Writers Unplugged Presents: Susan Petrone

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Show Notes

We’re pleased to share this Writers Unplugged event featuring Cleveland author Susan Petrone. Jen Jumba of Cleveland Public Library conducted this interview in person on February 7, 2024, to discuss Petrone’s latest novel, the power of music, the unreliability of memory, the thrill of finding yourself in a book, and, of course, the falafel and milkshakes at Tommy’s.

Writers Unplugged is a Cleveland Public Library series uniting authors, performers, journalists, activists, and educators to delve into the issues impacting our communities. Susan Petrone is the author of The Musical Mozinskis (2024), The Heebie-Jeebie Girl (2020), The Super Ladies (2018), Throw Like a Woman (2015), and A Body at Rest (2009). She was a recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for FY 2020.

In this episode:


Susan Petrone (00:00):
Yeah, I'm not going to say everybody's got a novel in them because...

Jen Jumba (00:02):
But like everybody has some, as you said, some unique gift...

Susan Petrone (00:04):
Everybody's got a haiku in them.

Jen Jumba (00:05):
There's no way I could do a haiku. That's math.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:10):
Welcome to Page Count, presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. I'm your host, Laura Maylene Walter.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:21):
Today we're featuring an author I first met in person years ago at a Festivus party in downtown Cleveland, but that's probably a story for another time. Susan Petrone is a Cleveland author whose newest novel is THE MUSICAL MOZINSKIS. She recently appeared in conversation with Cleveland Public Library's own Jen Jumba at a Writers Unplugged event at our South branch. Their conversation was recorded, and we're sharing it with our Page Count listeners today. Susan discussed everything from the thrill of seeing your book out in the world, the unreliability of memory, the power of music, finding yourself in a book, and, naturally, the falafel and milkshakes at Tommy's. Writers Unplugged is presented by Cleveland Public Library and offers both virtual and in-person conversations with authors. Be sure to check our show notes for information about upcoming Writers Unplugged events, and subscribe to the podcast version of these recorded conversations. For now, I'll turn it over to Jen Jumba, who interviewed Susan Petrone on February 7th, 2024. Enjoy.

Jen Jumba (01:31):
Good evening, and welcome to Writers Unplugged. This is a series and a chance to hear your favorite or Jumba. I'm a librarian at the main branch of Cleveland Public Library. I think one of my favorite things to do besides reading is talking to the people who wrote the books that I read. So, it's a chance to get to know their craft. It's a chance to get to know what inspires them, where they like to write, essentially getting to know them better than just the name on the spine of a book. So this evening, we are so lucky not only to be in this beautiful...South Campus Branch, Carnegie designed, but with Susan Petrone, local writer here. Super excited. So before we get started, a couple housekeeping things.

Jen Jumba (02:20):
If you want to know who else is visiting, if you go to cpl.org and you click on events, there's author visits and you'll be able to see who else is coming. So Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry is here, has copies of Susan's books for you. I'm sure you'll pick them up. She's graciously agreed to sign them when we're done. So, brief introduction. Susan Petrone is the author of THE HEEBIE-JEEBIE GIRL, THE SUPER LADIES, THROW LIKE A WOMAN..my favorite...A BODY AT REST, which won a bronze medal for regional fiction from the Independent Publishers Book Awards. SUPER LADIES was a general fiction finalist in Forward Reviews Book of the Year Awards, and she's the recipient of the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards. And she's also one of the co-founders and former president of Literary Cleveland. Super cool. So if you've already read Susan's books, then you know these awards are well deserved.

Jen Jumba (03:22):
And if you're new to her work, then trust me, you will marvel at her storytelling, her ability to write beautiful sentences, create characters that both annoy you and find a way into your heart and provide such unique glimpses into other people's lives. And on a personal note, Susan is great to have a conversation with, whether it's about books, sports, baseball, travel, or basically any other subject. It's like talking to a friend that you've known forever. So we are so lucky to have you here. So congratulations. This is your latest book, THE MUSICAL MOZINSKIS, right?

Susan Petrone (04:02):

Jen Jumba (04:02):
It's barely a month old.

Susan Petrone (04:04):
Yeah, technically it's, yeah...three weeks? No, three weeks, yeah.

Jen Jumba (04:10):
It's just like babies, right?

Susan Petrone (04:11):
It's a baby baby book.

Jen Jumba (04:11):
You publish, you give birth to this amazing thing and we start to measure like in days and weeks.

Susan Petrone (04:16):

Jen Jumba (04:17):
Not pounds though, but amazing book. So, I have to imagine writing a book and then seeing it published and seeing it in bookstores and on shelves that hopefully never gets old.

Susan Petrone (04:28):
No, it does not. I mean, short answer, no, it never gets old. There's always that thrill and we go, oh, wait, wait, I know that book and you're like, it for, for a kid who grew up, actually, my first child was in a library.

Jen Jumba (04:43):

Susan Petrone (04:44):
Coventry library over on the east side. And my mom used to co-own a used bookstore. So like hanging around books and bookstores and libraries has always been my thing. And so seeing my book on a shelf in a library at a bookstore is kind of like, it's, it's just like the biggest kick. It's, I can't, I can't even describe it. And sometimes it also, it helps if you're, like, if I'm struggling with something that I'm writing...like I'll look, I'm like, okay, I wrote that and that, and that I can do this. Like, you know how to do this.

Jen Jumba (05:21):

Susan Petrone (05:22):
Just keep doing it.

Jen Jumba (05:23):
How would you, if you were to pick five words to describe this book...

Susan Petrone (05:28):

Jen Jumba (05:30):
Five phrases.

Susan Petrone (05:30):
Can they be like, can they be like, connected like a five word sentence?

Jen Jumba (05:33):
Yeah absolutely.

Susan Petrone (05:34):
Or do they have to be five individual words?

