Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Kellye Abernathy, author of The Aquamarine Surfboard.
FQ: In the Acknowledgments section of your book, you state that the idea for The Aquamarine Surfboard came from “a magical trip to Laguna Beach;” can you say a bit more about that?
ABERNATHY: A few years back I was visiting Laguna Beach, a trip intended to be a time of reflection and remembering. I’d lost my mother, and the week of her birthday can be an especially hard time.
The room I was staying in was amazing: a cozy place, windows flung wide over a high terrace, overlooking a wild and craggy stretch of rock pocked with the most marvelous sea caves. From the terrace, a long zigzag flight of stairs stretched down to the sand, just as the stairs from the yellow cottage do in my book, The Aquamarine Surfboard. One misty morning, I tiptoed down the stairs to the palette of sand to do an early yoga practice. No one else was up, only me. The beach was deserted, except for a few ancient old ladies, collecting shells and picking up trash. Curls of mist off the water, split with pastel tendrils of breaking morning light, made them appear other-worldly. At peace with the world, I closed my eyes and began my yoga practice, breathing in the clean ocean air… water droplets from the mist running down my cheeks like tears. As I often do when I practice yoga, I lost track of time. When I finished, the old women were gone, along with the mist. I looked out to sea. A silver star of full morning light was glancing off the water beyond the sea caves. That’s when it happened. A dark-haired boy in a wetsuit popped up out of the water beyond the point. He easily hopped up on his surfboard and made a clean run to shore. I was awe-struck. I didn’t know where the surfer boy came from or how he possibly got out to that rough and tumble line of waves. After all, that part of the shoreline is a tangle of scattered rock, a few ruins of old homes slipping down a steep hillside toward pools of churning water.
The experience was magical—and the idea for The Aquamarine Surfboard was born that mystical day.
FQ: Why have you chosen to focus most sharply on young people in this story?
ABERNATHY: Young people are the hope of the world—and the future of healthy community-building. For so long, we adults have often chosen to focus on personal identity, concentrating on differentiating ourselves from others—bonding closely with people most like ourselves.
To build creative and healthy communities, inclusive communities, we must change that focus—by concentrating on how we are the same, rather than how we are different.
Having fun, learning from each other, building friendships while having open-minded (and often difficult) conversations is something kids are great at. I believe that building diverse relationships will lead to effective and creative solutions to big problems. It’s a mindset change. Kids will lead the way.
FQ: Are the characters of the Beachlings based on people you have known and/or worked with in your role as a life skills advocate?
ABERNATHY: Yes! One of the first lessons I learned when I became an advocate is that trauma survivors are our true teachers and mentors. It takes incredible bravery and heart to step out of abuse or poverty to share your story and ask for resources and support to build a fresh start for yourself and your children. The women and kids I work with inspire me every day. Leaving a bad situation often has stripped them of everything, including housing and financial resources. Taking shelter in a car, a boat, a tent, or a highway motel is often an act of fierce courage. Like the Beachlings in my book, I’ve seen the far-reaching power and formidable strength of the survivor community. They protect and care for one another. Many of the women and kids I’ve worked with have found their way… and are now helping others. One of the first rules of community is: pass it on by offering friendship and providing a non-judgmental hand-up. We all need a boost sometime.
FQ: When and how did your love for poetry (Millay, Frost, et al) arise?
ABERNATHY: My love of poetry and lyrical language was born in the earliest years of my childhood. I’ve always read and written it, for as long as I can remember. I read poetry every morning—it’s one of my quiet-time practices. Cadence, brevity of thought and imagery keep me tapped into all that’s right with the world...as well as providing a soothing balm for grief and pain. I like the great contemporary poets, too. Oliver, Giovanni, Baer...so many more...haunting, memorable...singing out messages essential to our understanding of the world.
FQ: What writers inspired you as you composed your story?
ABERNATHY: Oh, I love this question! Where shall I begin? Madelaine L’Engle, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, C.S. Lewis, Astrid Lindgren, Johanna Spyri, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Sy Montgomery, Lois Lowry.
FQ: Do you have hopes that The Aquamarine Surfboard might become a tool for life skills workshops and study groups?
ABERNATHY: Yes. I am hopeful that classrooms, life skill groups, study groups and book clubs will find the book to be a rich source of discussion and reflection.
My author website, kellyeabernathy.com, contains a detailed discussion guide with questions on the book’s content as well as self-reflection questions and sensory activities for groups of all ages.
FQ: Could you envision your book as an animated fantasy film?
ABERNATHY: Oh, yes. In fact, the vibrant images in such a film play in my mind frequently these days! Writing the book, I’ve adored hanging out on the top of Windy Hollow, snuggling into the cozy security of the yellow cottage, surfing the big ones and and plumbing the vast mysteries of the ocean’s wildest depths. How I’d love to see The Aquamarine Surfboard find life on the screen!
FQ: Do you have a next creative work – possibly a sequel to this one - planned or in the works?
ABERNATHY: Yes. The second work, a companion novel to The Aquamarine Surfboard, is halfway finished. A third novel will surely follow. The continuing story of Dipitous Beach and the Beachlings of Windy Hollow awaits!