A.S. King at Taborspace

A.S. King writes weird books.  Some of them don’t work for me, some of them I adore, and all of them are flat-out strange.  She’s also a strong feminist writer, which I appreciate.

A.S. King is a intense and hilarious speaker.  In this reading, she read a little from her newest book, Still Life With Tornado, talked about her process and then took questions from the audience.

A.S. King writes all her books without any outline.  (Writers call this “pantsing” a shorted form of the phrase: by the seat of my pants.)  She revises probably 150 times, and uses a lot of paper because she prints and revises.  Still Life is her twentieth book, though the first eight she wrote weren’t published.  Most of her writing tends to reflect what’s going on in her life, though in a subconscious way.  Everybody Sees the Ants, for instance is partially driven by her obsession with the Vietnam war.  Learning this fact, I thought, “uh-oh,” because a recent book has to do with domestic violence.

A.S. King married at 22, and had the goal of living on a self-sufficient farm.  She did so, for eight years in Ireland.  She was submitting things at that time, and had to hatch a certain number of chicken in order to pay for the postage.  She said her writing career–at least the publishing part–didn’t really start until she moved back to the US.  Proximity matters.  She is currently separated from her husband and did experience domestic violence in that relationship.  She had a long explanation about how people are surprised that she, a strong woman, would put up with that.  In her mind, strong women are great as DV victims, because they will do whatever they can to keep the relationship going.

A.S. King was a bit of a math savant in elementary school, but ran into a seventh grade math teacher who said on the first day that he would never call on any of the girls because they couldn’t do math, and were just going to get married and fat anyway.  This was the beginning of a downward slide that had her graduating in the bottom quarter of her high school class.  “Kids!  Proof that you can graduate in the bottom quarter of your class and go on to do good things, not that I recommend graduating in the bottom quarter of your class.”

A.S. King has an angry face.  When she gets excited about things, she looks mad.  She once filmed a promo for reading or libraries when she enthusiastically exclaimed, “Reading is great!” only to see her agent encouraging her to smile.  They re-filmed it, to hilarious results. “Reading is great!” Pause for odd-looking smile.

A.S. King’s first name is Amy, and she writes under the name A.S. King partially because another writer is also named Amy King, but also because she likes that her author name spells “asking”.  (Cue excited gasps around the room.)  Matt had pointed that out to me just in the previous week and I, too, had my mind blown.

None of the things I have written get across A.S. King’s sense of humor which is dry and matter-of-fact and relentless.

It was a very good evening with A.S. King, and I will be sure to prioritize seeing her whenever she finds herself in town.

A note on the photos. It was a small space with dim lighting, and I was very self-conscious about my picture taking.  I stopped after three, and all seemed to be not great.  However, looking at them after the reading, I thought they captured her personality quite well.

4 thoughts on “A.S. King at Taborspace”

  1. Wow, this seems like it was a great author reading. I’m unfamiliar with her work and I’m sitting here wishing I’d been there to hear her live. I feel like I would’ve been enthralled the whole time.

    A story related to King’s story: a (female) friend of mine is a middle school math teacher. Her (female) principal pressed hard for math (and only math) classes to be separated by gender because she didn’t want the girls to feel bad in class since “boys are naturally better at math.” This happened a month ago! I just want to bang my head against a wall. My friend won the argument, but only because the particular program they’re implementing doesn’t allow for grades to be combined, so it’s not feasible to separate the genders. (Note: this is a private, Catholic school.)

    1. I think you might like A.S. King, depending on which book of hers you pick up first. I recommend Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and also Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future.

      That’s a terrible story. I’m actually for splitting middle school kids by gender for math. (And all subjects, really.) But not because I think boys are better at math! Because girls ask more questions when boys aren’t around, and the ones who are super smart at math don’t need to hide their ability as much. If I had my druthers, all middle school classes would be split by gender, and the kids could socialize with the opposite gender during recess/in the hallways, etc.

  2. I am such a sexist pig – I thought AS King was a male writer. Hello patriarchy playing in my head. The tornado book is on my TBR. I love getting to see authors out and about. I think it has been one of the most wonderful side benefits of my program.

    One of my former students goes to a school that is co-ed but does all courses by single gender. I think its the best solution. The extracurriculars of music, arts, debate club, etc. and a few sports (where appropriate like track and also they are a private school so there are not a lot of sports) are done co-ed as well. You get a nice experience of the other gender (not too sheltered) but the academic focus is split up. I love it! My mythical children will go to such a school. Interestingly enough – that school in VA has a sister school here in MN!

    1. AS King would probably not mind that you thought she was a man. It does help to sell more books, as S.E. Hinton, and J.K. Rowling know.

      That’s cool about your former student. I wasn’t aware that such schools actually existed.

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