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  • Walking Naked
  • Written by Alyssa Brugman
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307492937
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Walking Naked

Written by Alyssa BrugmanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Alyssa Brugman

eBook

List Price: $5.99

eBook

On Sale: March 04, 2009
Pages: 208 | ISBN: 978-0-307-49293-7
Published by : Laurel Leaf RH Childrens Books
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

There are those who are popular.
There are those who are outcasts.
And there are those who must choose between the two.

Megan Tuw has always been popular. As a leader of her high school’s most cliquish group, she’s among the anointed girls who think nothing of ridiculing those who don’t fit in. That includes Perdita Wiguiggan—a classmate Megan and her friends openly refer to as the Freak. But Megan doesn’t know the first thing about Perdita, since she would never dream of talking to her. Only when the two girls are thrown together in detention does Megan begin to see Perdita as more than someone with an odd last name, as more than the school outcast. And slowly, Megan finds herself drawn into an almost-friendship.

Then Megan faces a choice: Perdita or the group?


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

1



I am responsible for a great many things, but being put on detention for talking in history was not my fault (not technically, anyway).

On that Monday, I was not nearly so interested in history as in Candice Perkins's story about what happened at Michael Sorrell's party on Saturday night.

Parties and dating were not usually my thing--that was Candice's domain--but there had been an arrest, and that piqued my interest.

Candice and Michael had been going out for about three months. They talked on the phone a couple of times a week and kissed at school socials, but that was about it.

The exciting thing that happened at Michael Sorrell's party (which was, technically, Michael's older brother's party) was that the police caught two of the Year 12 boys doing a nudey run.

"There were about six of them but only two of them got busted," explained Candice. "The others ran down the lane and hid behind the scout hall. One of them, Jacob--do you know Jacob?--he's over eighteen and might go to court. Can you believe it?"

I thought Candice seemed pleased with herself--it was quite a coup to be invited to a party with the Year 12s.

Candice and I had been best friends since kindergarten. We had all sorts of stupid sayings that had become ritual between us. We always said "Like, oh, yar, I know, totally," in a Valley girl voice.

Candice and I were the founders of "the group." I was the brains, she was the beauty, and in Year 4 we had begun to hang out with Jessica Chou as well. Jessica was pretty and smart, but not enough of either for Candice or me to feel threatened. It wasn't until Year 6 that we started recruiting in earnest, but I'll get to that.

On this particular day, our history teacher, Ms. Sloan, had asked us to be quiet more than once (I strongly suspected that Ms. Sloan was hypoglycemic, because lessons after lunch went much more smoothly than lessons before) and so we were, technically, being quiet. Of course, what Ms. Sloan meant was "be silent"--and if she had been clear on that point, then I might not have ended up in detention.

Candice and I were whispering quietly when Ms. Sloan said, "Right! That's it! Out!"

I'd never been sent out in my life. Candice had--mostly for talking. I politely slid in my chair so that Candice could leave.

Ms. Sloan found this gesture somewhat provocative. "Both of you!"

"What, me?"

"Yes, you!"

I wasn't familiar with thrown-out-of-class protocol. "Do I take my bag? Or will it just be for a short time? Where do we go? Do we just stand outside the door? Or is it sort of like an early mark?"

I wasn't being difficult, I swear. I was just trying to establish the procedure.

"Out! Out! Out!"

A moment later Candice and I were out in the hall.

"So you reckon Jacob is going to court?" I asked.

"I know, can you believe it? Michael said that all of the Year Twelve boys that are seventeen are going to hold a Grand Nudey Run in protest. When they get busted they can't get a record. I mean, it's just ridiculous."

"Ridiculous," I agreed. It didn't occur to me at the time that Candice and I might not have meant the same thing.

A movement at the end of the hallway caught my attention. I turned my head and saw Perdita Wiguiggan crossing the hallway. She was scooting along with her head down and a stack of books pressed against her chest.

I made the sign of the cross. Candice did the same and said, "Freak," loudly enough for Perdita to hear, but not loudly enough to draw attention to us.

Every school has one. They are ugly or fat. They have scars or acne or birthmarks. Or maybe it's just something about them that doesn't quite fit with our cherry-lipgloss, video-hits view of how teenagers should be?

