been around the block, and I think anyone my age, certainly in my business and where I came from is show business, will see a lot of really, really unhappy people who seem to have it all.


That’s not the headline of Today Will Be Different at all; it’s for better or for worse. I just kind of I don’t go there and try to make a case for it. I just present the facts, and I put on a wild roller coaster. That’s all I want to do is create the roller coaster for my protagonist, and also for my readers.


That’s more than anything what I’m thinking about is the reading experience. If that means putting a first-world problem woman on a roller coaster, then that’s how I’m going to do it.


Roxanne Coady: Maria, when I read Today Will Be Different, and I think like probably a lot of people do in one gulp, there were a lot of levels by which I found it compelling. But one to this point is, obviously,
I could relate to Eleanor. I loved the roller coaster ride and since I’ve read it, one of the bonuses of it has been for me to take a step back because of the hilariousness that goes on in this book.


I try to take a step back when I’m in the middle of one of these crazy things and find the humor in it as a way to calm me down. I think Eleanor does such, well, you do such a great job with her, kind of acting it. Eleanor is sort of first person and third person, as I read it. She gets that this is a little out of control and a little absurd, but she’s going, she’s there, she’s on that banana peel.


Maria Semple: She’s buckled in, for better or for worse.


Roxanne Coady: Exactly.


Maria Semple: This is like the facts of her life. She’s on that roller coaster, and what is she going to do?


Roxanne Coady: Yeah. She slipped on the banana peel. Talking about taking things from your real life. The other thing I noticed about on your books is all the men are pretty perfect. They’re ethical. They’re thoughtful. They’re lovely. They make money. What’s that about?


Maria Semple: Well, first of all, my boyfriend is very much like that. George Meyer, my partner who I’ve lived with forever is just so ethical, and I’ve always thought that the person that I am now is someone who has risen up to be on his level. From the first day I met him, I just felt like there was a kindness, there was a groundedness, there was a sense of very deep morality that I felt like I wanted to be deserving of.


That’s a very profound influence of my life. I also think on a practical level if I’m writing fiction. I don’t think everyone can be just crazy and running around insanely. I think that you need to have Bernadette, she had Elgie, but she also had Bee was very grounding.


I feel like if I am going to write these people who are unhinged, I just think for the reading experience, you don’t want it to just go into “whackadooland,” where everyone is just a nut job running around. I think in order to make the person who’s unhinged more convincing, you really have to walk down their reality pretty firmly. And I don’t think you want to see two crazy people. That’s not interesting for the reader. Two people acting crazy.


The one person acting crazy, and the other person trying to calm them down, trying to offer the other point of view, then you have a story. Then you have something as a reader to engage with. You think to yourself, Who’s going to win out, the crazy person or the voice of reason? To me almost counterintuitively that’s just more dynamic than having a lot of people who are just wild and unhinged.


Because I think I always am going to start my novels from the point of view of a woman who happens to be my age, and have a kid around the age that I have a kid, and have that kind of my life. I think I would imagine if I ever write about a very grounded heroine, she’s going to have a nut job for a husband.


Roxanne Coady: All right. We’ll look for that one.


Maria Semple: Yes. Now I have an idea for my next book.


Roxanne Coady: Exactly, I’m always fascinated by the role of nature versus nurture. Your dad Lorenzo Semple was a very successful screenwriter, wrote the pilot for Batman, Three Days of the Condor, et cetera. Do you think you became a writer since you were blessed with great writing genes or did your environment exposed you to that world and off you went?


Maria Semple: Yeah. I think it was the latter. I don’t know that I do have good writing genes. To the extent that I’m a good writer, it’s because I’ve worked at it. That’s me. I don’t just speak or write in poetry naturally. I have to craft it and work hard at it. I say this particularly because last night we went out to dinner with a writer named Bruce Wagner, an old friend of mine from Los Angeles.


He’s written really wonderful books, and we were with my 12-year-old daughter. She’s sitting there getting through a grown-up dinner with good humor. Afterwards, I said to her “He’s a much better writer than I am.” She says “Oh does he sell more books than you?” She doesn’t quite understand what it means, and I was just having this conversation with her, standing on a street corner in the rain asking if he had some place to go in a minute and asking him to sign a book.


