“Fierro’s first novel captures the complexity of forging new friendships and redefining lives as contemporary parents. Her characters are meticulously drawn, the situations emotionally charged. Readers won’t be able to look away.” – Booklist
“When a group of thirty-something parents gather at a ramshackle beach house called Eden, no serpent is required for the sins, carnal and otherwise, to pile up. Fierro argued in The Millions last year that writers need to put the steam—and the human sentiment—back into sex scenes in literary novels. You may want to keep Fierro’s debut novel on a high shelf, away from children and prudish literary snobs.” – The Millions
“Entertaining, wise, heart-breaking at times, Cutting Teeth is an outstanding debut. Julia Fierro’s particular genius is her ability to understand and render the vagaries of the human heart.” – Therese Anne Fowler, author of the bestselling Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
“Timely and observant, Julia Fierro’s debut feels like real life. She captures the anxiety of our times with the authority, insight—and humor—of lived experience.” – Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles
What were the seeds of this book?
My life, of course. There are many autobiographical elements in Cutting Teeth. I am a mother to young children. I live in Brooklyn. I worry too much and scrutinize my choices as a parent, just as many of the novel’s characters do. There is a part of me in every character—both the women and men. Almost always, that “part” is a trait of my own that I am working to understand, and writing through that mystery in my characters in how I inform myself of myself. Like many writers, I learn through writing. It is how I make sense of myself, the world around me, and my place in that world.
What innovation in this book are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the way I integrated the online world into the characters’ experiences in Cutting Teeth. This is really surprising to me, because if you’d asked me five years ago about the use of the Internet in literary fiction, I would’ve been all snobby about it. Using online message boards, forums, websites, and even cell phone texts, felt so organic to the world I needed to create in Cutting Teeth. The characters are desperate to hide certain secrets from their friends and partners, and the Internet is a safe (most of the time) place where they can find a release in sharing these secrets. And I had so much fun designing and formatting the online sections. When I received the finished books in the mail, they were the first pages I flipped to.
When did you first know you were a writer?
I’ve always known I was a storyteller because I’ve been a relentless consumer of stories since I was a child. Through television, books, and observing (sometimes, eavesdropping on) other people. When I wasn’t reading or watching TV as a child, I was spending hours dreaming up drama with my Barbie dolls. I had five Barbies and only one Ken, so I wove some twisted tales of envy, heartbreak and revenge.
Being a writer wasn’t something I thought possible growing up. My parents hoped I’d become a lawyer, my brother a doctor. These were secure professions at that time, and many children of immigrants (my father emigrated to America from Italy) are urged in the same direction by their parents. Creativity was appreciated, but creative pursuit as “work” wasn’t an option in my parents’ perspective, and so it wasn’t in my own. But by the time I reached college, I was already dreaming of a life in books—what kind of life, I had no idea. So when I received my acceptance letter from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2000, I knew I’d been giving an incredible opportunity. It was at Iowa that I would finally give myself the permission to think, believe, know, that I was a writer.
If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you would be? Put another way, what else fills your life besides writing (and how does this influence your writing, in practical or ephemeral ways)?
I’d probably be living outside the city. I’m a woodsy girl at heart. I grew up on the thickly forested North Shore of Long Island, also the setting for Cutting Teeth. I’d love to work in gardening, maybe landscape design. I inherited my green thumb from my father, whose family were farmers on the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. I feel such peace in my garden in Brooklyn, but then a helicopter flies overhead and I am returned to the real world.
I live in NYC because I love the people—especially the writers and the rich literary community—but I miss the sound of the wind swishing through the trees and the symphony of insect sounds at night. I’d love to work in a place surrounded by that kind of “noise.”
Are there any writers featured in this giveaway with whom you have a strong friendship? How did you meet that person? How do you support each other’s work?
Yes, I’m lucky to know almost all of these writers as friends, whether in real life or online. Some, like Scott Cheshire, Courtney Mauk, Ted Thompson, Emma Straub, Caeli Wolfson Widger and Marie-Helene Bertino are, or were, instructors at the workshop I founded—The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop. Cristina Henriquez and Kevin Clouther were my classmates at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Others are friends I know through the NYC literary world, like Porochista Khakpour, Brian Gresko, and Mira Jacob. Megan Abbott and Robin Black are writers I’ve considered long distance mentors—their work and literary citizenship has been an inspiration for years.
We support each other’s work in real life and online, and this is becoming, more and more, the heart of the literary world, as this wonderful giveaway proves. Writers need other writers—for inspiration and support as we are making the work, for courage as we are sending it out into the world, and then, again, as our work goes out to readers. One of the best and most authentic ways to connect with new readers is through other writers.
In the next six months, I’m reading at events with most of these writers and I can’t wait!
More About Julia Fierro
Julia Fierro is the founder of the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a creative home to more than 2500 writers since 2002. Her novel, Cutting Teeth, was included in Library Journal‘s “Spring 2014 Best Debuts” and on “Most Anticipated Books of 2014” lists by HuffPost Books, The Millions, Flavorwire, Brooklyn Magazine and Marie Claire. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Teaching-Writing Fellow, she’s written for Guernica, Glamour, and other publications, and has been profiled in The L Magazine, The Observer, and The Economist. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two children. Visit Julia’s website, find her on Twitter, and check out The Parenting Confessional Tumblr inspired by Cutting Teeth, and featured in RedBook, the UK Daily News, Yahoo! Shine, WhatToExpect.com, and more.
And please email your confessions to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Enter Today’s Giveaway!
To enter, answer the following question in the form below:
The cover of Cutting Teeth shows famous pair of toys (check it out on Julia Fierro’s website). What was your childhood “lovey?” A stuffed teddy bear? A doll or blanket? Do you still have it?
One winner will win one signed copy of Julia Fierro’s novel Cutting Teeth. Limit one entry per IP address. No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of the United States, who are the age of 18 or older. Deadline for entry is 8:00 P.M. ET on May 7th, 2014. Read the complete rules.