Monthly Archives: March 2017

Emma Donoghue Helps Kids Deal With Dementia (And Still Has Fun) In ‘The Lotterys’


Readers may remember Emma Donoghue for her blockbuster novel Room — the one about a happy little boy growing up in horrifying conditions: Born into captivity. Mom abducted.

Where Room was darkness pierced with light, Donoghue’s latest — it’s actually for young readers — is pretty much all light. Even the idea came out of fun, Donoghue says. “I don’t usually make up my books during dinner parties, but this one came out of a conversation in a very raucous, noisy New Year’s Eve dinner party,” she remembers. “My hostess said to me, ‘How come there aren’t good books for middle grade that feature kids with two mothers? You know, write me one, Emma,’ she said. And then I thought, while I’m at it, let’s make it really big — you know, go big or go home.”

So Donoghue dreamed up a big, boisterous, diverse family, one that starts with two sets of same sex couples deciding to have children: “Once upon a time, a man from Delhi and man from Yukon fell in love, and so did a woman from Jamaica and a Mohawk woman. The two couples became best friends and had a baby together. When they won the lottery, they gave up their jobs and found a big old house where their family could learn and grow … and grow some more.”

The book is called The Lotterys Plus One. The family, by the way, grows to include seven kids. And that “plus one” of the title turns out to be the addition that tips the family over the edge.

Interview Highlights

On Sumac, our guide to the family

I would say Sumac — and by the way, all the children are named after trees, because the parents are such hippies — Sumac is the one who sort of keeps them all up to the mark. You know, she organizes the family photos slide shows … and I liked the idea of taking this good girl and plunking her down in a very chaotic household. She’s surrounded by siblings behaving badly, and often parents … so I liked the idea that the sensible, really naturally introverted one, would be sort of the ringmasters of all this chaos, perhaps.

On “Grumps,” the grandfather who comes to live with the Lotterys after being diagnosed with dementia

Well, in a way, the novel is all about culture clash, and although Sumac is perfectly welcoming in general, it’s hard for her to make room for this curmudgeonly old man who has never sought out his son’s family, doesn’t like his son being gay, even. So you know, he’s critical of every aspect of the house … he’s really an antagonistic house guest to have, and of course he’s wretchedly unhappy at suddenly being yanked away from his own independent life. So really, the novel tries to deal sympathetically with the fact that there’s some right on all sides here.

On writing about dementia for young readers

This is one of the first things I decided about the book, because my own mum has been living with dementia for six years now, and she had just been diagnosed when I planned this book. And everything I read about dementia for children had a dreary tone to it, a sort of “let’s stop the action and all give you sad facts,” you know? So I don’t believe there’s any subject that can’t be handled with a little bit of spark, so I try and make it very accurate, but also accept the humor that can be in misunderstandings, and let him be a real character, not a textbook — and above all, I avoided being too sad, in that the children didn’t know this grandfather before, so they’re forming a brand new relationship with this man. It’s not about seeing a loving relationship ebb away.

Editor Shannon Rhoades, producer Danny Hajek and web producer Petra Mayer contributed to this story.

Emma Donoghue Helps Kids Deal With Dementia (And Still Has Fun) In ‘The Lotterys’


Readers may remember Emma Donoghue for her blockbuster novel Room — the one about a happy little boy growing up in horrifying conditions: Born into captivity. Mom abducted.

Where Room was darkness pierced with light, Donoghue’s latest — it’s actually for young readers — is pretty much all light. Even the idea came out of fun, Donoghue says. “I don’t usually make up my books during dinner parties, but this one came out of a conversation in a very raucous, noisy New Year’s Eve dinner party,” she remembers. “My hostess said to me, ‘How come there aren’t good books for middle grade that feature kids with two mothers? You know, write me one, Emma,’ she said. And then I thought, while I’m at it, let’s make it really big — you know, go big or go home.”

So Donoghue dreamed up a big, boisterous, diverse family, one that starts with two sets of same sex couples deciding to have children: “Once upon a time, a man from Delhi and man from Yukon fell in love, and so did a woman from Jamaica and a Mohawk woman. The two couples became best friends and had a baby together. When they won the lottery, they gave up their jobs and found a big old house where their family could learn and grow … and grow some more.”

The book is called The Lotterys Plus One. The family, by the way, grows to include seven kids. And that “plus one” of the title turns out to be the addition that tips the family over the edge.

