Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cyber Launch Party Day 3: The Ballad of Tara Kelly

Welcome to Day 3 of the Ballads of Suburbia Cyber Launch Party! For all of the details on the party including guests, the daily contests and the grand prize drawing be sure to read the information at the beginning of Day 1's blog.

A couple newsworthy things before we get to today's guest. There was an interview with me in the Chicago alt-weekly NewCity. It was a fun interview to do and even more exciting, the writer called BALLADS "like American Beauty for the teen set," which is a pretty kick-ass comparison. You can read it here.

Also I posted my ALA conference experience complete with pictures over at MTV Books so you may wish to check that out here.

Now, today's guest blogger is author/musician Tara Kelly!

Tara Kelly is a Jill of all trades--a YA author, one-girl band, web/graphic designer, video editor and photographer. She lives in Bellingham, Washington with her ten guitars, supercool bf, and a fluffy cat named Maestro. You can find out more about her writing at and her music at

Here's Tara's ballad:

I love to steal this living steam
My head in someone's dream
I'm tired of sleeping
-Crank by Catherine Wheel

I went through a lot of phases in high school—hippie, metalhead, skater chick, punk, goth…just to name a few. My CD collection was forever in flux. I was always searching for something new…something different, but I never really ‘fit’ anywhere. And the idea of embodying a label confounded me. I was never good at following the rules.

Still, if I had to pick a theme song for my high school years, Crank by Catherine Wheel would be it.

I remember the first time I heard it. It was the first time I’d ever cut school, actually. I was pretty devastated that day, because I just found out the girls I’d hung out with since the start of freshman year…weren’t really my friends. I’d been banished from the island, so to speak. And I ended up telling this new girl in my English class about it. She told me she’d run away from her foster home and was living with her boyfriend. I remember her face clearly, this mix of beautiful and broken. She was so different from anyone I’d met…and she seemed above it all. The kind of girl who didn’t get caught up in high school drama. At the ripe old age of 15, she was over it.

And I wanted to be too.

So we snuck off campus at lunch and went to her boyfriend’s apartment. It was dirty and filled with cigarette smoke, but it felt like paradise compared to sitting by myself at school. And I felt this rush too—like I was finally living or something. She made quesadillas and a giant pot of refried beans, and we sat on a ratty old couch, talking about boys and music. She told me I had to hear Crank by Catherine Wheel. She said it was like her best friend—it got her, and she got it.
I didn’t understand what she meant until I heard those first dreamy distorted notes and Rob Dickinson wailing over the top. His voice was full of lust and sadness, as if he was waiting for something…for life to happen, maybe. The melody sank right into my skin. It sounded like freedom, like falling in love, like walking around at twilight—everything I’d yet to experience. It was all excitement and possibility. I never really heard the dark side, not until later.

Even today, I love it just as much as the day I first heard it. Because it encompasses my teen years, some of the most memorable experiences of my life—both good and bad. All-day concerts and the scent of fresh cut grass, weaving daisies through my braids, Manic Panic turning my white sink blue, 4am trips to the park, swing sets and wine coolers, telling my life story to people I’d just met, cigarettes and cute boys, skateboards, squeezing three people on a twin bed, laughing at…anything, the faces of friends who ran away, the faces of friends who OD’ed, the time my friend kissed my crush, the time my friend’s crush tried to kiss me, starting a riot grrl band where I was the only girl, the nights I wondered if anyone would ever get me, crying over…anything, consuming nothing but iced white mochas, notebooks filled with stories about adventures and hot guys, making new friends at a bus stop, punk shows at crusty warehouses, moshpits and bruises, using puppy dog eyes to get into 18+ goth clubs, finding the smell of a friend’s beater car comforting—because it lacked parents, putting on lipstick and wondering if it’ll get kissed off, boys sneaking in windows, magic 8-balls determining our fate, wishing on a shooting star, and planning an epic road-trip that would change our lives…

Crank reminds me of what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained. It continues to inspire me. And most of all, it keeps me in touch with my inner teen—because some days, I miss her like hell.

