Friday, June 14, 2013

FML Madness - E.M. Kokie

To cap off a great week of FML stories, I'm thrilled to host E.M. Kokie, author of Personal Effects, which was absolutely one of my favorite books last year.

I played the violin for 2 years. And by play, I mean I played at playing it. I had weekly
lessons in school, but I rarely practiced. I wasn't at all good. I was never going to be good. I really just liked rosining the bow and posing in front of my bedroom mirror with the violin under my chin, pretending I was a grand violinist.
My friends played “real instruments” and were in the band, which had cool band concerts and practices and uniforms. I had lonely lessons and sad all town orchestra concerts. I was awful, maybe the worst one there. I wasn’t fooling anyone. Especially not my parents who suggested that if we were going to spend money on lessons and rentals, etc., then I should probably practice.
I quit instead.
But I still wanted to be part of the band. It was late to start a new instrument. And I probably wasn’t going to practice that one, either. I needed something I could do.
So, I joined the drum section, which I figured needed a girl, and looked easy. It wasn’t easy. At all. Playing the drums was difficult. And the members of the percussion section who had made it look so easy practiced hard. And a lot.
The others in my section, one other girl and the rest guys, worked hard for the privilege of playing snare and timp and bass. They challenged each other for rank. I was just happy to be there (and to wear the cool drum section beret instead of the really dorky hats the rest of the band wore).
My fellow percussionists played some kickass drums.
I barely played the drums. I mean, I did play a drum now and then over my 6 years in the percussion section. But I more often played other things.
I played a mean wood block.
A scintillating triangle.
Cow bell. Tambourine. Chimes. Several strange and exotic noisemakers.
The cymbals. Much of my marching band experience was with cymbals.
Once, I “played” a police siren. Probably because I was the only member of the percussion section the director trusted with the jerry-rigged electrical wiring (I was terrified I might get electrocuted every time I flipped the switch).
And for one glorious fall, I played a garbage can, hitting its various surfaces for a cool-as-hell part of the half-time show at the football games. It was awesome.
My mother never bugged me about practicing the garbage can. And there were no rental fees.

I played the clarinet for a short time in middle school...I would have rather played the trash can! Thank you for sharing your story! So today I'm giving away a copy of Personal Effects. Leave a comment telling us what instrument you played as a kid (or what instrument you wished you'd played). I just have to say, you all have been so awesome. I'm ridiculously lucky.

My debut YA novel Personal Effects was published by Candlewick Press September 11, 2012. As a lawyer, I love a good story and a good debate. I like to have the last word.


  1. I feel your pain, E.M.! I was forced to play the trombone from 6th to 9th grade, and I hated it. I was never very talented.

    1. I always figured you for the drums.

    2. Well, admittedly, when I grew up, and did what I actually wanted to do, I played the turntables and the drum machine for a while, but I was a real geek in middle school.

  2. Matthew, I'm not sure who suffered more in the violin years -- me, or those who had to listen to me play. ;)

    1. That sounds a lot like my trombone playing.

  3. Also, if the eventual winner wants that copy of Personal Effects inscribed or signed, that can be arranged. ;)

    1. I feel like it should be fair for me to win on any of these posts but my own. Usually, I try to refrain from feeling that way, but Shaun and I have very similar taste in books, so I kind of want all of them.

  4. I wish I had musical talent. Alas, I have none. But I appreciate it in others.

  5. I did this too--played the violin in school, never practiced, dropped it. I'm sure my teacher felt some relief!

    Later I tried the piano. Hated it. Never practiced. Etc.

    Loved the guitar in high school, though.

    And then I tried piano again as an adult... and still hated it. So much for maturity, eh?


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