Interview Highlights

On Sumac, our guide to the family

I would say Sumac — and by the way, all the children are named after trees, because the parents are such hippies — Sumac is the one who sort of keeps them all up to the mark. You know, she organizes the family photos slide shows … and I liked the idea of taking this good girl and plunking her down in a very chaotic household. She’s surrounded by siblings behaving badly, and often parents … so I liked the idea that the sensible, really naturally introverted one, would be sort of the ringmasters of all this chaos, perhaps.

On “Grumps,” the grandfather who comes to live with the Lotterys after being diagnosed with dementia

Well, in a way, the novel is all about culture clash, and although Sumac is perfectly welcoming in general, it’s hard for her to make room for this curmudgeonly old man who has never sought out his son’s family, doesn’t like his son being gay, even. So you know, he’s critical of every aspect of the house … he’s really an antagonistic house guest to have, and of course he’s wretchedly unhappy at suddenly being yanked away from his own independent life. So really, the novel tries to deal sympathetically with the fact that there’s some right on all sides here.

On writing about dementia for young readers

This is one of the first things I decided about the book, because my own mum has been living with dementia for six years now, and she had just been diagnosed when I planned this book. And everything I read about dementia for children had a dreary tone to it, a sort of “let’s stop the action and all give you sad facts,” you know? So I don’t believe there’s any subject that can’t be handled with a little bit of spark, so I try and make it very accurate, but also accept the humor that can be in misunderstandings, and let him be a real character, not a textbook — and above all, I avoided being too sad, in that the children didn’t know this grandfather before, so they’re forming a brand new relationship with this man. It’s not about seeing a loving relationship ebb away.

Editor Shannon Rhoades, producer Danny Hajek and web producer Petra Mayer contributed to this story.

Emma Donoghue Helps Kids Deal With Dementia (And Still Has Fun) In ‘The Lotterys’


Readers may remember Emma Donoghue for her blockbuster novel Room — the one about a happy little boy growing up in horrifying conditions: Born into captivity. Mom abducted.

Where Room was darkness pierced with light, Donoghue’s latest — it’s actually for young readers — is pretty much all light. Even the idea came out of fun, Donoghue says. “I don’t usually make up my books during dinner parties, but this one came out of a conversation in a very raucous, noisy New Year’s Eve dinner party,” she remembers. “My hostess said to me, ‘How come there aren’t good books for middle grade that feature kids with two mothers? You know, write me one, Emma,’ she said. And then I thought, while I’m at it, let’s make it really big — you know, go big or go home.”

So Donoghue dreamed up a big, boisterous, diverse family, one that starts with two sets of same sex couples deciding to have children: “Once upon a time, a man from Delhi and man from Yukon fell in love, and so did a woman from Jamaica and a Mohawk woman. The two couples became best friends and had a baby together. When they won the lottery, they gave up their jobs and found a big old house where their family could learn and grow … and grow some more.”

The book is called The Lotterys Plus One. The family, by the way, grows to include seven kids. And that “plus one” of the title turns out to be the addition that tips the family over the edge.

Interview Highlights

On Sumac, our guide to the family

I would say Sumac — and by the way, all the children are named after trees, because the parents are such hippies — Sumac is the one who sort of keeps them all up to the mark. You know, she organizes the family photos slide shows … and I liked the idea of taking this good girl and plunking her down in a very chaotic household. She’s surrounded by siblings behaving badly, and often parents … so I liked the idea that the sensible, really naturally introverted one, would be sort of the ringmasters of all this chaos, perhaps.

On “Grumps,” the grandfather who comes to live with the Lotterys after being diagnosed with dementia

Well, in a way, the novel is all about culture clash, and although Sumac is perfectly welcoming in general, it’s hard for her to make room for this curmudgeonly old man who has never sought out his son’s family, doesn’t like his son being gay, even. So you know, he’s critical of every aspect of the house … he’s really an antagonistic house guest to have, and of course he’s wretchedly unhappy at suddenly being yanked away from his own independent life. So really, the novel tries to deal sympathetically with the fact that there’s some right on all sides here.

On writing about dementia for young readers

This is one of the first things I decided about the book, because my own mum has been living with dementia for six years now, and she had just been diagnosed when I planned this book. And everything I read about dementia for children had a dreary tone to it, a sort of “let’s stop the action and all give you sad facts,” you know? So I don’t believe there’s any subject that can’t be handled with a little bit of spark, so I try and make it very accurate, but also accept the humor that can be in misunderstandings, and let him be a real character, not a textbook — and above all, I avoided being too sad, in that the children didn’t know this grandfather before, so they’re forming a brand new relationship with this man. It’s not about seeing a loving relationship ebb away.