Jen Jumba (05:34):

Susan Petrone (05:35):
Okay. Man. You know, two things that can break your heart: music and family.

Jen Jumba (05:44):

Susan Petrone (05:45):
I didn't come up with that. That's from a really nice blurb that Carter Bays wrote for.

Jen Jumba (05:49):
It's so true.

Susan Petrone (05:49):
It's, but yeah, I love that. Yeah. So it's two things that can break your heart: music and family. And hopefully put it back together.

Jen Jumba (05:56):
Yes. Which you did. You kind of broke my heart.

Susan Petrone (06:00):
Oh, good.

Jen Jumba (06:00):
But thankfully you helped put it back together.

Susan Petrone (06:03):
<laugh> Yay.

Jen Jumba (06:04):
So, the first chapter.

Susan Petrone (06:07):

Jen Jumba (06:07):
Can we just look at like the first line, which I find to be utterly magical. Want to read it?

Susan Petrone (06:13):
Sure. Tell me how much you...Literally just the first sentence?

Jen Jumba (06:17):

Susan Petrone (06:18):

Jen Jumba (06:18):
To like what he does with the music.

Susan Petrone (06:22):
Uh, okay. Okay.

Jen Jumba (06:25):
First line. Yes.

Susan Petrone (06:27):
So chapter one, Sing For Your Supper. "Vincent Mozinski could grab music out of the air. He would reach out, grab the beat, and cup it in his hand as though listening to it for a moment in private. Then he'd shake it...1, 2, 3, 4, and throw the beat back out into the world for all to hear and for his children to see."

Susan Petrone (06:45):
Is that all you want me to hear?

Jen Jumba (06:47):
Yeah. Can you tell me a little bit more about the idea of where that came from? Like, being able to like, see music?

Susan Petrone (06:55):
Okay. So I mean, and if you go like, the farther on in that paragraph. So, I mean, honestly, I'm ripping off Charles Schulz a little bit. Cause like in Peanuts...

Jen Jumba (07:04):

Susan Petrone (07:04):
When Schroeder's playing and like the musical notes, the musical staff is above the piano.

Jen Jumba (07:08):

Susan Petrone (07:10):
I grew up in a family that was very, very musical or very artistically inclined.

Jen Jumba (07:18):

Susan Petrone (07:19):
So there was always music around and the idea that like, you could see music and maybe everybody in a family could see music except like one person, kind of felt like a way of manifesting that feeling that many of us have of not really fitting in with your family.

Jen Jumba (07:38):

Susan Petrone (07:38):
So, honestly, I, I kind of just started thinking about that. This started like a lot of my novels, this started out as a short story that I didn't know what to do with.

Jen Jumba (07:47):

Susan Petrone (07:48):
And I think it started out as something a little more...at the time I started it I was in a writing group. And like, somebody was like, oh, I can imagine this being like, like this great book. Like, like THE SATURDAYS, which was like, I don't know if you ever read that. Like, it's probably like same like vein as like Edward Eager. So probably.

Jen Jumba (08:07):

Susan Petrone (08:07):
Like YA from the fifties or sixties, but like, you know, a lot gentler.

Jen Jumba (08:14):

Susan Petrone (08:14):
And less literary fiction than it turned out to be. So it's one of those things. It's, it's, I can't remember the exact moment.

Jen Jumba (08:26):

Susan Petrone (08:27):
That I thought of that. But yes, I did rip off Charles Schulz a little bit.

Jen Jumba (08:31):
A little...to describe. Right.

Susan Petrone (08:33):

Jen Jumba (08:34):
Because it's, if you talk to people who have, it's called synesthesia.

Susan Petrone (08:37):
Synesthesia, yeah.

Jen Jumba (08:38):
Where they can see notes, they can see colors.

Susan Petrone (08:42):
And I think synesthesia is like, if you, like, if you see colors, I'm not sure if there's an actual term like medical term for seeing notes.

Jen Jumba (08:49):

Susan Petrone (08:50):
Susan-thesia, yeah. <laugh>

Jen Jumba (08:52):
Right, just roll with that.

Susan Petrone (08:53):
Yeah. Yeah. We'll make something up. I don't know.

Jen Jumba (08:56):
But it, but it helps to, to connect to see what you're trying to get people to see that it, that's what it looks like because almost all of us have watched Peanuts and seen Schroeder play the piano and seeing those notes.

Susan Petrone (09:07):

Jen Jumba (09:07):
So, you know, you talk about your dad being a musician and growing up in a musical family.

Susan Petrone (09:12):

Jen Jumba (09:14):
Is this loosely based?

Susan Petrone (09:15):
Okay. So, okay. Yeah.

Jen Jumba (09:17):
Nobody's listening.

Susan Petrone (09:18):
No, that's good. That's, that's, and this is interesting because yeah. So THE MUSICAL MOZINSKIS is about a family of six...with six children of artistically inclined children with a jazz piano playing, cigarette smoking father and a violin playing, songwriting mother who holds everything together. And I grew up in a family with six artistically inclined children with a jazz piano playing, cigarette smoking father, and a violin playing songwriting mother who held everything together. So.

Jen Jumba (09:52):
Write what you know.

Susan Petrone (09:52):
On one level...write what you know! So it's a little bit autobiographical, but I'm, I would say it's less autobiographical and more like a memory book.

Jen Jumba (10:02):

Susan Petrone (10:03):
And a few years back I heard, uh, John Irving speak in Cleveland, so cool. And he just used the phrase, memory is a monster. And I was like, oh, yes it is.

Jen Jumba (10:16):
Oh, yes.

Susan Petrone (10:17):
So I mean, the, the things that we think that we remember, uh, may not be what anybody else in your family remembers. So I know that I have siblings who'd be like, that didn't happen. Like, it's, it's a memory book. It's not a memoir. It's, you know, it's a novel. So yes, there are some autobiographical elements, like there are some things that happened. I can tell you more about them if you're interested.

Jen Jumba (10:42):
So did anybody in your family, could they see music and experience music the way that this family...

Susan Petrone (10:46):
Not I know of.

Jen Jumba (10:47):

Jen Jumba (10:47):
Not that you know of.

Susan Petrone (10:49):
Not that I know of. But I mean, when I was growing up, there was, and again, this is like, you know, our perception.

Jen Jumba (10:57):

Susan Petrone (10:57):
Because memory is a monster.

Jen Jumba (10:59):

New Speaker (10:59):
Our perception of like, reality is probably different than what actually happened. But I remember just feeling like everybody in my family could play an instrument well, except me. And there was like, I went through this period of like, you know, trying to like trying out my sister's flute or, you know, then there was the great, you know, french horn debacle of fourth grade. Which was...and I finally ended up playing clarinet for a little minute. Was not a fan. Did he play clarinet or the French horn?

Audience Member (11:35):

Susan Petrone (11:35):
Okay. I really wanted to play the saxophone. And my dad's like, and my dad really did do the, well, if you learn how to play clarinet, then you'll learn to play...saxophone will be easy. I'm like, don't have the desire to play this.

Jen Jumba (11:46):

Susan Petrone (11:46):
But there was that feeling that everybody could do this and I couldn't. And I felt like there was like some genetics, which that had been flipped on everybody but me.

Jen Jumba (11:56):
So my guess is you can write and none of them can write.

Susan Petrone (12:00):
No, that's not true actually.

Jen Jumba (12:01):
That's what I was...

Susan Petrone (12:02):
I know right? No, when you grow up in a large family, it like, there was a time when I was like maybe seven or eight and I looked around, I'm like, like all the cool activities are already taken. Because like, , you know, one sister was, uh, sang and, you know, took voice lessons and another one played flute and wrote poetry. And then another one was saxophone player, and then another one was an actor. And then there's my brother Mike, who's still a full-time jazz piano player. And then there's me. So it was like all the cool activities have, you know, been taken. I mean the, the nice thing about growing up in a, in a, an artistic family is that it did normalize creative pursuits.

Jen Jumba (12:47):

Susan Petrone (12:47):
Like the first time I had a play produced, like three other people in my family had already had a play produced. So that wasn't like a weird thing.

Jen Jumba (12:54):
Yeah. Kind of normalized it. Yeah.

Susan Petrone (12:56):
It was weird in my family, if you could do calculus.

Jen Jumba (12:59):
Oh, okay.

Susan Petrone (13:00):
See, so like by, so some, by some standards I fit in.

Jen Jumba (13:04):

Susan Petrone (13:04):
By that standard <laugh>. I totally fit in.

Jen Jumba (13:07):
Yeah. So in the beginning of the book, you're talking about Vincent and Grace. So like the jazz playing cigarette smoking father.

Susan Petrone (13:15):
Yeah. Yeah.

Jen Jumba (13:16):
And the violin playing,

Susan Petrone (13:18):
Songwriting mother.

Jen Jumba (13:18):
Music writing, songwriting mother who holds it all together.

Susan Petrone (13:20):

Jen Jumba (13:20):
And they're talking about family and there's the question about teaching music to children.

Susan Petrone (13:24):

Jen Jumba (13:24):
And there's a line where you talk about some people think you shouldn't just start music lessons until the child can read. You aren't fighting two learning battles at once.

Susan Petrone (13:34):

Jen Jumba (13:35):
And the response was, music just isn't just an intellectual exercise, it's a deep part of being human.

Susan Petrone (13:43):
Oh yeah.

Jen Jumba (13:43):
And it's not something you learn, it's something you feel that everybody feels. And I think all of us listening and all of us in this room can think about a particular piece of music that every time you hear it, it gets you. Or every time it's on you find yourself singing along to it. So, you know, can you think of a piece of music where, you know, when you were growing up that you just felt?

Susan Petrone (14:05):

Jen Jumba (14:06):
It's a seventies...

Susan Petrone (14:07):
So many.

Jen Jumba (14:08):
I know so many.

Susan Petrone (14:09):
I mean, the, I mean, now, I mean like, and not really so much like when I was growing up, but I'll say, okay. Not my desert island discs.

Jen Jumba (14:22):

Susan Petrone (14:22):
Which I think is a different thing, but...

Jen Jumba (14:24):

Susan Petrone (14:25):
Like the songs I want played at my funeral.

Jen Jumba (14:27):

Susan Petrone (14:27):
Would be, Morrissey: Sing Your Life.

Jen Jumba (14:30):

Susan Petrone (14:31):
Lyle Lovett: In My Own Mind and probably Rickie Lee Jones's version of I'll Be Seeing You.

Jen Jumba (14:39):

Susan Petrone (14:39):
But those are more lyrically than...

Jen Jumba (14:41):
Yeah. Because songwriting tells a story through music.

Susan Petrone (14:45):

Jen Jumba (14:45):
The way you tell a story through the pages in your book.

Susan Petrone (14:47):

Jen Jumba (14:48):
So, and it, if people like you, really good at the craft, it gets you right here. Whether it's music or writing. Right here.

Susan Petrone (14:56):

Jen Jumba (14:56):
Yeah. Right here.

Susan Petrone (14:57):
Right here it hurts.

Jen Jumba (15:00):
Yeah. So I'm joined in conversation this evening with local writer Susan Petrone. So let's talk a little bit about the children.

Susan Petrone (15:07):

Jen Jumba (15:07):
And, and their ability and how they don't just play one instrument. Can you kind of introduce us to like this cast of characters?

Susan Petrone (15:14):
Yeah. So the, the Mozinski family has six children. The eldest is Clara, and yes, they all have musical names. So Clara plays the harp and, you know, the, the family mythology is that when she was very small, because she has long, curly hair and her parents were like, Clara has the look of a harpist. Where, so that's like the, the, the family mythology and the, the parents are always good at matching up children with instruments. And then you do learn later that, no, some music department at some college was cleaning out their...having a fire sale on instruments and they got a troubadour harp. And so, but Clara is kind of, she's the, your quintessential oldest child.