We are mean to them. We call them names. We ridicule them. We make monsters of them. We don't want to stand near them or sit next to them. They repulse us.

Perdita Wiguiggan was one of those. How unfortunate for her to have a name that was hard to say--Purdeetah Wigweegan--on top of being the most despised creature in the whole school.

If you had asked me how I felt about her I would have said that I hated her, but I couldn't have told you why. "I just hate her," I would have said with a dismissive shrug.

Maybe it was the way she walked. Perdita Wiguiggan hunkered down with her shoulders stooped and her chin forward. She took long clomping strides like a man. It was a very ungraceful walk.

Three things can happen to people like Perdita Wiguiggan. One, they become incredibly successful. They are your rocket scientists, your academics. Einstein was one of them. They found billion-dollar dot-com companies. They become rock stars--Kurt Cobain was probably one. Janis Joplin certainly was.

Two, they can stay shunned and pitied and live shallow lives on the periphery of society. They get low-paid jobs and roll from one dysfunctional, abusive relationship to another because they don't believe that they deserve to be treated any better. Why should they? No one ever has treated them any better.

Or they can end up like Perdita, but I'll get to that.

After Perdita had gone, Mr. Tilly, who was our deputy principal and one of my very favorites, walked past and said, "Megan Tuw, what are you doing out here?"

My name is Megan Tuw. I suppose it's quite convenient, as there are frequent occasions at which I am not the only Megan. It does mean, though, that I am never the primary Megan. I am, at best, only the runner-up Megan.

This was the case when Megan Hadenham was recruited into the group. I was opposed to Megan Hadenham from the beginning. She didn't seem to have anything new to bring to the group, and besides, having more than one Megan would be confusing. Jessica Chou pointed out that we couldn't exactly ask her to change her name.

"Maybe we could call you Tuwy?" suggested Dara Drinkwater. I didn't like Dara Drinkwater. She was always casually suggesting that I compromise. I don't like to compromise. Dara's offhand recommendations always got up my nose.

"Do you know where the name Peterson came from, Dara?" I asked. "And the names Davidson, Williamson, Harrison or Jameson?"

"What are you talking about?"

"They all mean 'son of': son of Peter, son of David, son of William, and so on. Do you get it? Peter and David and William came first. If you did it the other way around you would have all of these people wandering about called Peterdad, Daviddad, Williamdad. See?"

Dara tossed her head. "You're not Megan Hadenham's dad, Tuwy."

"The person who comes first gets the name, Drinky."

"Maybe we could allocate her a nickname, like Haddy or something?" suggested Jessica Chou. Jessica was always stepping in to defuse fights between Dara and me.

Unfortunately this never transpired. From that day onward Megan Hadenham was Megan, and I became Megan Tuw. This is a matter that I still consider to be grossly unfair.

Meanwhile, back in the hallway. "I've been sent out," I replied indignantly to Mr. Tilly.

"Really? What did you do?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye. Mr. Tilly was genuinely amused by the company of youths. That was why he was one of my very favorites.

"I was talking."

Just as I was about to bring Mr. Tilly up to speed on the whole quiet versus silence discrepancy, Ms. Sloan decided that our exile was over. She opened the door, and because I was leaning against it, I fell backward into the room and landed on my bum.

Mr. Tilly and Candice thought this was tremendously funny. Ms. Sloan did not.

"Quite the clown, aren't we?"

"Well, Ms. Sloan, technically, I am the only clown in this scenario," I said, standing and straightening my school skirt with as much dignity as I could muster, having just sprawled across the floor. "So perhaps the use of the plural is not entirely appropriate."

Ms. Sloan's eyes narrowed into uncharitable slits. "A week's detention, miss."

That's how I ended up in detention. As you can see, technically, I was entirely blameless.


From the Hardcover edition.
Alyssa Brugman|Author Q&A

About Alyssa Brugman

Alyssa Brugman - Walking Naked
“One of the things I enjoy most about writing fiction is . . . the opportunity to create your own universe with no rules in it except those that you decide.”—Alyssa Brugman

Alyssa Brugman was born in Rathmines, Lake Macquarie, Australia, and is an award-winning author in her native Australia.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


I grew up as the middlest in a large brood of five girls and four boys. I was not the tallest, or the prettiest, the cleverest, or the best at sport. I wasn't even the best storyteller, but growing up in a house full of teenagers gave me lots of opportunities to observe the highlights, the lowest points, and even the middleness of adolescent life from many different points of view.

We moved around a lot while I was growing up, and everywhere we went, my brothers and sisters and I made lots of new friends, so I learned about their lives, and how their families coped with the various challenges that faced them.

I don't think I draw directly from any particular experiences that I had, or those of my siblings, or those armies of friends, girlfriends and boyfriends that marched through my adolescence, but it has made excellent cud to chew when I am piecing a story together.

Most of my main characters are girls, and that's probably because I've been one. I occasionally dabble in male voices, but I don't think I can do it convincingly enough to last for a whole novel. There are lots of writers out there who write about boys very well, and so I think I will leave it up to them for the time being.

I come up with a new story idea almost every day. I write it in my diary, and if it hangs around for a few days then I might start to write it down and try to explore the idea a little further. I'll keep working on it until it either becomes a full, proper story, or until it fizzles out. Even when the story doesn't work, it's valuable to learn something about what makes stories not work, and I can then avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

None of my stories has happened in the same way. With Walking Naked, I wrote all the crisis points, then linked them all together. With Finding Grace, I wrote the end first, then some of the middle, and then I went back and wrote the beginning.

One of the things I enjoy most about writing fiction is that when you sit down with a blank screen you have the opportunity to create your own universe with no rules in it except those that you decide. My universes tend to be pretty close to reality, but I admire fantasy, speculative fiction and sci-fi writers for the creativity and imagination that goes into the universes they create. Those tend to be the stories that I enjoy reading the most.

Author Q&A

Q. How did these characters and this story evolve in your mind? What drew you to the subject of popularity?

A. One of the things about school is that you are thrown together in a year level with about a hundred people who are the same age as you, and who live in roughly the same area, but these are really the only two things you have in common. This doesn’t happen at any other stage in your life.

I decided to see what would happen when I put two young people in the same room who were ideologically opposed. It was important that I removed Megan from her friends, because within that circle she is invincible. They needed to meet as closely as possible to equals, and Perdita was already at a disadvantage, so I made her more capable academically to make up for the mismatch in social skills. Once I put them in that space the story pretty much wrote itself.

Q. Did you draw from any of your own specific experiences or observations in high school? Did you ever have a rough time of it? Do you identify at all with Megan or Perdita?

A. In everything that I write there are things that did happen, and things that didn’t happen, and things that happened but in a different way.

I once caught an airport transfer bus from Melbourne airport to a writers’ festival in Bendigo, which is about two hours’ drive. The other people on the bus were very tired, and a bit smelly, and it was clearly the final leg of a long overseas trip for them. The whole trip was silent, and after about an hour and a half I had a sudden urge to sing “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” I didn’t.

Real life tends just to be a sequence of events, but when you depict them in fiction then the events have to have meaning and a purpose. If I were to put that scene in a novel then I would make it a normal public bus rather than an airport transfer bus, because the dynamic is more flexible. I would have a character for irritation—say a baby that won’t stop crying—and for comic relief—someone listening to a personal CD player and singing loudly and off-key, but not being aware of it. I would include a long description of a character on the bus whom we have not met yet, but who will be important to the story later on. I would not make the destination Bendigo, because I am not familiar enough with the city to portray it in a story. And my main character would definitely sing “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

When you get to the end of the story it is true that there are parts within it that have happened to me, but I bend, expand, and contract to give it meaning and purpose, so that even those things that are real are impossible to extract from those that are fiction. I am neither Megan nor Perdita—I am both. I am also Megan’s father and mother, and Gordon Gordon Library Warden, Ashley Anderson, and Simon Goose, because they all liveinside my brain constructed from a mishmash of memories and fabrications to suit the needs of story.