Editor Shannon Rhoades, producer Danny Hajek and web producer Petra Mayer contributed to this story.

‘Wait Till You See Me Dance’ Is A Marvelous Waltz Of Misdirection


Wait Till You See Me Dance

Stories

by Deb Olin Unferth

Paperback, 190 pages |

purchase

“I’m not saying it’s proper or right to love a student, and I’m not going to pretend I never did anything about it, because I did, but I can say I didn’t do much,” says the narrator of Deb Olin Unferth’s title story, “Wait Till You See Me Dance.”

“All I did was to bring the office assistant to the dance and threaten to kill her.”

Unferth knows how to change direction. Her absurd and tender story collection is full of sentences like clear glass doors, and you, reader, are the bird.

Of the student she is in love with, the narrator writes: “The thing about the kid’s music was that you didn’t know what was going to happen next. You’d think you knew where it was going but you were wrong. There are very few parts of life like that.”

Unferth’s characters are often people whose potential is unfulfilled — an adjunct professor, an ineffective insurgent, disillusioned spouses, a bad father trying to mentor a prison inmate. The way she writes these people is reminiscent of the unsentimental, often absurd, compassion of George Saunders, for whom there are no heroes and villains, just various kinds of achingly familiar weirdos trying to inhabit the same planet without more humiliation than is necessary.

Her humor often takes the form of reducing things to their essences. In one story, an academic says, “I was what is called an adjunct: a thing attached to another thing in a dependent or subordinate position.” Another story is just deadpan summaries of opera plots: “Susannah is kicked out of the church and her fiancé is unfaithful. Men from the military step out, do a ballet dance. There is foreboding. There is noise in the distance. Women shriek and the enemy dies.”

Writing moods in sequence is easy enough: love, hope, disappointment, despair, hope again. Behold, a story! But what about the thing a person is more likely to feel, which is love mixed with shame mixed with fear mixed with hope, plus nausea and an unaccountable spasming of the sphincter? That mood is harder to create, but Unferth does it in her story “Voltaire Night.” It takes a certain kind of writer not to just capture a mood but capture all the conflicting and confusing and shifting layers of it.

In “37 Seconds,” a couple fights. She documents all the things that could take 37 seconds — blame, denial, “a mango falls in a nearby field,” brooding, the “emergence of a cramp behind his left eye,” an “apology (forlorn cows standing around, military police a few meters off): she didn’t mean it, she loves him, he is wanted.” And so on. This multiplicity of feeling is wonderful; it’s like she’s swirling all these different colors of paint together but stops while it’s all still just thinly marbled together, right in the moment before it turns undifferentiated mud-brown.

Her readers, too, are kept on ten different uneasy levels. In one story, a gunman decides whether or not to shoot a little girl climbing a sand dune:

“If she lives, if the shooter doesn’t pull the trigger, later the surprise of herself will dull. She’ll grow familiar (or frightening) to herself, then bored (or desperate). Then will come that inconvenient teenage self-hatred, like an avalanche, the worst of it hurled at the poor mother, another entry in the ledger of bad luck. But the girl would soften later, she would unstiffen over the years, over the decades, by degrees, until one day thirty years after this day on the dune, she would achieve the middle-age calm that is happiness. The simplicity of the formula somehow takes that many years to reach. She would take a trip to Hawaii and bring her aging mother, leaving her own children and sister behind, and she and her mother would have the time of their lives (well, not exactly, but it would have its moments).”

We start out with hope and fear (don’t shoot the little girl!) and then those feelings blossom and scatter into a mire of more complex and indistinct feelings and thoughts (oh god am I old? is my happiness just the calm of giving up? Should he just shoot the kid? Could there be redemption after all? I should call my mom). The temptation to write neat and linear cause-and-effect is overwhelming. But Unferth resists, because the truth is that we contain queasy, flickering, tender multitudes.

