Take Five with Alli Frank and Asha Youmans

May 19, 2020 | By Baltimore County Public Library

Photo of Alli and Asha

"Tiny Imperfections" is a sparkling debut novel from Alli Frank and Asha Youmans. This hilarious and charming story focuses on family dynamics against the backdrop of the intense admissions campaigns at a tiny private school in San Francisco. Add a healthy dose of romance and you won't want to put this one down!

Let's take five with Alli and Asha and hear their thoughts on writing, education and the pandemic.

1. "Tiny Imperfections" is as heartwarming as it is funny and Josie is an endearing character. What was your inspiration in crafting such a great story with strong, independent women, including Josie, as well as Aunt Viv and Josie’s daughter, Etta?

Our dads have held an influential role in our respective development as independent women. Being a girl was never an excuse for failing to try and they have always championed us. We happen to both have a history of pioneering spirits and risk takers in our female descendants as well, whose stories of triumph and success, we’re sure, influenced our shared competitive nature. As adults, the example of strong women is plentiful if one is purposeful about the company kept. We enjoy being around other women who have wit, kind intentions and a curious nature.

2. What are the challenges of co-writing, especially about a setting which is in both of your backgrounds?

Our work sessions begin with the two of us catching up on family life, what we’re binge watching on TV and our efforts to keep food in the house with kids home all day long during this pandemic. Those conversations morph into note taking, then to scene building, until we are laughing our faces off creating snippets of dialog. All of those collective memories and experiences become fodder for the book and then must be interpreted for our characters. This is the ultimate in collaboration and it is our biggest challenge, and our greatest opportunity to learn and grow.

3. Tell us this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Josie, Aunt Viv and Etta!

Well, we certainly hope this is not the last of Aunt Viv, Josie and Etta—we have so much more to share of their amazing love and dynamic personalities! We indeed have another manuscript in the works, the Bordelon women have been busy, but we are also in the early writing stages of a second book unrelated (but still equal parts humor and emotion) to "Tiny Imperfections". Also, our ladies may be making it to the screen as "Tiny Imperfections" has been optioned by a major studio for book to television-film rights.

The book cover of Tiny Imperfections

4. What is your writing process? Has that changed at all during this stay-at-home time?

When you see that a coffee shop opens at 5 a.m. and you wonder to yourself, “Does anyone really visit Starbucks before the sun comes up,” we are here to tell you, “Yes, they do!” Personal connection is the most important aspect to our writing process. At the beginning of every work session, with full cups of tea and coffee, we spend time shooting the breeze. We share stories about our children and spouses, or where we found a deal on facial masks, or discussing our holiday plans. This time spent connecting not only deepens our relationship as friends and collaborators, but also sparks the laughter and good feelings that inspires the content of our writing. Like any great pair, we complement each other’s strengths and shore up each other’s weaknesses. Through it all we laugh hilariously at big and small things, hoping the coffee shop we’re working at doesn’t kick us out for being disruptive.

When it’s time to put our ideas on paper we sometimes sit side-by-side working on sections together, or across one of our dining room tables reading aloud to one another to work our sentence structure and authentic dialogue. Often, we trade chapters back and forth like a game of leap-frog or assign threads of concepts from the book like the characters’ relationships or the timeline of the story’s school year calendar. As time went on and the book neared completion, we’d trade larger sections of the book and critique what we wrote. There were a lot of emails, texts and phone calls as ideas came to us or we needed advice on just the right word to convey an idea. Above all, we checked in during all the ups and downs and in-betweens of our individual family lives to make sure we were both happy with our writing, our working relationship and most importantly, still laughing.

During this time of sheltering-in-place, the in-person, convivial aspect of our creativity is what has changed in our writing process. Now, we connect several times a day by phone, text here and there, and swap emails of our writing back and forth. But for two social women like us, who believe together we make one good writer, our creativity has lately resulted in bursts of productivity, but we have also, at times, felt stuck in cement. Luckily, so far, our highs and lows haven’t occurred at the same time, so the work keeps moving forward.

5. What is the most unexpected thing you’ve discovered during quarantine and what person, place or thing do you miss the most?

For the past decade or two parents and educators have been handwringing over resiliency and grit in children. How do we teach it? How do we know if they have it? Children are teaching us parents and educators, in real time, that they have it in spades. Sequestration from your friends, solitary learning, indoor living around the clock—this is not the natural state of a child, yet kids have pivoted and adapted quickly to find a new sense of normalcy and routine. We hope parents take a moment, when we are back to more regular routines, to tell their children that we have all noticed their resilience and say, “Hey, you hung in there. I’m proud of you.”

Individually we miss many things, but as co-authors we miss sitting in our favorite coffee shops, ready to get down to the business of writing, but always, always, taking the first 20 minutes to just swap stories and laugh hard. It’s so good for the soul!

Category: Collection and Materials