What he would write in my book would be better than anything I’ve written in my entire life, and I really believe that. Because there’s just this, he has this ease and this natural just way with language that’s so funny and so sharp, and it’s just this transcendent. To me that’s a writing gene, someone who just without even thinking can toss off something that’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever read.


I’m terrible with inscriptions and the worst thing for me always was when the birthday card came around at work in the comedy room, when everyone would write these just brilliantly funny things, and I would just say “Love, Maria.” I don’t think that I have the really natural writing gene.


I know that having Lorenzo as a father really exposed me to books. It was a big reading household and there were a lot of friends who were writers. I saw that writing books was a job to be taken seriously or just writing of any kind to be taken seriously. It’s a job that you can have a lot of fun with. That I think was more important it turns out than maybe any writing gene.


Roxanne Coady: Well, Maria, here’s my guess before I go on to next question. It’ll be 15 years from now, you’ll be out to dinner with some writer and their kid and the exact opposite will take place because, having read all your books, you’re doing a damn good imitation of somebody with a writing gene.


Maria Semple: I’ll be able to pass as that until they say, “Hey, will you sign my book?” And I’ll be like “Love, Maria.” Then I’ll be exposed.


Roxanne Coady: In the meantime, no one is going to know Maria, just don’t let them know.


Maria Semple: I’ll just pre-sign books and then just act like the things I could have written in there.


Roxanne Coady: Actually, that’s what you could do when you’re between books. You could go to your room, your writing room and your desk, and write out sample brilliant inscriptions and then …


Maria Semple: Then act like they just come to me in the moment.


Roxanne Coady: Exactly, they just popped into your writing genes brain.


Maria Semple: Yes, very good idea.


Roxanne Coady: Okay. Since you brought this up about being in the comedy room. One of the things that I thought about is you started out as a screen writer, and I know from friends of mine who are screen writers that these rooms that you’re working in are very kinetic, a little crazy, certainly lively. Then there’s your life as an author, alone in your room at your desk. What was that transition like for you?


Maria Semple: It was much better than one would think because as much as I love being around a lot of people, and seducing them with jokes and the surreal kind of charm offensive, everyone is just trying to dazzle everyone else in the room and be funny. I know that was fun, and I did that well and I came off well. It was a very good energy for me.


I took very easily to writing by myself, and I think that’s because I was always the annoying person who had my term paper finished a week before it was due, all typed out and laid on my desk ready to turn in. I’m very motivated when it comes to writing, and it’s relatively easy for me to write. I’m not a procrastinator, let’s just say. I think the rewrite room helps give structure to a lot of people and the deadlines of television. Let’s say makes people produce stuff just under pressure that normally they might not do left to their own devices.


I actually really enjoy writing, and so what I found was in fact when I sat there by myself, it ended up being much easier for me to write novels than being in a rewrite room. I like having that time to myself. I think that’s where the best comes out in me.


Sure, you can maybe have somebody improve on a joke or something, but I don’t think that’s true in terms of story or in terms of the really deep stuff. You can’t do that when you’ve got a lot of people shouting at once.


Roxanne Coady: Yeah. That’s fascinating. Now speaking of comedy in rooms and sort of the industry, rumor has it that Cate Blanchett will be starring in a film version of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Can you give us any kind of sneak peek of what we can expect from the film?


Maria Semple: Well, I think right now we’re still in the hoping that’s going to happen, and I think everyone’s fingers are crossed. We have a terrific director, Richard Linklater, attached and he wrote a wonderful script. I think everyone is hoping that this project comes together on the soon side. I’m a producer of it, and all I know is the script is wonderful, we love Cate, and Rick really loves the book.


I know he’s going to do it justice. It’s the way Hollywood works. There’s a lot of scheduling. There’s a lot of things that go into a movie getting made. A lot of it’s luck, and I think we’re almost there. Unfortunately, I wish I could tell you more than that, but we’re just, I’d say getting close. I wish that there was something firm to talk about. The rumors are hopefully creeping one step closer to reality.