How Do You Dream Up A Cockatoo Feast? An Artist Explains In ‘Imaginarium’


Up & Away, 2011

Claire Rosen


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Claire Rosen

Up & Away, 2011

Claire Rosen

Looking at Claire Rosen’s photographs can feel like walking into someone else’s dreams. One of her images shows a young girl about to be dragged into the sky by a pack of flying toy horses. Another series shows horses, hedgehogs, cockatoos and camels posed before different sumptuous feasts, as if having their own last suppers.

The Moluccan Cockatoo Feast, from the series The Fantastical Feasts, 2014

Claire Rosen


hide caption

toggle caption

Claire Rosen

The Moluccan Cockatoo Feast, from the series The Fantastical Feasts, 2014

Claire Rosen

“I have a very sort of whimsical, surreal, view of the world that is deeply rooted in magic and fairy tales,” Rosen says. She couples that worldview with a deep appreciation for classical painting.

Imaginarium

The Process Behind the Pictures

by Claire Rosen

Paperback, 288 pages |

purchase

The award-winning photographer mines fairy tales, and the strange beauty of the natural world. Her work, she says, serves as a vehicle, “to have this sense of adventure and exploration in the world, and to be able to learn things, and see new places, and meet interesting people.”

Rosen explores the creative process in her new book Imaginarium — it’s filled with inspiring quotations, practical advice, resources and required reading, as well as thoughtful meditations on the methods of making art.

Interview Highlights

On realizing how much of her inspiration came from images she saw in childhood

That was a big revelation for me. … I looked back at the things I was doing in my childhood, and the things that I cared about then … really imprinted this aesthetic on me that is carried through my work. For example, I spent a lot of time at the Museum of Natural History when I was little in New York, and my mom jokes that I would cry when we had to leave because I wanted to crawl into the dioramas with the animals and stay there. We would go to The Met frequently and I would get lost in those paintings.

Even recently — I thought I was very original with my animal feasts project — and I dug up a bunch of my childhood books and there are all these wonderful children’s illustrations of animals eating dinner, and having parties, and carrying on in anthropomorphic ways. And I thought: I’m not being particularly original — I saw this when I was 5 years old. That’s been very interesting to connect those dots.

Classics, from Fairy Tales & Other Stories, 2009

Claire Rosen


hide caption

toggle caption

Claire Rosen

On carving out space for creativity

I think that it’s amazing if you can take control of curating the input of your life. … I think it’s very easy to get sucked into a very busy, monotonous work life, and when you get home and you want to unwind, all you want to do is sit down and watch Netflix. But I think [one should try] to fight that — to actively curate your life so that you are having interesting experiences in the world.

The Hedgehog Feast, from the series The Fantastical Feasts, 2014

Claire Rosen


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toggle caption

Claire Rosen

On seeking out creative activities

I don’t know that it has to be the sort of traditional formula of going to a museum. Maybe you take up archery. Maybe you are doing pottery but you’re really a banker. Maybe you’re going to see a talk on a field that has nothing to do with what you do. Or traveling. But [the important thing is] that you are seeking out experiences outside of your comfort zone, that you are experimenting and exploring and figuring out what it is that you actually like. You may come across something that you never knew you were interested in.

50.0755° N, 14.4378° E The Traveling Mouse outside of Strahov Monastery in Prague, Czech Republic, 2015

Claire Rosen


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Claire Rosen

50.0755° N, 14.4378° E The Traveling Mouse outside of Strahov Monastery in Prague, Czech Republic, 2015

Claire Rosen

Radio producer Ravenna Koenig, radio editor Jordana Hochman and web producer Beth Novey contributed to this report.

Forget F. Scott: In ‘Z,’ Christina Ricci Tells Zelda Fitzgerald’s Story


Christina Ricci plays Zelda Fitzgerald in Amazon’s Z.

Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video


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Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video

Christina Ricci plays Zelda Fitzgerald in Amazon’s Z.

Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video

Christina Ricci’s film career began early — at just 10 years old, she played the adorably malevolent Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family. From there, she went on to play fascinating and often dark and damaged characters, making a name for herself as an actress who could tap into complex roles.

Ricci’s latest project is no exception: She plays Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, in Amazon’s biographical series Z: The Beginning of Everything. Zelda was known for her beauty and high spirits — her husband said she was the first American flapper — but she also struggled with mental illness and alcoholism.

Ricci explains a common misconception about Zelda: “that she was this alcoholic crazy woman who ruined F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, and if not for her he would have had a great life.” It’s an idea that was popularized by writer Ernest Hemingway. But as the actress points out, “He was a huge misogynist.” The truth, she says, is much more complicated.

