Ruptured by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz

Happy, happy Wednesday! Please join me in welcoming poet Joanne Rossmassler Fritz to Watch. Connect. Read.! She stopped by to discuss Ruptured, Maine, Everywhere Blue, story, and more. I wrote the words in purple, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Joanne! 

Maeve Norton’s illustration and Kerry Martin’s cover design for Ruptured is gorgeous and a little mysterious. I was glad to have the lighthouse so prominently displayed on the cover. Lighthouses are very important in this novel, from the 50- or 60-foot-tall real kind, to the ceramic miniatures the mother collects, to a three-foot high ornamental lighthouse on a small island across from the family’s motel in Maine.

Ruptured tells the story of thirteen-year-old Claire, a bookworm and an only child. Here’s my publisher’s official description: Claire’s mom and dad don’t talk to each other much anymore. And they definitely don’t laugh or dance the way they used to. Their tense, stilted stand offs leave Claire caught in the middle. So when the family takes their annual summer vacation, Claire sticks her nose in a book and hopes for the best. Maybe the sunshine and ocean breeze will fix what’s gone wrong.

But while the family is away, Claire’s mother has a ruptured brain aneurysm—right after she reveals a huge secret to Claire. Though she survives the rupture, it seems like she is an entirely different person. Claire has no idea if her mom meant what she said, or if she even remembers saying it. With the weight of her mom’s confession on her shoulders, Claire must navigate fear, grief, and prospects for recovery.

Will her mom ever be the same? Will her parents stay together? And if the answer to either question is yes, how will Claire learn to live with what she knows?

Did you know that even though this is a work of fiction, I am a survivor of two brain aneurysm ruptures, twelve years apart? Both of them occurred while I was on vacation in Maine with my family. But there the resemblance to this book ends. The rest is fiction. I don’t have a daughter. I have two grown sons. However, I drew on both of my experiences in order to write this book. And all the hallucinations I mention in this book are slightly-fictionalized versions of my own. I have no memory of my second rupture – in fact, I was out of my mind for six months, and that time went by in an instant for me. I’ve never gotten those memories back. To write this novel, I interviewed my sons and my husband, and I even asked my doctor a few questions.

Poetry speaks volumes to us using very few words. It’s all about emotion and imagery. It’s highly personal. But you know that from your own upcoming verse novel, Louder Than Hunger, which I can’t wait to read! I do believe, though, that the verse in verse novels is usually different from the poetry in books of poetry. So I was thrilled that the Cybils Awards committee has now decided to separate the Poetry award (won by my debut novel, Everywhere Blue) from the Poetry Novel (or verse novel) award. They really are two different things.

Story is more than just narrative. A story entertains, educates, and enlightens readers with an experience that is both universal and unique. I believe we, as humans, are natural storytellers, going back to ancient times, and that anyone (if they have enough discipline) can write a story.

John Schu, you should have asked me about the difference between writing a debut verse novel and writing a second verse novel. With Everywhere Blue, I spent four and a half years writing and revising (I went through at least 12 drafts!) before acquiring an agent and, very quickly, a book deal with Holiday House. With Ruptured, the situation was extremely different. I started noodling around with the idea in April 2021 (two months before my debut novel launched), and sent it to my editor, Sally Morgridge, in early June when she asked what I had next (by then my agent had left agenting). Sally made me an offer on June 22, 2021! The rough draft wasn’t anywhere near finished. I finished the rough draft in October 2021, and then spent all of 2022 revising. Three rounds of revision took us until December 2022. But I’m pleased with the result and, in retrospect, relieved she had me go through all three rounds. The story needed it!

Congratulations, Joanne! 

Joanne Rossmassler Fritz is the author of Everywhere Blue, which was an NCTE Notable Verse Novel, a Mighty Girl Best Book of the Year, a Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, and the Cybils Award Poetry Winner. She’s been writing for most of her life, but didn’t get serious about it until after she survived the first of two brain aneurysm ruptures. Joanne and her husband live in southeastern Pennsylvania, and are the parents of two grown sons.

Look for Ruptured on November 14, 2023.


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