Excerpt from The Tragedy Paper
She was already wrapping a green scarf around her neck and pulling on her coat. When I didn’t move, she stopped and looked at me.
“I’m not going to give up,” she said. “If you don’t come, I guess I’ll just go alone. You know that book If You Give A Moose A Muffin? Well, in this case. If You Give A Girl A Pancake in a Snowstorm…I am unstoppable.”
One of the themes running through The Tragedy Paper is the idea that the universe is out of whack and normal rules don’t apply. The best way I could think of to illustrate that was with snow storms. I think it happens to all of us when it snows a lot, normal life is suspended and something else takes its place. Just this week we had a snow day. In the end it did not snow as much as was predicted, but we switched from our usual weekday mode to an almost vacation day mood – everyone home, lunch out at our favorite deli, trekking through the snow in the city square just a few blocks north of us, throwing snow balls through a strung-up Christmas wreath. And when it is an even bigger storm and everything stops, the mood shifts even more either to lots of excitement or even worry about what it might mean (no travel, no power?). So with the snow comes the good and the possibly bad.
Tim’s story begins and ends with a snow storm – two different storms that bring different outcomes. If his flight had not been delayed that fateful January day, he would have arrived at the Irving School knowing nobody but the headmaster. He might have recognized Vanessa in the halls as the girl who was on his plane – but would he have talked to her? Probably not.At the same time, the snow brought out something in Vanessa that Tim would not have seen without it. Toward the end of the book the second storm also brings excitement along with a sense of doom. I loved writing the dinner scene the night of that second storm – again, everything was suspended. Food was put out for students to take when they wanted it, the English teacher Mr. Simon baked the brownies, Tim’s feet got wet from all the melted snow so he ate barefoot.
There is supposed to be a snow storm again tomorrow. I find myself constantly checking the weather, hoping for the worst. We don’t have to go anywhere, and we live in the city so really how bad could it be? But there is just something about a snow storm…
Elizabeth LaBan lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant critic husband and two children. The Tragedy Paper, published by Knopf in January 2013, is her first young adult novel. She is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Newsday and The Times-Picayune, among other publications, as well as the author of The Grandparents Handbook which was published by Quirk Books.