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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh Meat Year by Terri Klaes Harper

The long awaited sequel to Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages is here! Several months ago when this blog was in its infancy I posted the review. I will add here that Terri is also my sister. I have been watching her write her entire life, since she first picked up a writing utensil. Today, I bring you the sequel, Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh Meat Year.

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Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh Meat Year by Terri Klaes Harper is an intoxicating sequel. Drew Hotchner as the story's protagonist is completely unaware that she is a fantastic role model for young adults who fight
the usual battle of boys, fitting in ‘being part of the “A” crowd’, drugs, and eating disorders. She is simply a young girl finding out life one step at a time. She has a great family; her parents are a little kooky and her older sister jumps from one end of the big sister I dislike you spectrum to the other. All in all they are a solid family unit, and the backbone of her strong decision making process. In book one she discovered who true friends are. This same group of slightly dysfunctional but utterly lovable misfits are still prevalent in her life. As a group they stumble upon all the usual teenage drama, and manage their way around it, although not without some laughter and second guessing.

Terri Klaes Harper has done a phenomenal job with the time period, and the location chosen of this charming series. Drew is a product of the 1990’s before cell phones and tablets. When Nirvana was hitting their climax as performing artists, and MTV actually played music videos. It is the days of grunge, and in Florntaylor Virginia, Drew’s home, mullets are prevalent, along with homemade cut off sleeves and a few other surprises I won’t divulge. She paints a picture so vivid the reader can’t help but chuckle inwardly or outwardly, as I caught myself doing on several occasions. Fresh Meat Year is a page turner so be expected to have the book glued to your eyes until it’s finished.

Fresh Meat year is a highly addicting and laughter contagious read.


Just two and a half weeks earlier, right around this time, my best friends Adrienne, Nadine, Carmen, Anne, Shane, and I had been eating lunch at Joey’s Pizza Palace after returning to town from seeing Terminator 2 in Remington, and were hatching our plan for kicking off our high school years.  This was the group that had adopted me in when I moved 3,000 miles from Burnthill, California to Florntayor, Virginia.  Both towns were nothing but specs on their respective state maps, but they were separate planets to me.  I had quickly alienated myself from the popular crowd, then been almost reluctantly dragged at least partially into it, only to then make yet another conscious effort to turn my back on the shallow back-stabbers.  In so doing, I had gained and then lost Violet, a former friend who now despised me.  But this crew stood by me through all of it, and Shane had started hanging out with Adrienne, Nadine, and me over the summer, since we were all sort of stuck in the same neighborhood of dirt roads miles outside of town.  He had lived out of state with his mom during most of middle school and the two of us had never met before.  I could tell he had a huge crush on Adrienne, but she pretended not to notice.

That had been an interesting meeting of the minds:  
“I don’t think the all black thing is such a good idea,” Nadine said thoughtfully.

“Yeah, it’ll still be hot on the first day of school, and we’ll look so morbid,” offered Carmen, using one of her new favorite words.  “I heard the school was locked up over the summer for asbestos removal.”

“No, weirdo, I mean, we are starting our career as high-schoolers, and I don’t think we should make ourselves look bad from the start.”  Nadine rolled her eyes a little as she said this, ignoring the additional comment.  Sometimes Carmen’s ditziness was a bit much for the genius of Nadine. 

“Besides that, we’ve kinda done that already,” I pitched into the conversation, referring to our all-black day the previous year, and added, “And I heard there was too much asbestos to actually clean out so they decided four years of exposure was acceptable.” I didn’t quite agree with Nadine’s judgment in ignoring such an interesting topic.

“Yeah, and so many of the kids are already smokers that they figured their lungs were already ruined,” added Anne. 

Carmen seemed genuinely concerned as she asked, “But what about all the kids who don’t graduate in four years?”

“Most of them just end up dropping out anyway, so it all evens out,” I answered.

Silence took over our corner booth for about thirty seconds.