Interview Highlights

On Zelda’s story

She was in a very dysfunctional marriage with F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was very young when she met him. They were both incredibly arrogant and narcissistic. And what she loved about him was that he recognized in her a talent for writing, an intelligence, a creativity that nobody had really recognized in her before. And so, initially, she loved this and she felt that by being his muse, she would then be allowed to have a career of her own. But it turned out that he was not comfortable with her ever achieving any success even close to his. It was a very competitive relationship. And no matter what she tried to do, she was never allowed to be anything more than his wife, and that wasn’t enough for her. And it ultimately led to her nervous breakdown.

On the challenges Ricci faces when it comes to casting

I think until this I haven’t really been viewed as a romantic lead. And I think in some ways the image I presented of myself throughout the years has caused people to have a hard time casting me. …

One of the things that has actually been hard for me, in terms of being cast in things, is that I am very youthful seeming. The way that I speak, the way that I act — it’s very young. … And I also tend to speak like a teenager. I just have a very teenaged thing, which I’m trying to overcome. You’re very easily dismissed if you’re a small woman who looks young and then talks like an idiot, or a teenager. It’s not a good look. … I say “like” a lot and “you know” a lot and all these things and I’m trying to fight them.

“[Zelda] was in a very dysfunctional marriage with F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Ricci says. (Pictured: Ricci and David Hoflin)

Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video


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Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video

“[Zelda] was in a very dysfunctional marriage with F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Ricci says. (Pictured: Ricci and David Hoflin)

Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video

On how she looks back on her career as a child actor

I don’t regret having started so young because I’m in such a great place and I’ve been so incredibly lucky in my life. But having gone through it, I can objectively say I don’t think children should be making life decisions. … I think it’s very difficult for children to contextualize fame. And if there’s no reference, there’s no life experience, they can’t necessarily contextualize achievement. So then there’s no barometer. If the first exposure to society is crazy fame and awards, where does a child put that? It becomes something that isn’t special. So what comes after that?

On what she would say if her son told her he wanted to be a child actor

I would wait until he was an adult and have him treat it like a real art form and a craft and go to school for it and have respect for it, and respect for any kind of achievement. Anything he achieves in this industry I think shouldn’t come too easily.

Editor Barrie Hardymon, producer Ned Wharton and digital producer Nicole Cohen contributed to this report.

‘Wait Till You See Me Dance’ Is A Marvelous Waltz Of Misdirection


Wait Till You See Me Dance

Stories

by Deb Olin Unferth

Paperback, 190 pages |

purchase

“I’m not saying it’s proper or right to love a student, and I’m not going to pretend I never did anything about it, because I did, but I can say I didn’t do much,” says the narrator of Deb Olin Unferth’s title story, “Wait Till You See Me Dance.”

“All I did was to bring the office assistant to the dance and threaten to kill her.”

Unferth knows how to change direction. Her absurd and tender story collection is full of sentences like clear glass doors, and you, reader, are the bird.

Of the student she is in love with, the narrator writes: “The thing about the kid’s music was that you didn’t know what was going to happen next. You’d think you knew where it was going but you were wrong. There are very few parts of life like that.”

Unferth’s characters are often people whose potential is unfulfilled — an adjunct professor, an ineffective insurgent, disillusioned spouses, a bad father trying to mentor a prison inmate. The way she writes these people is reminiscent of the unsentimental, often absurd, compassion of George Saunders, for whom there are no heroes and villains, just various kinds of achingly familiar weirdos trying to inhabit the same planet without more humiliation than is necessary.

Her humor often takes the form of reducing things to their essences. In one story, an academic says, “I was what is called an adjunct: a thing attached to another thing in a dependent or subordinate position.” Another story is just deadpan summaries of opera plots: “Susannah is kicked out of the church and her fiancé is unfaithful. Men from the military step out, do a ballet dance. There is foreboding. There is noise in the distance. Women shriek and the enemy dies.”

Writing moods in sequence is easy enough: love, hope, disappointment, despair, hope again. Behold, a story! But what about the thing a person is more likely to feel, which is love mixed with shame mixed with fear mixed with hope, plus nausea and an unaccountable spasming of the sphincter? That mood is harder to create, but Unferth does it in her story “Voltaire Night.” It takes a certain kind of writer not to just capture a mood but capture all the conflicting and confusing and shifting layers of it.

