The Heart is Not a Size
by Beth Kephart
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1. Georgia and Riley have been best friends for over a decade - how long have you known your best friend?
Well, to be honest, my best friend is my husband, whom I've known since 1983. Beyond that, I don't wish to designate my many friends as best or not. They are dear to me - friend I've known from high school and college, from the dance world and from the literary world, from corporate work and volunteer stints, from church and from the neighborhood, from my many, varied walks of life. I am blessed by these deep and abiding friendships that live on and on, over decades.
2. Georgia goes to Juarez because she wants to make a difference - what sorts of things do you do to make a difference?
An interesting question. I'm not sure that we can really measure the difference we make in this world, and that's one of the things Georgia and Riley are grappling with. But I know that I am happiest when reaching out to others; for example, the trip that the girls go on, in Juarez, is a trip that I took and that will always remain with me. I've also been privileged to teach and mentor young readers and writers for many years now; indeed, one of the characters in Heart is based on an extremely talented young poet with whom I worked. I pay attention to charitable organizations - be they Pump Aid or the Fusate homeless shelter in El Salvador, Dancing classrooms Philly, readergirlz, or (most recently) the Kids-N-Hope foundation - and I contribute both time and money (and sometimes photography). There are enormous pressures on my time, but I try to put the right things first. Part of that, of course, involves staying close to home; being the right kind of a mother, a wife, and a daughter matters enormously to me.
3. What's the most romantic thing someone's ever done for you?
It's funny; I believe in these Big Things - beauty, love, faith - and yet I've not lived a life of enormous romance, at least how romance is traditionally defined. My husband threw me a surprise party for my twenty-fifth birthday. That was certainly the most astonishing thing that anyone has ever done. I do dream of flower bouquets, I have to admit. I think flowers are supremely romantic.
4. What was the best date you've ever had?
I can tell you when I felt myself falling in love, and that is when I first viewed my husband's watercolors in his one-room, third-floor walk-up in West Philadelphia.
5. Where have you traveled that helped give you a new perspective?
Travel is what does give me perspective, and I miss travel enormously when it is not possible. El Salvador (my husband's home) and Juarez provided perspective. So did the hill town of Spoleto, Italy. Venice and Prague and Rome were essential. Seville (where I have often traveled) is the backdrop of a book I am writing now. But then there are the 'new' familiar places - previously unexplored sections of Philadelphia, my city, for example, or the foggy wharves of San Francisco.
6. What do you hope readers will take away from The Heart is Not a Size? What do you want them to take away from your other novels?
First, I hope that readers will be drawn into Heart and, indeed, into all the stories I write. That they will want to know what happens to these characters and how they have been changed by the challenges life has set before them. Heart is about the power of friendship, about the importance of telling the truth and of allowing others to step in where heartbreak or hurt hover. Undercover is about emerging bravely, as one's true self. House of Dance is about finding a way to say good-bye. Nothing But Ghosts is about seeing, in the living world, the presence of those who have passed on; it's about emotional survival. I hope readers will find these messages in my books and I hope, too, that they will find language presented in a somewhat new way. I hope to leave behind a legacy of books that read like poetry with sweep - like poetry that moves on and beyond, and ultimately conjures and captures meaningful story.