 We had strayed from the original conversation, much to Nadine’s focused dismay, so Adrienne brought us back.  “You are all thinking about this way too much.  I just thought it’d be cool to do something to show a little individuality and let people know we don’t care what they think or about being all pretty or whatever.  We’re about to start high school.”  She paused, and when no one reacted, she added, “But do whatever you want.  I’m not limiting this to the first day.  This is me now.”  It was true.  Even in the hot and humid temperatures of August, Adrienne had taken to wearing all black, even long sleeves sometimes, letting her hair get mussed up, and ripping even more holes into her jeans.  The one exception was her version of the t-shirts we had designed earlier that summer that read, “If you don’t smoke, I won’t fart,” in permanent marker. 

“But, I do sort of want to be pretty,” admitted Anne.  “I don’t want to be like everybody else either, but I want to wear makeup, and I don’t want to be on any teacher’s bad side right away.”

“If we plan to be unique in order to show how much of ourselves we are, are we really being ourselves?  It’s cool for you, Adrienne, because this really is you.  Not all of us pull it off naturally.  Let’s just each do what we’re comfortable with.”  I had recently noticed my face breaking out more than usual, and I was not about to leave my house without makeup.  Stupid puberty and hormones.  Besides that, most of us were standing somewhere between glam rock, heavy metal, and The Cure, musically speaking, and we weren’t ready to commit solely to any one style.  There were too many choices.

“You’re all beautiful as you are, so do your thing,” added Shane.

“Which one of us are you kissing up to, Shane?” Anne laughed as she nudged him, but his eyes were focused on Adrienne the whole time.  Poor Anne.  Apparently she’d had a crush on Shane since elementary school and was the most excited when she found out he had moved back from Maryland, finding every chance she could to come hang out at my house or Adrienne’s since he lived right by our road. 

Anne wasn’t completely off base either.  Shane was cute.  Not gorgeous, but cute.  He was tall, had brown eyes and was a ginger, but we didn’t really use that term then.  I just wished he’d clean his hair more often.  He was easy to get along with, but quiet.  Maybe he was easy to get along with because he was quiet.

And so it was settled at Joey’s Pizza Palace.  Nothing out of our own ordinary, which for most of us was…well…ordinary.

Interview with Terri:
Elle: Tell a little about yourself.

Terri: But there’s so much to tell.  My life has been split into fairly equal parts in three states: California, Virginia, and
now Florida, giving me a unique perspective of the variations of the US.  My husband and I just celebrated our fourteenth anniversary and have now lived in our small town, close to the ocean, Florida home for ten years, but I’m always willing to uproot if the right opportunity comes along… and I love to travel. I've been in or traveled through almost forty states, I think, spent a lovely vacation in Italy, and have now been on almost three mission trips, one in Costa Rica, and one in Guatemala, where I will return this summer. Four years ago, for the first time in my life, I started running, not because I thought it would be fun, but to help raise money and awareness to fight human trafficking. 
I have worked my share of retail, especially while going to school, been a pre-school teacher, and a high school English teacher. I like teenagers better.  They make such interesting subjects to study. I guess I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, since apparently I am supposed to do that at some point. 
I’m a confusing mix of laid back and OCD.  I can spend hours reading a book in my hammock, but only once I know all my responsibilities are done.  Sadly, I haven’t been in that hammock much lately. Oh, and I’m a highly functional introvert.

Elle: What can you tell us about Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year?

Terri: My protagonist Drew is “fresh meat,” aka, a freshman. Now that she’s a bit older, she experiences some more serious matters, but I’ve kept her humor in tact.  I personally feel humor makes the tough parts of life more bearable. She still has her quirky friend Adrienne by her side, but new characters are also introduced, a very important one being a new crush who causes her endless confusion. Music is still important to Drew’s crew, so be prepared to relive the music of 1991-1992, including the introduction of grunge. Drew already learned she just needs to be herself, but since she’s still a kid, she has much to learn about who that is. I think I had more fun writing this sequel than the original.  I love them both, but I really feel, though I may have put less of my actual personal experiences into this one, I have improved in the arts of creation and actual writing skill.  I am pleased and excited to see how others feel.

Elle: What is your inspiration for the Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl series?

