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Larkin About In America: Teen readers, hope for the future

Does your heart beat extra fast these days when, despite your intention not to open the New York Times on-line until after breakfast, you do, because, like everyone around you, you can’t help yourself?

And when you find out that yesterday’s drama was nothing in comparison with today’s, does the anxiety that begins early in the a.m. escalate throughout the day? Leaving you on the verge of despair by the end of the week?

If so, here’s something that might help. Turn off your computer and shift your attention to what the teenagers are doing.

Easy for me to say, of course, because I live with two of them.

Generally speaking, my kids would prefer me not to hang out with their friends – or speak to anyone at all, actually. Whenever my 16-year-old son brings his friends over for pizza, he whispers: “Can you go to your studio now, Mom?” And some of the time I do, resisting the urge to bow and exit backwards like a middle-aged British Geisha.

But sometimes my kids have to hang out with me because they can’t drive yet.

So when my 14-year-old daughter asked me to drive her and her friend to the Teen Book Fest in Rochester to see Sarah J. Maas last weekend, I said “Yes.”

In case you don’t know, Sarah J. Maas is the No. 1 NY Times bestselling author of The Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses fantasy series. She has the same effect on today’s teens that rock stars had on you and me in the olden days. She’s so popular she injured her hand from signing so many books.

My two passengers are talking about her books in the back of the car.

“I love how Sarah creates her own world. Like J. K. Rowling.”

“And George MacDonald.” I say, piping in from the front as we whizz past the sign for Schenectady.


“He wrote The Princess and the Goblin. It was the first ever fantasy novel, written in 1872,” I say. I know, because I narrated the audiobook. “He had a huge influence on C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.”

“OMG! Sarah J. Maas says she’s totally influenced by Tolkien! So I guess she owes a lot to George MacDonald, too.”


The girls glance at the back of their chauffeur for a nanosecond, then return to their reading.

When we walk into the Nazareth College gym at Teen Book Fest the next morning, there are over 1,500 teenagers cheering and screaming as the authors are introduced.

“Who’s the guy?” I say pointing to a cool dude at the end of the stage.

“That’s David Levithan. He writes about LBGTQ issues and stuff.”

They’re writing about things that teenagers are struggling with. I’m reminded of The Fault in Our Stars, John Green’s powerful novel about teenagers dealing with cancer.

There’s another wave of cheering now.

“OMG! It’s Tamara Ireland Stone!”

“What did she write?”

“Every Last Word. About someone with mental illness who finds her voice through poetry.”

“That sounds…”

But they’ve gone. Hurrying into the crowd to hear the first author talk, then take a writing workshop, then stand in line for an hour so the authors can sign their books.

In a couple of years these kids will be voting. Then they’ll be running the country. And I find my worry over the future easing a little.

Read blog at The Berkshire Edge here.

Adopting America – conversation overheard in a cinema

I’m alone at the cinema waiting for the movie to start, half way through my first box of Raisinets when I hear the following conversation in the row behind me.

Woman One: “You’re a saint, Sherry. Adopting that little girl no one else wanted. I am just so proud of you!”

Woman Two: “We’d wanted an infant, but adoption’s so hard these days, especially when you’re older, so we took a three year old.”

The sound of popcorn munching.

Woman Two: “Just think what kind of a life she’d be facing if it weren’t for you! You’re a saint, Sherry!”

“Excuse me,” I say, turning towards them, “I hate to interrupt, but I was adopted.”

They’re smiling at me. There’s nothing like an English accent at times like these.


“Yes. And isn’t it true that you are adopting a child because you couldn’t have children of your own and wanted to be a parent?”

“Yes,” says Woman Two.

“Then you’re not adopting because you’re a saint, are you?”

“I suppose not.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, honestly I don’t, but I just think people should be honest about what they’re doing, that’s all. Raisinet anyone?”

Alison talks about adoption in her new show Alison Larkin Live! BOOK ALISON for you next event.

Jane Austen and Friday Night LIVE!

Alison Larkin directing

Alison Larkin directing a comedy show with ten American teenagers.

This week I am directing and emceeing a comedy show with ten American teenagers. It’s 2017 and this is Trump’s America so of course there will be political commentary – but the kids will be satirizing the world around them in other ways. Some of them are extremely funny.

At the same time I’ve been asked to write a blog about the just-released audiobook of Northanger Abbey and The History of England by Jane Austen which had me laughing out loud in the studio during the narration.

Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen’s first novel and it is, amongst many other things, a mischievous parody of The Mysteries of Udolpho, (a hugely popular Gothic novel of the time – think 18th Century Twilight).

A few years earlier, in 1791, when she was just 16, Jane Austen wrote “The History of England – by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant Historian.” Then she added N.B. There will be very few Dates in this History.”

The History of England is a parody of a text book all school children had to study at the time in which the young Jane Austen pokes fun at the historians of the day who pretended to be objective when they clearly were not, and wrote about the kings and queens of England with less respect (and more wit) than a British newspaper.

Friday Night LIVE! satirizes politics, school and a host of other things through a combination of sketch, improv and stand-up comedy.

Is there a link between a British novelist and ten American teenagers performing comedy in a small American town over 200 years later?  You tell me.

Northanger Abbey audiobookTo download the audiobook of Northanger Abbey and The History of England narrated by Alison Larkin, click here. For every audiobook bought through THIS link, $5.00 will be donated to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation.

“Raised in England by adoptive parents, Alison Larkin was actually born in America. She herself is a comic writer and performer—and she approaches Austen as a satirist—she has genuine theatrical skill—sustained comic creations. The voice reveals all.”
—The New Yorker