Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Kim Church's "Byrd"

Kim Church's short stories and poetry have appeared in Shenandoah, Mississippi Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prime Number Magazine, the Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has received fiction fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Millay Colony for the Arts, and Vermont Studio Center.

Born and raised in Lexington, North Carolina, Church earned her B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her J.D. degree from UNC School of Law. She has taught writing workshops in a variety of settings, from college classrooms to death row. She lives with her husband, artist Anthony Ulinski, in Raleigh, where she divides her time between writing and law.

Here Church takes the first step to seeing Byrd, her first novel, adapted for the big screen:
Dear AnnaSophia Robb,

I hope you’re having a nice summer.

I loved your performance as the girl next door in The Way, Way Back, and think you’d be perfect for the role of Addie Lockwood in the movie of my debut novel, Byrd.

Addie grows up in a small North Carolina town where she escapes the confines of family life by reading books, writing poems, listening to Joni Mitchell albums, and fantasizing about Roland Rhodes, the new boy in school, a handsome, popular guitar player. Roland is oblivious to Addie until their senior year, when they form an unlikely friendship.

Years after graduation they reconnect in California, where Roland’s music career has landed him, and Addie comes home pregnant. Conflicted, unready to be a mother, she gives birth to a son and surrenders him for adoption without telling Roland, and without imagining how the secret will shape their lives.

Told in letters and vignettes easily adaptable to film, Byrd is a story about making and living with hard choices—a coming-of-age, coming-to-terms story.

One reviewer has described Addie as “diaphanously sensitive,” which could just as easily refer to you in The Way, Way Back. Remember the scene where you’re walking home from the beach with Duncan (Liam James), who’s younger (14 to your 16), shy, awkward, and moping because his parents are divorced and he’s stuck spending the summer with his mother (Toni Collette) and her jerk boyfriend (Steve Carrell)? You’re wearing a Rolling Stones tongue camisole and a turquoise sweater that doesn’t match, an outfit Addie might have worn. You ask Duncan, “So where is it you go on your sexy pink cruiser?”—referring to the girl’s banana bike he’s been riding. “Nowhere,” he says. He starts to elaborate but you cut him off. “No,” you tell him, “let it be yours.” I love that line. I love how a day or two later, you get on your own bike and follow him anyway, to Water Wizz, where he’s gotten a summer job without telling his mother. “What happened to ‘let it be yours’?” he says, and you say, “Eh, I held out as long as I could.”

You are understated, natural, funny. Tender and edgy at the same time.

That’s the essence of Addie.

My book follows Addie from fourth grade into her 50s. My husband is worried you may be a little young to play the grown Addie, but I’ve explained they can work wonders with makeup. And Addie needs an actress who can embody her youthful spirit. I think you’d make her shine.

So if you’re reading this, and I like to believe you are, please let me know where I can send a book for your consideration. The Way, Way Back was a breakout movie for Liam James. Let Byrd be yours.

Thanks, and best wishes,
Visit Kim Church's website.

Writers Read: Kim Church.

The Page 69 Test: Byrd.

--Marshal Zeringue