Q. Why did you want to include poetry in the book, and how did you select the particular poems?

A. I included the poems for three reasons:

1. When I was at school and we studied poetry it was all about Grecian urns and conscientious objection, and very dead people. It had nothing to do with my life, and I was not moved by a single poem. It was not until a long time after I left school that I discovered poetry, and it started with W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and then others later. I started reading voraciously and began to see what I had read everywhere—in movies, on TV, in books, in other poems (writers sending cryptic messages to each other and paying their respects). I learned the secret delight in allusions. I wanted my readers to discover that pleasure earlier than I did, so I tried to find a range of poetry from different centuries in different styles that reflected what was happening in the girls’ lives. I spent a long time searching for exactly the right poems, and it was exhilarating when I found them. I had not read the work of Andrew Taylor and Pattiann Rogers until I began researching material for this book, so they are two new favorites.

2. When I began to write dialogue for Perdita she was very circumlocutory, and I had a great deal of trouble getting her to spill, and Megan wasn’t going to ask, but I knew the reader needed to know, so I had to find a vehicle whereby she could tell us what was happening for her. The poetry was an apt device for her character.

3. I thought English teachers would dig it and buy class sets, and I could give up my day job. They did and I have.

Q. Have you ever tried your hand at writing poetry? How do you think the process compares to writing a novel?

A. I like to try lots of different writing styles—poems, plays, short stories, horror, sci-fi, you name it. I think experimenting with other forms and styles and learning how they work will help develop both my core strength and my range. I don’t know that the process is so different. I write everything quickly and from my gut, and then I whittle away at it afterward.

Q. Life is very difficult for Perdita, yet we never directly see what’s going through her head. Did you ever consider writing the book from her perspective?

A. Frankly, I wasn’t very interested in Perdita’s perspective. Given her background and her character, her behavior is easy to justify. Megan, on the other hand, has wealth, stability, beauty, intelligence, strong interpersonal skills, and high self-esteem—in other words, no excuse whatsoever to be so brutal. The challenge was to not only justify her actions so that the reader believes them, but to bring the readership around to a point where they actually cry for Megan.

I wrote it from Megan’s perspective, and it is through her eyes that we see, but the dialogue and actions of all the other characters have to be real. So, for example, Megan describes how her mother sits, stands, speaks, and what she says, but I have to think about what her mother’s true response to the situation would be, given her background and attributes, in order to make Megan’s description accurate to the reader. So when I am writing a character—any character—I have to write that bit from their perspective, even though we may hear it from someone else.

Q. Megan talks a lot about being frank and honest. What are some of the more honest, tell-it-like-it-is books or authors that you have read that inspired you?

A. Australia produces a lot of great YA books. Some Aussie authors that stand out for me are Sonya Hartnett, Phillip Gwynne, Ian Bone, and also Bernard Beckett (he’s from New Zealand). From the States I liked Robert Cormier and Paul Zindel when I was growing up, but I’m not familiar with any of your current YA authors.

Q. Do you like writing for young adults? Do you write for adults and younger children as well?

A. I tried writing a picture book once, and I thought it was good but my publisher said it sucked, so I went back to the YA stuff. Not all of the time, but most of the time when I sit down in front of a blank screen, the voice that begins to speak is somewhere in the range between twelve and nineteen. I don’t know why that is.

When you write about an adult, then you need to give them an occupation, because it takes up a large proportion of their time. In order to make that vocation sound credible you need to do research. Even with secondary adult characters, such as Megan’s parents in this book, it was necessary for me to do a little bit of research about their jobs. I prefer to spend my time exploring the relationships between characters, rather than dedicating slabs of time researching things that are external to the characters. It would be tempting, when writing an adult, to use one of my own previous jobs, because I could write about it with authenticity without researching, but if I were to do that then everyone would assume that the character is me, no matter how strenuously I refuted it. Teenagers are easier to write about in that way because everyone has been to school and people of all ages, and in most cultures, recognize that environment. I can focus my attention on the dynamic and conflict between the characters, which is where the joy in writing is for me.

Q. Do you think about your characters after you finish writing the book? Do you ever imagine what they would be up to now?

A. No. I am writing a series at the moment and so I need to insert possibilities in the early books that will leave space for my protagonist to grow in later books, but that is a technical device, rather than any emotional attachment to her. I normally work on a number of projects at once; so while one draft is with my editor I write the next draft of the next project. When they are finished and out there on the shelves I don’t really think about them at all. I am much more haunted by characters who have not yet had their stories told!


From the Paperback edition.


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