Jen Jumba (15:59):

Susan Petrone (16:00):
Just, she's responsible. She does what she's told...until she doesn't.

Jen Jumba (16:04):

Susan Petrone (16:04):
Yes. The second oldest and the oldest boy is Ellington, who is a percussionist through and through.

Susan Petrone (16:14):
If he's kind of like Manny Ramirez, like if Manny Ramirez couldn't hit a baseball, I'm not sure what he would be doing, if Ellington couldn't play, if Ellington had no rhythm. I don't know what he'd be doing. He's kind of a mess. He's a, yeah. Not even, he's like a lukewarm mess. Not even a hot mess.

Jen Jumba (16:30):

Susan Petrone (16:30):
The next is Bix.

Jen Jumba (16:33):

Susan Petrone (16:33):
Who's just Mr. Sunshine.

Jen Jumba (16:37):

Susan Petrone (16:37):
And also is ends up being the front man kind of by default when they have a band, when the kids are like in grade school. But he's the one who ends up on like, the cover of Tiger Beat Magazine because he's just adorable. He's got all the curly hair. And he's cute.

Jen Jumba (16:53):
He has the curly hair

Susan Petrone (16:54):
Brown eyes you could swim in.

Jen Jumba (16:57):
Yes, exactly.

Susan Petrone (16:57):
So that, that, that's Bix and he's just, you know, maybe spends a little too much time making everybody love him. Then the next is Allegro. Who is probably the one in the family who's not only a musical prodigy, but also just borderline genius. Kind of...doesn't hate everybody, but she does get, she has not, she does not learn patience. for people who might not be her intellectual equal. So that, that's Ally. And she's, you know, she's wonderful. I love her. The next is Thelonious...Theo. Who's, when he, when they're small, realizes that he's kind of like the bench player because...so whatever kid leaves, you know, he's going to have to replace somebody. So he learns like all the instruments. But he's, Theo is just, he's kind of not quite the lost boy.

Susan Petrone (17:56):

Jen Jumba (17:57):
But he's kind of, he has his own thing that kind of separates him and others, him from the rest of the family. And then the youngest is Viola. And it's not a secret to say because it's on the back cover. The problem is Viola is tone deaf, so she's the one in the family who doesn't see the music. And not only that really just couldn't carry a tune if it had a handle. Right.

Jen Jumba (18:23):
Yeah. No, I think that's one of my favorites lines.

Susan Petrone (18:25):
The old line. So those are the kids.

Jen Jumba (18:28):
Makes me think about when I was growing up, my parents are amazing and wanted me to have all kinds of opportunities and they encouraged me to take piano lessons. I cannot read music. Like if you show it to me, I can do the, Every Good Boy Does Fine and FACE.

Susan Petrone (18:43):
F-A-C-E. Yeah.

Jen Jumba (18:43):
Right. Like, I know that, but I could not read it. And my parents are like, once you make a commitment, you follow through on that commitment. So you're in it till the recital.

Susan Petrone (18:51):
Come on.

Jen Jumba (18:52):
Oh yeah. No way. I just memorized it. Like, I cannot.

Susan Petrone (18:55):
You played it by ear. Yeah.

Jen Jumba (18:56):
I could not read it to save my life. But I love, I loved being around music. And when I was in high school, I was in the chorus. I can't, I'm tone deaf, cannot sing. Not even in the shower, in the car on a sunny day, however, I just wanted to be around it. So we had an agreement, the choral instructor and I like you just lip sync everything.

Susan Petrone (19:15):
Oh my God.

Jen Jumba (19:16):
But I wanted to be surrounded by the music and all the different parts.

Susan Petrone (19:20):

Jen Jumba (19:21):
I know. Kind of pathetic, but

Susan Petrone (19:23):
No, it's not. It's really sweet. And I love that you were there.

Jen Jumba (19:26):
But music is an amazing thing.

Susan Petrone (19:28):

Jen Jumba (19:28):
I mean, it kind of transcends language.

Susan Petrone (19:31):
Yeah. Well, and okay. Like we all saw the, the, the clip from the Grammys.

Jen Jumba (19:37):

Susan Petrone (19:37):
With Tracy Chapman.

Jen Jumba (19:39):

Susan Petrone (19:40):
And, and Luke Combs doing Fast Car. Like, like, every time I cry.

Jen Jumba (19:44):

Susan Petrone (19:45):
Because you just, you like two generations, like different genders and different races and different gender and generations and we all are like, coming together and, and like seeing the, seeing the crowd of the Grammys and people singing along and just feeling those lyrics. And that's, that's one of the, the magic of, of music that it can bring people together from so many disparate places and, and groups and, and we all find, you know, find a home in it.

Jen Jumba (20:18):

Susan Petrone (20:19):
Aw. I do. I kind of feel bad about you in the choir.

Jen Jumba (20:22):
But it's okay. We had an agreement because I could not sing.

Jen Jumba (20:27):
It's awful. I mean, I can't even talk very well, but so, it's a whole different story.

Susan Petrone (20:31):
That was really kind of cool of him that he did that. That he made that agreement with you.

Jen Jumba (20:35):

Susan Petrone (20:36):
I can, I can read music or I can count the, the, like, you know, the...I can't do both at the same time. I can play it by ear. Like I can learn it.

Jen Jumba (20:46):
That's impressive.

Susan Petrone (20:46):
Right. I can learn it by, I can learn, I can learn how it's supposed to be, but I'm never like counting, like I know that that whole note is worth four beats.

Jen Jumba (20:56):
Right exactly. And that half note's two. I mean, I knew all that stuff and...

