This week, Marie Lamba, agent and author of WHAT I MEANT, OVER MY HEAD, and her most recent release, DRAWN, dishes on her own high school experience. You can find Marie at her website, www.marielamba.com.
Tell us about your high school, public or private, size, demographic, location?
I went to Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes, NJ. It was a suburban public high school with about 1500 kids.
Were there cliques at your high school? What were they? Who did you hang with?
There are always cliques! But I really didn’t pay attention to any of that, and had friends across all different groups…athletes, artists, drama kids, nerds…I was friends with them all. (J.Ro here - I notice as writers this seems to true for a lot of us. I think it must be because we study ways of being to be able to put it into words)
Did you have a memorable teacher? Good or bad? How did they influence you?
My honors social studies teacher Mr. Montana was this brilliant guy with a stern face and the driest humor you’d ever encounter. We called him “the friendly stoic” and tried all year to make him crack a smile or laugh. Once we even all suddenly put on nose masks. These are little 3x3 printed silly faces, with a little punch out section where the nose would be, and, yeah, you hang it on your face so that your nose becomes part of the picture. So we all on cue silently put these masks on when he was writing on the board, and when he turned back to the class, his lips trembled, but no. No smile. (Please put that man in a book!)
How did he influence me? I guess I really respected his intelligence and his sense of restrained humor.
Did you have an inkling as a teenager that you would become a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 10 years old, but in high school I was a little discouraged. I got a “C” in journalism, an elective. My parents freaked! And I didn’t win any writing awards and I didn’t score any writing gigs in the town paper like some students did. But I did take honors and AP English classes, and I loved every minute of them.
What book had the biggest impact on you as a high school student? How?
The Once and Future King by T.H. White. If you’ve never read this, you’re in for a treat. The first part of the novel served as the basis of the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone, and this thick novel goes on to chart the life and death of King Arthur. I read this early in high school and was struck by how fun and magical and inventive a novel, even a seriously long one, could be. And for the first time I was filled with sadness when a book ended.
This also set me off on a long-term fascination with King Arthur and the Middle Ages, culminating in me writing my own medieval time-travel novel Drawn.
What band could you not get enough of in high school? Were you an album or a CD kid? Cover art you remember?
Oh dear. Ready for blast from the past stuff? I did the whole mellow music thing, loving James Taylor and Carol King, but I also loved groups like Cheap Trick and Heart. Heart was phenomenal in concert.
Yeah, it was albums all the way. I’ll never forget my poor dad during my freshman move-in day in college carrying milk crates full of albums up five flights of steps. They weighed a ton! Just a year later, everything was cassettes, and much lighter.
As for cover art? The Eagles album. The people in it all looked so hip and sunburned and blonde, and every guy wanted to wear those pukka shell necklaces! Hey, stop laughing. (Not laughing. I actually got to see Cheap Trick my senior year in high school)
What was the fashion rage - the one article of clothing you either got, or didn’t get that rocked your world?
Preppy was starting to come into fashion, so there were lots of button-down collar shirts and boat shoes. For me, it was all about clogs (I still wear clogs). The ugliest trend? Gauchos. Happy to say I never wore those. I tended to do my own thing fashion-wise. One of my favorite looks was wearing an oversized white button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. I liked comfort.
What hobbies, activities, sports were you involved in that influence your writing today?
Art. I was really into painting, drawing, print-making. And this definitely influenced my most recent novel Drawn. That book is about a teen artist who draws a ghost. I even did the cover illustration for the book.
I was also a fencer, and this helped with the battle scenes in Drawn. Plus I was involved in theater productions, and oh the drama! Timing and dramatic moments are important in writing tight scenes, so that influenced my writing too.
Good kid or wild child or a little of both? Details? (Mwaahaa)
I’m a second child, the baby in the family. My older sibling was THE wild child, and he was caught most of the time. Watching the effect on the family probably trained me to be more of the good kid, the old soul of the bunch. But there was definitely some wild child too. ’Nough said!
Did you have a favorite phrase or slang word?
How old am I? I actually had to go through my high school yearbook to jog my memory on this one! Jeesh. Okay, we said “just joshin’” a lot, and when we were sarcastic, we’d say “Oh wacka wacka wacka…” Hey, the Muppets were huge back then. I know. Sad, right?
Who was your bestie? Your frenemy? Your sworn enemy? Did you ever have one that switched to another? Why?
One of my besties Margaret was actually my sworn enemy in elementary school, which is interesting. I don’t remember any frenemy or sworn enemy in high school. There was one lousy ex-boyfriend who was a major jerk. Does that count? Absolutely!
I had different groups of close friends throughout high school. I was too busy doing my own thing, and I hate drama (even though I was in the drama club), so I gravitated toward drama-free people. Margaret and I drifted apart, and I became close to the girls on my fencing team. And at the end of high school Richard and Mike (who was my boyfriend at the time) became my besties. We’d go to concerts together and hang out in New York. We’re still in touch.
If you could say one thing to your high school you, what would you say?
Don’t worry about that “C” in journalism or the fact that you didn’t land a single publication credit like a bunch of other kids have. You’ll still go to a decent college, and no one’s going to stop you from writing or from anything else you really want to do. And forget about that jerk ex-boyfriend!
How do we find you now?
On facebook: Marie Lamba, Author
On twitter: marielamba