“I am a firm believer that once you put your intention in the world, the world comes back to meet you,” author Laurie Foos told a riveted audience at a VOICES Reading Thursday Nov. 14. The fourth VOICES speaker of the semester, Foos is a fantastical-realist writer that has published seven works of fiction and has been featured in a variety of magazines and anthologies. At the Reading, she focused primarily on two of her more recent works: magical-realist novella “The Blue Girl” and a young adult realist story called “Toast.”
The lecture opened with remarks from Professor Jennifer Cognard-Black, who introduced Foos as a compelling writer and a compassionate person. Drawing on several opening lines from Foos’ work, including “The blue girl eats secrets in moon pies,” Cognard-Black established the credentials and beauty of Foos’ work. “Her mind is a veritable wonderland,” Cognard-Black said before turning the podium over to the established magic-realism author.
Foos began her reading with her most recent work, “Toast,” a young adult novel that tells the story of nine-year-old Mia and her eight-year-old autistic brother Will who are about to get their first-ever babysitter. Foos explained that the work is a “departure from my usual fantastical stuff” and that she was challenged to keep her middle-grade audience in mind while writing the book, as well as maintaining the genre of realism. However, she also explained that “there’s not much out there about sibling relationships.” As the mother of a young daughter and an autistic son, Foss felt inspired to write on sibling relationships. As she explained, “you have to love something and really feel the need to write about it.” She then read an excerpt from the YA-book, where she began “Will’s toast has to be more tan than brown.” The short excerpts were from the point of view of nine-year-old Mia, who feels both apprehensions at the arrival of the babysitter and a noted responsibility to fulfill her role as the “big sister.”
After reading excerpts from “Toast,” she then moved on to an earlier book, the magical-realist novella “The Blue Girl.” With six point-of-views incorporating three mother-daughter pairs, the book tells the story of a literally blue girl who arrives in a small lake town. The excerpt chosen for this book was from the perspective of local teen Audrey, who saves the blue girl from drowning and tells the story to her younger brother. The excerpt was rife with sharp imagery, such as a description of the blue girl that says she has “skin so blue you could almost see through it and hair like lightning bolts,” and ended with an unfinished-story as the younger brother falls asleep.
Foos finished her lecture by answering questions, where she offered advice to budding authors and spoke on her discovery of magical realism. She shared her thoughts on a potential future YA magical-realism book that is in the works and ended with a vivid description of the writing process: “You have a film-strip in your mind that you’re always trying to get on the page.”
The VOICES Reading Series is an annual St. Mary’s event that began 30 years ago. The next Reading will take place on Dec. 5 and will feature faculty member Nadeem Zaman, a visiting Professor of English who will read from a newly published novel.