Susan Petrone (21:00):
You're making me do math while this trying to do that and it doesn't work.

Jen Jumba (21:04):

Susan Petrone (21:04):

Jen Jumba (21:04):
See, only it were calculus. You'd be all right. Right. So I'm joined in conversation this evening with local writer Susan Petrone. So, families in themselves have these very interesting dynamics, right? This story, THE MUSICAL MOZINSKIS, which is like about three weeks old, takes it to another level because not only are they families, but they're performers.

Susan Petrone (21:26):

Jen Jumba (21:26):
So then that kind of takes it up and they're performing in front of a live studio audience.

Susan Petrone (21:31):

Jen Jumba (21:32):
So I had to laugh at one point when Allegro says like, the only way to stop one fight is to start another.

Susan Petrone (21:39):

Jen Jumba (21:39):
Because there's, there's constant tension with the cigarette smoking, jazz piano playing father.

Susan Petrone (21:48):

Jen Jumba (21:48):
And what he wants to do versus what the kids want to do.

Susan Petrone (21:52):

Jen Jumba (21:53):
So can you talk a little bit about that tension?

Susan Petrone (21:55):
Oh yeah.

Jen Jumba (21:55):
Captured in the book?

Susan Petrone (21:57):
Yeah, that's, I think that the, you know, Vincent the father is kind of a product of his time and he realizes, okay, my kids can make money and like, we're successful because of them and people like the, the bubblegum. So that's what we're going to give them. And like, if you remember like, the musical variety shows of the seventies. Like, they were wacky. Like everybody had, everybody had a musical variety show in the seventies.

Jen Jumba (22:30):

Susan Petrone (22:31):
I mean, like, you had like, big huge name stars like Julie Andrews and Johnny Cash. Or like, you know, uh, God, you know, weirdo people like Jim Neighbors and Engelbert Humperdinck and people that you've never heard of since, like, I'm looking at you, Humbert Brothers, Tony Orlando and Dawn. Like, we don't remember any of those. They were, and just, this is, if you need an example of just how wackadoodle....

Jen Jumba (23:01):

Susan Petrone (23:01):
The 1970s musical variety shows were, and like, this was kind of my inspiration of like how bloody embarrassing it probably was for them.

Jen Jumba (23:09):

Susan Petrone (23:09):
Is, when you get, when we're done here and you go home, go to a safe place, <laugh> around people that you trust, go to YouTube and search for The Brady Bunch and car wash. Please. I don't say, I didn't warn you.

Jen Jumba (23:26):
<laugh> Everybody's taking notes in the audience.

Susan Petrone (23:29):
Yes. Brady Bunch and car wash. So I mean, using that as your benchmark, yes, there's going to be a lot of tension because, you know, they don't want to sing the same kind of things and they don't want to wear the ugly costumes and they want to play what they want to play. And as they develop more of their own musical taste, like we all do. They start diverging a bit from their dad and the dad's like, no, no, no, no, no. We're going to do this. And it probably does come to...

Jen Jumba (24:00):
But they have some moments where they kind of, there's like, they stage a coup and kind of overthrow what Dad wants them to do on live television.

Susan Petrone (24:08):
Yeah, yeah. They do. And then he gets and he gets in trouble for it.

Jen Jumba (24:13):

Susan Petrone (24:13):
Yeah. but, and eventually there is a, a real break.

Jen Jumba (24:18):

Susan Petrone (24:20):
But you know, there's, there ain't no accountin' for taste. Right.

Jen Jumba (24:24):
No, that's true. And that's when I learned like the Partridge family, that's not real. None of them could really sing.

Susan Petrone (24:29):
No. Like two of them.

Jen Jumba (24:30):
Yeah. But like, well David Cassidy, but yeah.

Susan Petrone (24:32):
Yeah. And then Susan Day could kind of sing, but they make fun of the Partridge Family because yeah.

Jen Jumba (24:38):

Susan Petrone (24:38):
Yeah. I would, if I were the Mozinski kids, I would make fun of them.

Jen Jumba (24:42):
Absolutely. And I think it's just, I think it's interesting when you think about the kids that they grow up basically on a television set.

Susan Petrone (24:48):

Jen Jumba (24:48):
That they have show school.

Susan Petrone (24:49):

Jen Jumba (24:49):
Is what they call it. That they don't go to school with kids their own age.

Susan Petrone (24:53):

Jen Jumba (24:53):
The older ones started, and then once....

Susan Petrone (24:54):
The older ones started.

Jen Jumba (24:55):
They were, you know, father recognized and mom recognized that they were talented, decided to start this.

Susan Petrone (25:01):

Jen Jumba (25:01):
Show, but like, not to go to school with your own peers.

Susan Petrone (25:04):

Jen Jumba (25:04):
Like, that's gotta be hard and awkward and everything else in between.

Susan Petrone (25:09):
Yeah. And I think, I mean, that's, you often hear of all the, you know, these child stars who grew up and have all sorts of problems. Wonder why, you know?

Jen Jumba (25:18):

Susan Petrone (25:18):
Because you have tutors on set and you don't actually get to be a normal kid.

Jen Jumba (25:22):
No, you don't. And there's even like a scene in the book where, Bix and Ellington decide like they're going to go ride their bikes and kind of see about the local kids at the school down the street.

Susan Petrone (25:32):

Jen Jumba (25:32):
And does not end well.

Susan Petrone (25:34):
No, it does not.

Jen Jumba (25:35):
Again, broken heart,

Susan Petrone (25:37):
Oh, sorry.

Jen Jumba (25:38):
It's okay. Put back together at the end. It's okay. So stay with it. So this, this book is just incredible, right? The, the insight and the glimpse into how it must feel to be performing. How they're balancing, how they're figuring out what their own tastes are, you know?

