Ali Standish grew up in North Carolina and graduated from Pomona College before spending several years as an educator in the Washington, D.C. public school system. She has an MFA in children’s writing from Hollins University and is working on an MPhil in Children’s Literature from the University of Cambridge. She lives with her Finnish husband and rescue dog in Grantchester, UK. The Ethan I Was Before is her debut novel.
Ali’s debut novel, THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE (Harper Collins Children’s, January 24, 2017) is a contemporary middle grade novel. After Ethan loses his best friend, Kacey, in a tragic accident, his family moves him from Boston to the seaside town of Palm Knot, Georgia, home of possibility and second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, but Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk.
The two or three items she needs to have with her when she sits down to write: I MUST have a steaming mug of English breakfast tea when I sit down to write. It makes facing a blank page just a tiny bit less scary. My dog, Bella, is usually curled up somewhere nearby, and when I’m having a tough writing day, I sometimes try to channel her doggy zen.
The literary character she’d most like to meet: When I was little, I wanted to be best friends with Matilda. I think it could still happen.
Her favorite childhood book” “Favorite”? As in, I can only pick one?! That has to be the cruelest question ever for an author to answer! I will say Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia here, because I not only loved it, but because it taught me a lot about narrative agency and storycrafting. I admired Leslie’s imaginative prowess so much, and I wanted to be just like her. What I love about Paterson’s book (okay, ONE of the things I love) is that she leaves Terabithia wide open for the reader to imagine for themselves. I created my own version of Terabithia in my backyard and used to come up with all sorts of stories there. I think those afternoons were very formative in my journey as a writer. So I owe that book, and Katherine Paterson, a great debt.
Her hobbies when she’s not writing/reading: I take long walks with my dog. We are lucky to live in a very picturesque little village with beautiful countryside around. I love trying new recipes. I travel as much as possible. I used to ride horses regularly, and I would love to start doing that again!
Her favorite Muppet and why: I was never hugely into the Muppets, though I did grow up watching Muppet Babies. In that show, I was always intrigued by Nanny, who watched over the wee muppets. You never get to see her face. I think I was always waiting for them to reveal her identity and for it to be some huge twist!
The craziest thing she did when she was 17: I’m going to cheat here and make that 18 (but only just). I went to Lollapalooza that year and waited all day to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The temperature was in the triple digits, and you were lucky if you got a tiny sip of one of the water bottles the security guards threw into the crowd. The band before the Chili Peppers was Queens of the Stone Age, who attracted a VERY rowdy crowd with lots of mosh pits. By the time the Chili Peppers came on, I was soaked with sweat and delirious from dehydration. I had lost my shoes, my contacts, and my shirt (thank goodness I was wearing a bikini top!). I was also one of the only girls left in the crowd—people were pushing so hard! But we were so close to the stage, and when they started to play “Can’t Stop,” it was the best feeling in the world. I made it about three songs into their set, and then I crowd surfed out. It was incredible.
If she could travel anywhere in the world, where she’d go: I wish I could see all the wild and lonely and untouched places left in the world. Dark rainforests, freezing tundras, stark deserts, deep swamps…the bottom of the sea. I love places that humble us with their implicit reminder that there was a before—before humans, that is—and one day there will be an after. Cheery thoughts to end on, I know!
Where You’ll find her: