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A Corner of White: Author Jaclyn Moriarty’s 2013 BGHB Fiction Honor Speech

Moriarty_corner_of_white199x300Thank you so much to the organizers and judges, to Scholastic, and to my agent, Jill Grinberg. A special thank you to Arthur Levine, for his extraordinary insight, intelligence, and encouragement.

A Corner of White is the first in a trilogy about an imaginary world called the Kingdom of Cello. I called the kingdom “Cello” just because I like the word, and I drew pictures and maps of it for years before I started writing.

One day, I was working on these maps in a café when a friend stopped by. This friend is a filmmaker and he had recently made a horror movie. I told him I was writing about a kingdom called Cello. “What are your monsters?” he said at once. “You can’t have a kingdom without monsters.” I looked down at the table, which was scattered with colored markers, and I decided that the monsters would be colors.

So in Cello, colors have come to life. Their shade determines their effect, and they fly through the kingdom like thunderstorms. Some tear you to pieces or deafen you; others get under your fingernails, or bring out the beauty of your smile.

One of my favorite things about this book was the research. I read about the science of color; about the day Isaac Newton brought home a glass prism and used it to split light into a rainbow; about the Civil War general who believed that the color blue could cure a bleeding nose. I researched aura reading and learned that if your aura is gold, you have great spiritual energy. Either that or you’re studying too hard for an exam — trying to cram it all in at the last moment. I had my own aura read: I was extremely skeptical at first. The aura reader told me she saw great prosperity in my future. I believed in aura-reading absolutely.

Not long ago, it occurred to me that I couldn’t write about a kingdom called Cello without knowing how to play the instrument. I was in the shower at the time. I stepped out, put a towel around me, went to the computer, and bought myself a cello on eBay. Now I take lessons with a local Polish cellist. I practice every day. The neighbors downstairs have put their apartment on the market, but that might just be a coincidence.

I am a single mother, and I wrote much of this book in cafés while my baby slept in a pram beside me. It seemed to me that this set of circumstances must be a good omen. I kept casually mentioning the circumstances to friends and family, and waiting for them to draw the link. But nobody did. What is the point, I thought, of being a single mother writing a fantasy series in a café with a baby, if NOBODY MAKES THE CONNECTION?!

Then one day I was in a café, as usual, when a handsome man leaned across from a nearby table. “Are you the next J. K. Rowling?” he asked with a smile. “FINALLY!” I shouted, and “HOW DID YOU KNOW?!”

I regret that.

I still remember the confusion and panic on his face as he slowly backed away from me, returning to his coffee.

I also regret that I cannot be in Boston today. But thank you so much, again. This is truly an honor and it makes me very happy.

About Jaclyn Moriarty
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