Susan Petrone (25:55):

Jen Jumba (25:55):
As you, as you grow up, you realize you don't always like the same thing your parents do. Typically it's 12, 13ish. I would say younger these days knowing my nieces, but...because they don't listen. So I found that really kind of interesting that you were able to capture that, that it wasn't all perfect. Right? Some, sometimes books are perfect and characters are a little flat, but they're complex. They're trying to figure out how to work with each other, trying to figure out how to work within a set with parents, with managers, you know?

Susan Petrone (26:25):

Jen Jumba (26:25):
With money.

Susan Petrone (26:26):
Yeah. Yeah. We, we often, we so often get the, you know, that, that pretty picture of, you know, oh, look at the Carpenters, they're great and the Jackson family, they're great. And then you look, boy, they're really a mess behind the scenes. So I kind of wanted to explore that a little bit more. Not in the, you know, sensationalistic way that you get with like, you know, the Karen Carpenter story or Michael Jackson, or any of those people who were like rightfully messed up by what happened to them.

Jen Jumba (26:59):

Susan Petrone (27:00):
I mean, but you know, you know, you go back to like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland when they were, when they were teenagers of just trying to find out who they were. Because once you have something, you know, once it, once the system has something that works.

Jen Jumba (27:14):

Susan Petrone (27:15):
You keep, you keep milking it, no matter if that kid's 13 or 18. We will make them look 13.

Jen Jumba (27:21):
Yeah, that's exactly right. Yeah. To me, I find it incredibly fascinating that you're able to kind of capture that duality, right. That, you know, some stuff about being, you know, child stars and on a show is really kind of cool. And then there's also like a flip side, so. Could be dark, but

Susan Petrone (27:39):
Yeah. I mean, I, I, I sometimes I go dark, I don't go too dark. I just, whenever I write something, even if I'm trying to write something serious, like I end up putting a joke in, like, I can't help it.

Jen Jumba (27:52):
Yes. Yeah. The only way to stop a fight is to start another.

Susan Petrone (27:55):
Another one. Yeah.

Jen Jumba (27:57):
Can't carry a tune unless it had a handle. Yeah. It's just absolutely fun. So I'm joined in conversation with local superstar writer Susan Petrone. Talk a little bit about their dad.

Susan Petrone (28:09):
Oh, Vincent.

Jen Jumba (28:10):
And, you know, he's like larger than life, right? He had a great, you know, somewhat career, you know, starting...but then it just became defined by his kids, you know?

Susan Petrone (28:23):

Jen Jumba (28:23):
And choosing instruments and pieces.

Susan Petrone (28:27):
He liked to have. I mean, he, he wanted Vincent...Vincent's very talented. I mean, the book, when they start out, they are in Cleveland. So.

Jen Jumba (28:37):

Susan Petrone (28:37):
Like most of my, my work it at least starts in Cleveland. It's based here because this is, you know, the place I love and I know. So Vincent greatly talented, just never quite gets the break, that he thinks he deserves. And he and, um, his friend Gregor Karpenko becomes their manager. They, you know, they come up with a lot of schemes. They never seem to work out to advance, to advance Vincent's career. And then the, the kids, record a commercial for a local car dealership and for whatever reason, it's like, that's the commercial that everybody in Cleveland is singing that spring. Like, it just, people like, oh yeah, like that. I like that song. I like that little, and like that gets them noticed.

Jen Jumba (29:29):

Susan Petrone (29:30):
And then they actually, they go on a show that's, do you remember the Jean Carroll show? Right. Okay. So they go on a show that's like a local televised talent show that they, then they start getting recognized and Vincent realizes that his, his path to his dreams is going to be through his kids.

Jen Jumba (29:50):

Susan Petrone (29:52):
And he could be more, I mean, he's not like super cutthroat.

Jen Jumba (29:55):

Susan Petrone (29:56):
But he's not empathetic, let's say.

Jen Jumba (30:01):
Yeah. I was going to say open to suggestions.

Susan Petrone (30:03):
Not open to suggestions. Not the most empathetic guy.

Jen Jumba (30:07):
No. So you just mentioned, you know, your book...Cleveland features in the book.

Susan Petrone (30:12):

Jen Jumba (30:12):
And it was super fun. You talk about Cane Park. Right? Which is just a treasure that we are so lucky to have. You talk about Tommy's. I mean, who doesn't love Tommy's? And I'm thinking of Mac's Backs right next door. Right?

Susan Petrone (30:26):
Yeah. I've named, I name drop Tommy's a lot, and I've named dropped it in BODY AT REST also.

Jen Jumba (30:32):

Susan Petrone (30:32):
I think, I think every book I name drop a restaurant that I like.

Jen Jumba (30:36):
Okay. So do you have like, I I've been there several times. I don't see like a Susan special, like.

Susan Petrone (30:42):
Not there's not.

Jen Jumba (30:43):
There should be if you're dropping the name right?

Susan Petrone (30:45):
No, but...

Jen Jumba (30:46):
Should have a milkshake named after you.

Susan Petrone (30:48):
No that's cool. They don't need to. But, it's because it's named for like, people who used to work there. Actually, the Cape Town special was from my sister Nikki, who used to work there. And her then boyfriend, later husband was working as a volunteer in Lesotho.

Jen Jumba (31:06):

Susan Petrone (31:07):
Africa, since nobody knows where Lesotho is and it's completely surrounded by South Africa.

Jen Jumba (31:11):

Susan Petrone (31:11):
Then they...and my sister Nikki had the idea of putting raisins into the finished pie. So the Cape Town special.

Jen Jumba (31:19):

Susan Petrone (31:19):
Was created.

Jen Jumba (31:21):
I'm thinking like a Heebie-Jeebie special would be really good. I mean, Musical Mozinski, yeah.

Susan Petrone (31:27):
Okay, the Heebie--Jeebie special. I don't know, maybe

Jen Jumba (31:30):
It's kind of...

Susan Petrone (31:30):
Yeah. Like a falafel maybe.