Today's Contest:

Tara's YA book, Harmonic Feedback, won't be out til Spring 2010, so today's contest isn't for a book (though I'm sure we will all be excited to read that one next spring!). Instead Tara has graciously offered the winner of today's contest a download of her song, Protector, which you can hear at her music site

To enter just leave a comment about Tara's ballad or a song that sums up your teenage years. Tara made me extra nostalgic for my teen years. I think the song that best sums up that time period for me is Olympia, WA by Rancid. What about you?

And you'll earn additional entries by blogging/tweeting/etc about this blog or the cyber launch party. Just note your additional entries in your comment. Winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, July 22.

Tomorrow's Guest:

Tomorrow, Sara Hantz, author of The Second Virginity of Suzy Green will be guest-blogging. So please come back to see what she has to say!


little miss gnomide said...

Probably the most intelligent Christian punk rock band of the late 90's, Five Iron Frenzy, had a song titled "Where Zero Meets Fifteen."

"The junkie gutter-punks keeps asking, where I got my new tattoo.
What does it matter anyway, thirteen cents or all I own?
How can I ever save the world, on cup-o-soup and student loans?
I want to try and save the world, but it never goes that way."

That pretty much describes the feeling I had in high school. Wanting desperately to save people, but not owning up to the fact that I myself was totally fucked.

Lilibeth Ramos said...

Don't enter me, but I just wanted to say that her ballad was...amazing. Even if I'm going to highschool this coming fall, I would wish for at least a quarter of those heartfelt memories that she will carry with her always. Just a eigth part would be awesome!

runningforfiction said...

That was really moving.
I'm a teenager right now, and i have many years left of my teenager-hood. The song right now, though, that just always makes me feel strong, and reminds me how teens these days are dealing with things kids our age definately shouldn't be.
That song is 'Blue' by Julie Doiron.


marina said...

you can enter me in the contest, it doesn't really matter that much to me. i just wanna say that while yes, i am only sixteen and i've got a while to go, i know what you mean when you describe your memories. the smell of the beaten cars mostly. there have been nights where i've had my friends and boyfriend just let me sit in their cars outside of my house because it keeps me calm and makes me feel like everythings okay. don't get me wrong, i like my house, i love my mother. it's just different in there. in those cars you can escape the pain and anger and negativity, all there is is what you just did. nothing else can matter. and the same goes for the local shows i'm always at. they bring more joy then most people can understand because you're there and you mean something to all those people. and also, i really like the song quote.


Tara Kelly said...

Great comments. I enjoyed reading them! Sorry folks aren't really feeling my song--I hope to have my ARC to give away one of these days.

Thanks again for having me, Stephanie :)

Thao said...

The ballad is really awesome. I wish we could put all the ballads of the guests into a book one day because it's no different from the fictional ballads, or even more intriguing. It amazes me how a single song could sum up everything you've seen, heard and felt in your life. I still don't know what my high school theme song yet *sighs*

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how many of those prized teen experiences I've shoved away and forgotten about (on purpose?) Your prose snuck right in there and yanked it all out because, yes, I miss her like hell, too.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Oh, man. And I'd thought my own writing kept me close to all those adventures. Tara, you've really made some memories surface for me. (Funny, a few of them aren't mine. Which means you've inspired this writer. Thanks!)

No need to enter me for the give. I'm dropping in to let you guys know I posted this at Win a Book. Stephanie, keep the e-mails coming to Win a Book and if we can help you, Tara, get your own book-related news out, holler. That's what we're here for.

Just Your Typical Book Blog said...

I've been racking my brain trying to think of a song that reminds me of high school. I can't think of just one song because each year of high school was so different from the previous one.

One that really pops into mind is when I was 16 and Staind's 'Breaking the Cycle' album came out. My friend and her boyfriend had just moved into a house (I pratically lived at during the summer - hello freedom) and her boyfriend constantly had that CD playing. At the end of the summer, we were all ready to chuck it, but anytime I hear a song on the radio from it, I'm instantly taken back to that house, sitting in that living room with a crowd of people who meant the world to me.


Just Your Typical Book Blog said...

Oh and I forgot to mention how completely amazing her ballad was! Just the way she writes, I'm making sure I check out her book next year!