In “37 Seconds,” a couple fights. She documents all the things that could take 37 seconds — blame, denial, “a mango falls in a nearby field,” brooding, the “emergence of a cramp behind his left eye,” an “apology (forlorn cows standing around, military police a few meters off): she didn’t mean it, she loves him, he is wanted.” And so on. This multiplicity of feeling is wonderful; it’s like she’s swirling all these different colors of paint together but stops while it’s all still just thinly marbled together, right in the moment before it turns undifferentiated mud-brown.

Her readers, too, are kept on ten different uneasy levels. In one story, a gunman decides whether or not to shoot a little girl climbing a sand dune:

“If she lives, if the shooter doesn’t pull the trigger, later the surprise of herself will dull. She’ll grow familiar (or frightening) to herself, then bored (or desperate). Then will come that inconvenient teenage self-hatred, like an avalanche, the worst of it hurled at the poor mother, another entry in the ledger of bad luck. But the girl would soften later, she would unstiffen over the years, over the decades, by degrees, until one day thirty years after this day on the dune, she would achieve the middle-age calm that is happiness. The simplicity of the formula somehow takes that many years to reach. She would take a trip to Hawaii and bring her aging mother, leaving her own children and sister behind, and she and her mother would have the time of their lives (well, not exactly, but it would have its moments).”

We start out with hope and fear (don’t shoot the little girl!) and then those feelings blossom and scatter into a mire of more complex and indistinct feelings and thoughts (oh god am I old? is my happiness just the calm of giving up? Should he just shoot the kid? Could there be redemption after all? I should call my mom). The temptation to write neat and linear cause-and-effect is overwhelming. But Unferth resists, because the truth is that we contain queasy, flickering, tender multitudes.

How Do You Dream Up A Cockatoo Feast? An Artist Explains In ‘Imaginarium’


Up & Away, 2011

Claire Rosen


hide caption

toggle caption

Claire Rosen

Up & Away, 2011

Claire Rosen

Looking at Claire Rosen’s photographs can feel like walking into someone else’s dreams. One of her images shows a young girl about to be dragged into the sky by a pack of flying toy horses. Another series shows horses, hedgehogs, cockatoos and camels posed before different sumptuous feasts, as if having their own last suppers.

The Moluccan Cockatoo Feast, from the series The Fantastical Feasts, 2014

Claire Rosen


hide caption

toggle caption

Claire Rosen

The Moluccan Cockatoo Feast, from the series The Fantastical Feasts, 2014

Claire Rosen

“I have a very sort of whimsical, surreal, view of the world that is deeply rooted in magic and fairy tales,” Rosen says. She couples that worldview with a deep appreciation for classical painting.

Imaginarium

The Process Behind the Pictures

by Claire Rosen

Paperback, 288 pages |

purchase

The award-winning photographer mines fairy tales, and the strange beauty of the natural world. Her work, she says, serves as a vehicle, “to have this sense of adventure and exploration in the world, and to be able to learn things, and see new places, and meet interesting people.”

Rosen explores the creative process in her new book Imaginarium — it’s filled with inspiring quotations, practical advice, resources and required reading, as well as thoughtful meditations on the methods of making art.

Interview Highlights

On realizing how much of her inspiration came from images she saw in childhood

That was a big revelation for me. … I looked back at the things I was doing in my childhood, and the things that I cared about then … really imprinted this aesthetic on me that is carried through my work. For example, I spent a lot of time at the Museum of Natural History when I was little in New York, and my mom jokes that I would cry when we had to leave because I wanted to crawl into the dioramas with the animals and stay there. We would go to The Met frequently and I would get lost in those paintings.

Even recently — I thought I was very original with my animal feasts project — and I dug up a bunch of my childhood books and there are all these wonderful children’s illustrations of animals eating dinner, and having parties, and carrying on in anthropomorphic ways. And I thought: I’m not being particularly original — I saw this when I was 5 years old. That’s been very interesting to connect those dots.

Classics, from Fairy Tales & Other Stories, 2009

Claire Rosen


hide caption

toggle caption

Claire Rosen

On carving out space for creativity

I think that it’s amazing if you can take control of curating the input of your life. … I think it’s very easy to get sucked into a very busy, monotonous work life, and when you get home and you want to unwind, all you want to do is sit down and watch Netflix. But I think [one should try] to fight that — to actively curate your life so that you are having interesting experiences in the world.