Jen Jumba (31:33):

Susan Petrone (31:33):
Like the falafels.

Jen Jumba (31:35):
Absolutely. That's normally what I get when I'm there.

Susan Petrone (31:36):
I'm so hungry now, right?

Jen Jumba (31:37):
I know. Seriously. I'm thinking about falafel and the, the cookies and cream shake or the peach shake. I can never make up my mind.

Susan Petrone (31:43):
Oh yeah. The peach shake.

Jen Jumba (31:46):
So, can you talk a little bit about the birthday solo tradition that appears in this book?

Susan Petrone (31:52):

Jen Jumba (31:52):
This is one of my favorite things.

Susan Petrone (31:53):
Yeah. Because you know how every every family has a, a way of like torturing people,

Jen Jumba (31:57):

Susan Petrone (31:57):
You know, happy families are all alike and unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. So the Mozinski family unique way of torturing people is every year on your birthday, you get to perform. You get to perform, in front of the rest of the family. You know, many songs you want to do as many instruments as you want to do. You just got to, you got to nail it. Because, you know, people like Allegro and, and Ellington will make fun of you. And if you ever grew, if you grew up in a large family, you know, large families are really good at, you know...we don't hurt faces, we hurt feelings. So that's definitely, they're Gen Xers. That's, that's what they heard. So the, the birthday solo then becomes a thing on the show because it's a way of, you know, like, okay, let's put it this way. Like, who here can name, can identify any of the Osmond's besides Donnie? Nobody. Like, you're like that guy with the teeth and the hair, or that guy with the teeth.

Jen Jumba (33:01):
It was like Menudo, like I only knew the one.

Susan Petrone (33:03):
Were they related?

Jen Jumba (33:04):

Susan Petrone (33:05):
Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah.

Jen Jumba (33:07):
But you had me at group and hair.

Susan Petrone (33:08):
Yeah. Right. So, so the, the, the producers are like, oh they should do the birthday solo on there because the, you know, the, the focus group say that they can't always identify which kid is which. So they start doing the birthday solo on the show. So, you know, the only kindness with the birthday solo is that you don't have to start doing it until you're eight. So each time one of the kids on the show turns eight, then they get a birthday solo and they get to perform and on the show, and they get to do their solo. And there's a lot of pressure for an 8-year-old. You know, there are some people like Allegro, who's like, I'm playing Paganini, get it.

Jen Jumba (33:47):

Susan Petrone (33:48):
You know, and others, uh, like Viola for whom it's, not, uh, pleasant.

Jen Jumba (33:57):
Yeah. Can we talk a little bit about Viola and how she experiences music differently?

Susan Petrone (34:03):
I don't know if I want to give away too much.

Jen Jumba (34:06):
Okay. That's fair.

Susan Petrone (34:07):
Is that, is that cool?

Jen Jumba (34:08):
Yeah, yeah. That's absolutely.

Susan Petrone (34:09):
Okay, yeah. I know some people here have read it so I don't want, you know, but some people haven't.

Jen Jumba (34:16):
So the other thing that I'm struck by is, guess this is a musical family, so not like the family I grew up in, but the universality about wanting to fit in. Yeah. And how, how that, how it's important. And I think it's with us our whole lives and we're all grown adults here, but I think we all still want to fit in wherever we go. And, you really capture that well in this book with the characters and the family and the tension and...

Susan Petrone (34:48):

Jen Jumba (34:48):
Just how important it is to kind of find your, find where you fit.

Susan Petrone (34:53):
Yeah. I mean, and like I said earlier, the seeing the music, I realized that was a really nice way of like, kind of like a, not a physical manifestation, but a way of manifesting how apart Viola feels from the rest of the family.

Jen Jumba (35:08):

Susan Petrone (35:08):
Like, everybody in the family can do this, but me.

Jen Jumba (35:12):

Susan Petrone (35:13):
But there are other characters have other aspects to their personality, or to, to their identity.

Jen Jumba (35:21):

Susan Petrone (35:21):
That also kind of separates them from the rest of the family. And maybe that's a little bit more hidden for them, or it doesn't come out, but they all, I, I think at some point everybody feels like they don't fit in in their family of origin.

Jen Jumba (35:43):
Absolutely. I think it's just part of being human, right?

Susan Petrone (35:45):
Yeah. Yeah.

Jen Jumba (35:46):
And then it makes me think like, well, what if we just talked a little bit more about it? Right. Instead of feeling so isolated or so...

Susan Petrone (35:54):
Ew, talk about our feelings. Ew.

Jen Jumba (35:56):
I know.

Susan Petrone (35:57):

Audience Member (35:57):

Jen Jumba (35:59):
There you go.

Susan Petrone (36:00):
Yeah, but, but no, absolutely. But it's hard because we are so often presented with this, you know, the Facebook, Instagram, everything's perfect. You look at my TikTok video, look how cute my kids are like, they are, they're...

Jen Jumba (36:16):
Yeah. You don't see the fact that they just drew with like sharpie all over the wall and

Susan Petrone (36:20):

Jen Jumba (36:20):
You know, the ones running around half naked and, you know.

Susan Petrone (36:24):
Yeah. Who hasn't done that, right?

Jen Jumba (36:26):
Yeah, it's exactly right.

Susan Petrone (36:28):
It's, it's, we, we should talk about it more. We should talk about that feeling isolated. Because it, every family has, even if it's a family of like two, there's still...every family has its own weird little dynamic.

Jen Jumba (36:45):

Susan Petrone (36:45):
And you have your own traditions, and if you don't fit into those, or if you hate them, somehow there's something wrong with you.

Jen Jumba (36:53):

Susan Petrone (36:55):
If you, if you don't like the tradition or you want to change it.

Jen Jumba (36:58):
Yeah. Yeah. Or you follow a career path because you thought that's what you were supposed to do, cause your parents do it.