Terri: It started with a thought about how famous people who have lived extraordinary lives often write a memoir (more than one if they are really interesting people). Then I pondered what it would be like for an ordinary person to write a memoir.  Why bother, right? What if there wasn’t anything significant to write about, but just an ordinary life everyone could relate to?  Then the title popped into my head and I just had to sit down and begin.  Before I knew what I was doing, I was flashing back to my own experiences as an ordinary girl growing up in the late ‘80s- early ‘90s crossover period. These books are not real memoirs, but they might be a bit autobiographical, or at least somewhat inspired by my real experiences and acquaintances.

Elle: How long have you been writing?

Terri: I’ve been writing pretty much since I learned how.  I remember scrawling out stories way back when I still had to use the huge elementary school paper with the dotted lines for guiding penmanship. My penmanship was always (and still is) awful, but my imagination and storytelling were always sharpening. 

Elle: Who is your favorite author?

Terri: As a literature major, I’m a bit of a classic book nerd, and I really do enjoy Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare, but my two absolute favorite books are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, a book with the most creative and beautiful imagery I’ve ever read.

Elle: What was the greatest challenge you faced with publishing your work?

Terri: Oh, my!  Trying to figure it all out.  Should I self publish or go the traditional route?  How long could that take? Do I have that kind of patience?  Then once I went with self-publishing I discovered that being a writer also means self promoting.  I was not ready for that part, and that is now my greatest challenge. No matter how great a book is, if nobody knows it exists, it will sadly go unread.

Elle: Do you have any advice for inspiring authors? 

Terri: Yes, or at least I hope it will be inspiring.  I went through a dry season in my own writing because I let life get in the way and gave in to the lie that I didn’t have time to write- and because I felt overwhelmed and afraid. If you love to write, do it daily, at least in some form. If you’re truly a writer and you’re not writing, you won’t feel complete.  Don’t let life get in the way; instead, use it as a guide.  And don’t get overwhelmed or be afraid.  Sure, the true monetary success rate of the average writer is small, but even if you only touch one person by your words, you have succeeded. And read. Read. Read.

Elle: Describe yourself in three words.

Terri: Witty, creative, and compassionate

Elle: Any respectable Terri Klaes Harper fan knows you have two Australian shepherds that are bursting with personality. Please share a silly story or predicament, one or both the dogs have gotten into?

Terri: There are so many little stories, but my favorite is about Dylan, a few months before we adopted his baby sister, Mara Jade (named after Luke Skywalker’s wife). Shepherds have an instinct to herd anything that seems to be moving out of “the herd.”  Dylan had been allowed as a guest at our young neighbor’s birthday party, where he had swiped a hotdog right out of my hand on a run-by and met many of her fellow Girl Scout friends.  A few months later, there was a Girl Scout sleepover next door and the girls were up and outside early in the morning. Robert, my husband, was going to take Dylan out but thought he should wait till the girls went back in, but once they spotted him, they begged for Dylan to come outside.  So, Robert warned them not to run, to which they all promised they would not.  However, once the very happy fifty-five pound dog began barreling towards the group of girls, it seems they all forgot their promises and scattered in all directions.  Dylan may never get to herd cows or sheep on any farms, but he was glorious at herding those Girl Scouts, and he brought them all into a circle in just a few dashes around them.  Sure, there was screaming and possibly a few real tears shed, but in the end, nobody was injured and Dylan experienced his proudest moment that morning.

Elle: You are also an advocate against human trafficking. Why do you fight this battle and what organizations have you worked with?

Terri: No human being has the right to own another human being. I fight this battle because it’s the fastest growing illegal trade in the world and there are an estimated 27+ million people enslaved around the world, including right here in the U.S.  These people are tricked into it, sold by “loved ones,” and taken advantage of because of poverty. Many are women and children.  It just absolutely breaks my heart.  My favorite organization is Love 146 (love146.org), but there are many other amazing organizations fighting this atrocity as well. This just happens to be the one that first pulled my heart strings, and so Robert and I have participated in a few 200-mile running team relays to fundraise and raise awareness. I’m not done working for this cause and hope to do much more possibly including Australian shepherds, because they make excellent therapy dogs. 

Where to find Terri and Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl:
Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year on Amazon 
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