The Hedgehog Feast, from the series The Fantastical Feasts, 2014

Claire Rosen


hide caption

toggle caption

Claire Rosen

On seeking out creative activities

I don’t know that it has to be the sort of traditional formula of going to a museum. Maybe you take up archery. Maybe you are doing pottery but you’re really a banker. Maybe you’re going to see a talk on a field that has nothing to do with what you do. Or traveling. But [the important thing is] that you are seeking out experiences outside of your comfort zone, that you are experimenting and exploring and figuring out what it is that you actually like. You may come across something that you never knew you were interested in.

50.0755° N, 14.4378° E The Traveling Mouse outside of Strahov Monastery in Prague, Czech Republic, 2015

Claire Rosen


hide caption

toggle caption

Claire Rosen

50.0755° N, 14.4378° E The Traveling Mouse outside of Strahov Monastery in Prague, Czech Republic, 2015

Claire Rosen

Radio producer Ravenna Koenig, radio editor Jordana Hochman and web producer Beth Novey contributed to this report.

Forget F. Scott: In ‘Z,’ Christina Ricci Tells Zelda Fitzgerald’s Story


Christina Ricci plays Zelda Fitzgerald in Amazon’s Z.

Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video


hide caption

toggle caption

Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video

Christina Ricci plays Zelda Fitzgerald in Amazon’s Z.

Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video

Christina Ricci’s film career began early — at just 10 years old, she played the adorably malevolent Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family. From there, she went on to play fascinating and often dark and damaged characters, making a name for herself as an actress who could tap into complex roles.

Ricci’s latest project is no exception: She plays Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, in Amazon’s biographical series Z: The Beginning of Everything. Zelda was known for her beauty and high spirits — her husband said she was the first American flapper — but she also struggled with mental illness and alcoholism.

Ricci explains a common misconception about Zelda: “that she was this alcoholic crazy woman who ruined F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, and if not for her he would have had a great life.” It’s an idea that was popularized by writer Ernest Hemingway. But as the actress points out, “He was a huge misogynist.” The truth, she says, is much more complicated.

Interview Highlights

On Zelda’s story

She was in a very dysfunctional marriage with F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was very young when she met him. They were both incredibly arrogant and narcissistic. And what she loved about him was that he recognized in her a talent for writing, an intelligence, a creativity that nobody had really recognized in her before. And so, initially, she loved this and she felt that by being his muse, she would then be allowed to have a career of her own. But it turned out that he was not comfortable with her ever achieving any success even close to his. It was a very competitive relationship. And no matter what she tried to do, she was never allowed to be anything more than his wife, and that wasn’t enough for her. And it ultimately led to her nervous breakdown.

On the challenges Ricci faces when it comes to casting

I think until this I haven’t really been viewed as a romantic lead. And I think in some ways the image I presented of myself throughout the years has caused people to have a hard time casting me. …

One of the things that has actually been hard for me, in terms of being cast in things, is that I am very youthful seeming. The way that I speak, the way that I act — it’s very young. … And I also tend to speak like a teenager. I just have a very teenaged thing, which I’m trying to overcome. You’re very easily dismissed if you’re a small woman who looks young and then talks like an idiot, or a teenager. It’s not a good look. … I say “like” a lot and “you know” a lot and all these things and I’m trying to fight them.

“[Zelda] was in a very dysfunctional marriage with F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Ricci says. (Pictured: Ricci and David Hoflin)

Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video


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Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video

“[Zelda] was in a very dysfunctional marriage with F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Ricci says. (Pictured: Ricci and David Hoflin)

Nicole Rivelli/Amazon Prime Video

On how she looks back on her career as a child actor

I don’t regret having started so young because I’m in such a great place and I’ve been so incredibly lucky in my life. But having gone through it, I can objectively say I don’t think children should be making life decisions. … I think it’s very difficult for children to contextualize fame. And if there’s no reference, there’s no life experience, they can’t necessarily contextualize achievement. So then there’s no barometer. If the first exposure to society is crazy fame and awards, where does a child put that? It becomes something that isn’t special. So what comes after that?

On what she would say if her son told her he wanted to be a child actor

I would wait until he was an adult and have him treat it like a real art form and a craft and go to school for it and have respect for it, and respect for any kind of achievement. Anything he achieves in this industry I think shouldn’t come too easily.

Editor Barrie Hardymon, producer Ned Wharton and digital producer Nicole Cohen contributed to this report.