Roxanne Coady: I’ll add that to my wishes on the stars at night. How’s that?


Maria Semple: Believe me, I will too. I’ll tell you that. I am so over the moon. It would be such crazy brilliant casting and so much more than I would ever have dreamed of. She’d be so perfect, and so I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but there’s certainly hope there.


Roxanne Coady: Did you give thought to writing the screenplay?


Maria Semple: No, not once. Well, yes and no. I’d say in the early stages and there were a lot of stages of development of the project. As these things are, it’s been several years. But when Rick came on, a year and change ago, he is a writer-director and really has a vision. That’s his thing now. That’s how movies work. They really belong to directors, and I totally respect Rick’s vision.


I think like I say I’m a producer and I’m certainly going to talk to him about the script and do anything he wants me to do for the script, but it’s really his call, and I’m very happy that that’s the case.


Roxanne Coady: All right. I’m ready to see it.


Maria Semple: I know. Good. Well, we sold one ticket.


Roxanne Coady: No, I’ll bring Kevin. I’ll bring my husband.


Maria Semple: Okay. Good, so we have what, $30 so far in the bank.


Roxanne Coady: We’re good. I can see this box office. It’s just explosive.


Maria Semple: That’s right. I’ll call the studio and tell them I’ve got them $30.


Roxanne Coady: Two last questions. A little bit unrelated to the book. What’s the book that changed your life, Maria?


Maria Semple: Well, I’d say at different ages there’s change-the-life books. I think I had a very strong weird response to Harriet The Spy when I was a child. I think I felt a real identification with the character who would just take notes and watch people. She was kind of a loner and confused in the adult world but was draw into being a space.


I think that I still feel that way. I think that that almost perfectly sums up what writers are, and I think that Harriet The Spy is a story of a writer. When I was young, I really liked that idea without really understanding why I liked it so much, but that was definitely one of my favorite books.


I love The Corrections. That book totally blew my mind because I’d been an English major, and I was reading all these classics up until then. Even after I was an English major and graduated from college. All I was reading was classics. I just was almost kind of uneducated in modern literature. I hadn’t read Philip Roth, or Updike, or Alice Walker. I was just still trying to get through the Bronte Sisters.


I was still doing that. When I read The Corrections, I thought, well, this is a classic that someone essentially my age has just written and it really blew the walls out for me.


Roxanne Coady: Those are great book ends, and what’s on your night stand now?


Maria Semple: You know what I just finished that I really liked, a book called The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky, and I’m afraid I’ve mispronounced her last name. And I’m heading out again on tour. What I’m going to bring with me that actually is already in my backpack is The Journals of John Cheever, because I think that journals will be good to dip into, and I’ve heard these are really wonderful.


Roxanne Coady: They are.


Maria Semple: That’s going to be the next book that I read. Another book that I have that I just am now looking into is Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. Jess is a friend of mine, and I just haven’t read that book but everyone loves it. I just heard someone was raving about it a of a couple weeks ago, so I thought that I would finish my Jess Walter canon. I’d close out the canon and read Citizen Vince.


Roxanne Coady: He was at R.J. Julia’s not that long ago. He was just so funny and so sweet. What a lovely man.


Maria Semple: Really lovely. Just a wonderful person, and a real model citizen for authors. You meet him, and you just start asking yourself, What would Jess do? I really just want to conduct myself like Jess Walter.


Roxanne Coady: Yeah. Marie, in closing what I’d like to do is thank you for couple things. One is thank you for taking the time to talk with us, and I think most importantly, I’d love to thank you for writing these books that managed to balance the Yin and Yang of the seriousness of life with a kind of humor that serves us all well. Your characters teach us a lot, and at the same time, we’re just happy readers, so thank you for doing that.


Maria Semple: Well, thank you. Then I will thank the booksellers as we call you, the big mouth like you Roxanne. Excuse me. Between us, we know that’s a good term because I consider myself a big mouth as well. The evangelist for books. It’s keeping it alive, and it’s meaning that I can keep writing books, so I thank you, and I thank the readers and the book sellers.


