January 10, 2016

Sunday Street Team + Interview | The Possibility of Now by Kim Culbertson

The Sunday Street Team is a group of bloggers led by the marvelous Nori @ ReadWriteLove28 who aim to bring well-deserved attention to new and upcoming books and their authors. 

This month's author is Kim Culbertson, who is the author of the contemporary novel, The Possibility of Now.

The Possibility of Now
The Possibility of NowBy Kim Culbertson
Published January 26, 2016
305 Pages

Mara James has always been a perfectionist with a plan. But despite years of overachieving at her elite school, Mara didn't plan on having a total meltdown during her calculus exam. Like a rip-up-the-test-and-get-escorted-out kind of meltdown. And she definitely didn't plan on never wanting to show her face again.
Mara knows she should go back,only she can't bring herself to do it. Because suddenly she doesn't know why she's been overachieving all these years. So Mara tells her mom she wants to go live with her estranged dad in Tahoe. Maybe in a place like Tahoe, where people go to get away from everyday life, and with a dad like Trick McHale, a ski bum avoiding real life, Mara can figure things out.
Except Tahoe is nothing like she thought it would be. There are awesome new friends and a chance to finally get to know Trick, but there are also still massive amounts of schoolwork. Can Mara find a balance between the future and the now, or will she miss out on both?

About the Author

Kim Culbertson is the author of Catch a Falling Star; Instructions for a Broken Heart, a Northern California Book Award winner; and Songs for a Teenage Nomad. When she’s not writing young adult novels, she teaches high school creative writing. Kim lives with her husband and their daughter in Northern California. For more about Kim, visit www.kimculbertson.com.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Culbertson about The Possibility of Now, books, writing, and just life in general.
Where did the idea for The Possibility of Now come from?
I’ve been a high school teacher for 18 years and I’ve long thought that too much of our educational (and extracurricular) culture relies on external reward, high-pressure comparison, and the idea that young people should be certain about their futures before they truly know who they are or what they want. My concerns with these parts of our educational and parental culture fueled much of Mara’s story. But I also wanted to write something uplifting, something hopeful and even funny. So I tried to balance the serious issues with the idea that we can change our lives for the better. Sometimes, it starts with changing our own outlooks.
What is your favorite book at the moment?
I get different book crushes all the time. Right now, I’m crushing on Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Such a great concept and structure and the writing just sings.
What was your favorite thing about writing The Possibility of Now?
I set the book in Tahoe, predominately in Squaw Valley, and my favorite part was getting to write in Tahoe and enjoy the mountains during the process. Rough life, I know.
How is The Possibility of Now different from your other books?
I hope all my books are both different from and similar to each other. In each novel, the characters are different, the struggles they are going through are specific and unique to them. And the settings change. But I do hope they are similar in that I want to write books that allow readers to think about bigger issues while still finding humor in how absurd the world can be.
Which of your characters do you relate the most to?
Oh, I relate to all of my main characters in some way or I couldn’t write them. Mara probably hits the closest to home– her struggle with perfectionism, her sense of humor, her frustration with wanting to do good work but not having time to enjoy the little things in life the way she wishes she could.
How have your life experiences affected your writing?
My teaching has impacted my writing most of all. Each of my novels has grown out of something I’ve watched my students experience.
Do you have any advice for perfectionists and overachievers, like your main character?
Do the work to understand what drives you. I’ve been reading a lot of positive psychology over the last few years and it’s something I’m growing increasingly interested in both as a teacher and as a human. I’m intrigued by the concept of training our brains to be more positive, and also training our brains to forgive ourselves when we get down or fall short of our expectations.
What is your favorite quote from The Possibility of Now?
I really don’t have a favorite quote, but these are two that come to mind:
This first one comes late in the novel when Mara has a realization that even if she falls short of her goals, the baseline of her life is already amazing. Feeling successful is often about perspective:
“I can either let the world turn me sour and hateful and afraid. Or I can face it…with as much grace and humor as possible. Wherever I land, I am the common denominator in my own life. For those of us lucky enough to be born in my type of life, it’s often about our point of view, to believe we’re already winning just by getting out of bed.”
The other quote I like concerns the idea that we worry too much about what other people think about us when, mostly, other people aren’t even paying attention. A friend of her dad’s tells Mara,
“Most people are just looking for their car keys.”
How has writing affected your life?
It has made me more compassionate. I love that I have to examine the heart and mind of each character, really get into what makes him or her tick, so that I can try to write them as truthfully as possible. This sort of daily exercise forces me to try to understand their motivations and insecurities and this makes me generally more compassionate toward people. Most people, anyway.
Why do you write young adult books?
My writing has always been an extension of my teaching. My books have grown out of my discussions with my students over the past 18 years as well as things I experience now as a mother.


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As always, thanks to Nori @ ReadWriteLove28 for hosting and organizing this wonderful Sunday Street Team adventure!


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