After reading Signs of Life, our book club members wanted to know more about author Natalie Taylor. We’re excited to have Natalie tackle their questions.
Book club members Brenda and Amy H: We’re very curious to know if Natalie’s relationship with her in-laws survived the publication of this book. She’s pretty hard on them. She says in the “thank yous” concerning her in-laws, “Please don’t hate me.” Yikes!
Natalie Taylor: Hi Brenda and Amy, yes my relationship with my in-laws has survived the book. Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law were incredibly gracious about the book. As I say by the end of the book, it was me who had to come full circle to see where they were coming from. My initial reaction to their presence in my life after losing Josh is not something that I am proud of, but with my level of anger, frustration, all of those things, I just didn’t know where else for all of that to go. Obviously, just as the books notes, I was the one that had to do the most changing. They are both amazing people who have helped me immensely. Since the book, all has been well.
From Lisa: A lot of the book focuses on Natalie’s emotional journey, but she doesn’t touch on her day to day survival of paying bills, etc. Knowing that very few young families have the forethought to get life insurance, I wondered if they had. What would her advice be to young families getting started in case a tragedy were to strike?
Natalie: In terms of life insurance, this is a tough question. I really don’t know, I think each family needs to know what is best for them. I do think long term planning is something that all families should do in the way that works for them. It’s hard because in one sense I think it is so important to live life in the moment—take vacations together, build the house of your dreams—but on the other hand, we all have to inevitably plan for an unknown future. I just think all families should do what is best for them and their needs, both short and long term.
From Robin: If Natalie were to write a postscript describing life right now, which book or poem would she reference?
Natalie: Hi Robin! This is an amazing question! This year I am teaching Advanced Placement Literature for the first time and I have a brand new syllabus this year. I remember reading “Song of Myself” [by Walt Whitman] in high school and really not enjoying or understanding it, but rereading it and teaching it this year gave me a whole new perspective. The entire poem is really this wonderful idea of how we’re all connected, we’re really not all that different from each other and every day holds these wonderful new discoveries for us. That is really how I see my life now—finding joy in things like bedtime reading, flying a kite on a windy day, or sharing a meal with my family and friends. My favorite lines are, “Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the /earth much? Have you practis’d so long to learn to read? /Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?”
From Jennifer B: I’m wondering how Natalie talks to her son about his dad. In the book she talks about knowing that someday he will understand that he lost his father. He may be close to that age now, and I wonder how she approaches this topic.
Natalie:Dear Jennifer B: Talking to Kai about his dad is challenging, but it is really important to me. Kai is now four, but his concept of permanence has changed over time. It is becoming clearer to him that his dad was here, but now he’s not. When Kai was younger (around three), he would always ask, “But mom, where is heaven? Can we get there? What about a space ship? Or a jet pack?” These conversations were so painful, but so necessary. We talk about these ideas a lot mostly because Kai is very interested. Kai is a very curious guy and I always want to make sure I create a home where he can ask anything, especially about his dad.
From Left to Write: Have your students read your book? What has been their reaction to it?
Natalie: Some of my students have read the book, some have not. Honestly, I have no idea who has and has not read it. When I go to school, it’s business as usual. For those who have read it and have talked to me about it, they are incredibly respectful about it. They say nice things and they usually say that they didn’t know I used the F-word so much.
FL2W: Your love of literature is prevalent in your memoir. Many high school students might not feel the same way. How does your students’ views on literature and how it relates to their lives change during the course of your class?
Natalie: Indeed, many high school students do not share my love of literature. As a teacher, I try to be as enthusiastic as possible about what we read and I always do something to bring the text to the twenty-first century. After a while, the students start to do it themselves. Just in reading Mrs. Dalloway, one student noted in one of her responses that Clarissa feels about Peter very much how teenage girls feel about teenage boys—she adores him and is frustrated by him at the exact same time. What girl hasn’t felt that? They know these books are about the human experience; sometimes you’ve just got to dig through some pretty difficult prose to find it.
FL2W: Now that your son is older and keeps you busier (I have a 6yo and a 2 yo, so I’m there right now), how do you find time to write? Do you have another book in the works?
Natalie: Writing is a part of my life just like going for a jog or vacuuming the living room. (All three of those activities, actually, I wished happened more often). I make it a priority and it happens. I am very busy but after Kai goes to bed, it’s just me in this house and writing has been the thing that has kept me company all of these years. I still love to sit down in a quiet house and type with absolutely no regard to the clock.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Natalie: Thank you so much for choosing Signs of Life! I am honored to be a part of such a great group!
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions Natalie!
If you missed our book club discussion, please take some time to read our bloggers’ reactions to Signs of Life During the fifth month of her pregnancy of her first child she is devastated by the sudden death of her husband. In her memoir, English teacher Natalie Taylor shares her grief journey in her memoir Signs of Life.
Photo courtesy of Natalie’s website.