Roxanne Coady: Well, your books make it easy for us to do that, so it’s a good partnership. My thanks to Marie Semple for being on the show. It’s now time for some of the books I’m loving. Two books I loved that were out last year in hardcover, are now out in paper, so I want to make sure I get them on your radar.
One is a New York Times bestseller, Did You Ever Have a Family, a novel by Bill Clegg. From page one, this is one of these books that you will sink right into. It starts off in a tragedy, and you know I’m not giving anything away because it starts with that. On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is upended when a tragedy leaves her alone and directionless.


We then backtrack and follow the story as June sort of just takes off trying to figure out how to deal with this. What you think about is regret and how to overcome regrets and, ultimately, how to overcome a tragedy or your own guilt. Bill Clegg has the incredible capacity to really understand what relationships are like.


Did You Ever Have a Family sounds like a kind of a depressing book, starting with a tragedy, but it’s actually a life-affirming book, and I promise you, you’re going to pick it up and you won’t put it down until you’re done. Bill Clegg is just a masterful storyteller.


The other book is Fates and Furies, a novel by Lauren Groff. This book is a riveting perspective. The first half of the book is told by Lotto, the husband, and the other part is told by Mathilde, a tall glamorous woman. They’re both madly in love. They come from complicated backgrounds, but it seems as if they have found each other in a way that has allowed them to make a life that is just magical and the envy of their community, and actually on a larger stage because Lotto becomes quite a well-known playwright. He’s the “fates” part of the book.


The second half of the book is “furies,” which is told by Mathilde, the wife. You get a very good picture of this marriage. As you read this book, you are struck by what makes a marriage work. Is that possible that you could have long-term marriages and there’d be the kind of deep secrets that turn out to exist in this marriage? Then the kinds of ebbs and flows or ups and downs, of deceits, of passion that occur?


At the end of the book, you are very thoughtful about what makes a marriage and what makes each of us enter, exit, or operate in a marriage. It’s called Fates and Furies, a novel by Lauren Groff.


Then the last book. This has been my favorite book for decades, actually. For the first time in decades, it has come out in paper with this beautiful jacket. The book is called A Child’s Anthology of Poetry, edited by Elizabeth Sword. What Elizabeth does in this book, she includes funny poems, serious poems, well-known poems, unknown poems.


When my son was young, what we like to do at the dinner table is—my son would roll his eyes, my husband would roll his eyes even more—we’d pick a poem because it’s short and then talk about what we think the poem means to each of us. The thing about A Child’s Anthology of Poetry is you can read it to children when they’re two and you can read it as an adult and find something that’s in here for you.
I think we sometimes stay away from poetry thinking that we don’t understand it.


I think of poetry the way I think of art. You can read from it what you want. I find I can read a poem and it creates a kind of sensibility, and that’s good enough. A Child’s Anthology of Poetry is a wonderful way to introduce your family, your kids to it.


A number of years ago I was interviewed for a story about myself and R.J. Julia for a business magazine.
I was asked to sidebar a list of my favorite books of all times, and at the time I mentioned A Child’s Anthology of Poetry. I got this hilarious phone call from Elizabeth Sword. Elizabeth is a poet, obviously, and she said her father had always been so disappointed in her because she didn’t go into business. To him I guess didn’t seem like a very ambitious career.


By mentioning A Child’s Anthology of Poetry and having it appear in a business magazine like Fast Company, she had made her father proud for her being a poet. Not only was I already fond of the book and its significance to me and my family, but then I had this great story about Elizabeth Sword, hearing how she felt about getting her work mentioned to her dad.


I recommend this book to every family. I recommend it as like the perfect family gift. I recommend it because you don’t have a lot of time to read, and you’re a grown up and you want to read something quick. A Child’s Anthology of Poetry edited by Elizabeth Sword.

That’s it for today, and please make sure to subscribe to Just the Right Book Podcast in iTunes. Email us at [email protected] For a full list of all the books we’ve talked about today, just go to bookpodcast.com. Just the Right Book Podcast is produced by Collisions, the podcast division of CRN International. Original music was created by Mark Berman. Also thanks to our producer, Christina Torres, and our sound engineer, Pat Keogh. Thank you all for listening.

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