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Acclaimed novelist in city Friday, Saturday

Acclaimed novelist in city Friday, Saturday

Mar 21, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

When promoting her debut novel, "The Adults," author Alison Espach finds it remarkable that people have read her fiction, and they often show up to hear her read it aloud.

Although she likes that people enjoy the novel, Espach said the experience is surreal from the overwhelming warmth and support she has received from readers.

Espach ventures to Wyoming for the first time as she gives a talk at 7 p.m. Friday, March 23, and a writers workshop at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 24, both at the Riverton Branch Library, 1330 W. Park.

Growing up in Trumbull, Conn., where she lived for most of her life, Espach earned her master's degree in creative writing from Washington University in St. Louis. She teaches creative writing in New York City.

"The Adults" made the Wall Street Journal's Top 10 novels of 2011, earned the New York Times's Editor's Choice designation, and was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick for spring 2011.

The novel centers on Emily Vidal, a smart and snarky teenager exposed to the world of grown-ups and her quest to understand more about life. The novel dissects matters of the heart while wittily "capturing the lives of children and adults as they come to terms with concepts of love, life and death," according to published reviews.

Experiences she came across on a daily basis inspired Espach to write the novel.

"I can be inspired by a line of dialogue, something absurd I heard on the subway, at a party, at the grocery store. I am inspired by conversations and why we choose to have them or not have them. But to be honest, mostly I'm inspired by reading other people's great fiction and watching artful movies," Espach said.

Out of all the characters in the novel, Espach closely relates to the main character, Emily, with the desire to act and think older.

"I was the youngest in a family of five. I was what made the kid's table the kid's table. I thought something would happen to me as I got older, that age and authority made everything a bit more magical. As I realized, that's not entirely the case, and so Emily's journey is in part about the anticlimax, the realizing that perhaps things were better before," Espach said.

When writing the novel, Espach feared the reaction from family and friends, realizing that a reviewer can read the book and hate it but she would still have to eat dinner or take vacations with them.

"I think the content of my book especially was worrisome, as it would force certain members of my family to see me as a human being, a sexual creature, and that's never how we want our family to see us. Not really.

"But I was shocked by the support from friends and family and most of them were able to see the novel as a work of art which made dinnertime conversation just fine," Espach said.

Espach targeted her audience for "The Adults" toward people like her and the friends she forced her fiction upon in graduate school.

"That's the great thing about writing your first book. There's a large part of you that never believes you will be published and have an audience. Therefore, I didn't worry about an audience. I just wrote what I wanted and hoped somebody else out there would like it too," Espach said.

She looks forward to coming to Wyoming and enjoys traveling to different places. In the past five years she has lived in Providence, R.I., St. Louis and Brooklyn, N.Y.

"I like to move around, eat food from different places, and remind myself that the air really does smell, taste, and feel different in various states," Espach said.

Teri Wiblemo, the Riverton library's assistant in charge of adult programming, advertising and marketing, was enthralled by the book and is excited to have the opportunity for Espach to visit the Riverton area. Wiblemo and library assistant Shari Haskins were both on the lookout for a cool and inventive program for the library and wanted to reach for something they deemed unattainable.

"Luckily in the age of the Internet, approaching certain people is easier than ever," Wiblemo said. "I read the book last spring and couldn't put it down. The way Espach captured the voice of adolescence and the fine line between adolescence and being an adult was amazing."

An e-mail was sent to Espach's publicist and Espach herself e-mailed back saying she would be delighted to come to Wyoming. The grant process began, and funding was provided by the Wyoming Arts Council and Friends of the Library group. The program has been in the works for several months.

"It is exciting to be able to expose Riverton to someone they may not come in contact with otherwise," Wiblemo said. "Also, exposing our youth to someone so young, who is 26, and so successful in her craft, and having her come and teach a writers group will be wonderful for everyone to learn from an experienced writer and teacher."

Anyone interested in participating with the writer's workshop on March 24 is asked to register by calling 856-3556.

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