Susan Petrone (37:02):

Jen Jumba (37:03):
Until you grow up and you realize, hmmm, I want to be a librarian. I'm just, I mean...friend.

Susan Petrone (37:08):
Yeah. Asking...talking about a friend. Yeah.

Jen Jumba (37:10):
Talking for a friend.

Susan Petrone (37:12):
Yeah. No, but that makes sense. It's...

Jen Jumba (37:14):
But I think that's like parents, you know, you kind of want to expose kids to lots of different things to try to figure out where they fit, but there's like no opportunity. It's like all music all the time.

Susan Petrone (37:23):
Yeah, that's there job.

Jen Jumba (37:23):
Like, they're always playing...that's their job...but like, there's no downtime. Like we have, like in school, you know, you have like summer breaks or spring breaks. No, that's when they're touring, they don't get it. They don't get that. It's just nonstop grind from a very early age. And it's hard.

Susan Petrone (37:42):
I think so. And I, I think we do people a disservice when we demand, like from entertainers and performers, like more and more, more, more, more, more, more.

Jen Jumba (37:52):
Oh, absolutely. Or even if you see them outside of that setting, like you expect them to, you know.

Susan Petrone (37:59):

Jen Jumba (37:59):
Be that like, you're just going grocery shopping. Or you're going through the airport. Like, your just a person.

Susan Petrone (38:04):
Don't own celebrities.

Jen Jumba (38:06):
No. But we think we do.

Susan Petrone (38:08):

Jen Jumba (38:09):
It's a interesting dynamic because you feel like the people on TV you know, and a lot of this book, like the birthday solos weren't really on their always on their birthdays.

Susan Petrone (38:19):
Of course not.

Jen Jumba (38:19):
It was kind of when ratings and when they needed a push or for the season to get picked up again. But there's this weird dynamic. You see somebody on TV, you think I know them.

Susan Petrone (38:29):
I know them.

Jen Jumba (38:30):
We don't.

Susan Petrone (38:31):
Oh, the littlest Mozinski is growing up.

Jen Jumba (38:33):

Susan Petrone (38:33):
Oh yeah. It's like, well, when we do that, and I mean, you know, there's still a part of me, I'm like, well, yeah, the Kelce brothers, they went to my high school. I'm like, they went to my high school like way after I graduated, you know, there's still a part of me....I'm like, he should bring her to Tommy's.

Jen Jumba (38:48):

Susan Petrone (38:48):
And they should come...all the Swifties are like they should come to Cleveland.

Jen Jumba (38:52):
That's exactly right.

Susan Petrone (38:53):
But we feel like we know him.

Jen Jumba (38:54):
Well and that's just it.

Susan Petrone (38:56):
And We, I am convinced that like Stephen Colbert and I would be best buddies if we met.

Jen Jumba (39:03):

Susan Petrone (39:03):
We totally would.

Jen Jumba (39:04):

Susan Petrone (39:04):
Totally. Totally.

Jen Jumba (39:06):
Absolutely. Same sense of humor.

Susan Petrone (39:07):
Because we know, because we feel like we know them.

Jen Jumba (39:09):
Right. And that's the thing that's, to me, still kind of amazes me. That we just don't know people, anybody like...

Susan Petrone (39:16):
No. But we do invite them into our house.

Jen Jumba (39:18):

Susan Petrone (39:18):
Every, you know, every day, every week, whatever.

Jen Jumba (39:21):
Yeah. And yet there's still the what's being portrayed on TV is not always what is was real.

Susan Petrone (39:30):

Jen Jumba (39:31):
So joined in conversation with local writer Susan Petrone. So the other thing, I think that's great about books is how important it's to find yourself in a book.

Susan Petrone (39:43):

Jen Jumba (39:43):
And to feel like you're not alone. Right. And I think books for a lot of people are comfort. And I think about all the people that are going to read this book that maybe they don't have a family of musicians. Maybe it's a family of writers or a family of teachers or attorneys, whatever it is. And feel like they don't fit in. And how much comfort they'll take from seeing Viola and how things evolve for her and her family.

Susan Petrone (40:11):
I hope so. I mean, that's, I mean. You know, novels are...Novels give us a glimpse into other people's lives. And I mean, reading teaches us empathy and, and compassion. And that's, that's how you travel.

Jen Jumba (40:30):

Susan Petrone (40:31):
It's, it's without leaving, you know, without leaving your house. You read a book.

Jen Jumba (40:35):

Susan Petrone (40:35):
You can travel everywhere.

Jen Jumba (40:37):
You mentioned one of my favorite books in this book.

Susan Petrone (40:39):
Which one?

Jen Jumba (40:41):
FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. One of my absolute favorite books of all time.

Susan Petrone (40:48):
Great book.

Jen Jumba (40:48):
And to see it referenced in here, I was like, ah, yes. See, Susan and I would be great friends.

Susan Petrone (40:53):
We are.

Jen Jumba (40:53):
I just know it.

Susan Petrone (40:54):
We are.

Jen Jumba (40:54):

Jen Jumba (40:58):
The other thing in the book, and we'll talk a little bit about is decisions. You know, we all have them. Right. And sometimes we choose one thing and it ends up hurting somebody else at the same time. And you do a really nice job in this book of conveying that that decisions made for the right reason, but even though it hurts somebody else.

Susan Petrone (41:20):

Jen Jumba (41:23):
It's a universal theme.

Susan Petrone (41:25):
It it is. And you want to, like, you want to do right by everybody in your family. And, and sometimes you can't.

Jen Jumba (41:33):

Susan Petrone (41:33):
And sometimes you just have to go with the utilitarian way, you know, where am I going to cause the least harm?

Jen Jumba (41:40):

Susan Petrone (41:41):
I mean, I, I don't know, my mother really did hold together, you know, six kids and all sorts of assorted other people who would like hang out and like, live at our house. You know, she took in strays, uh, literally took in stray human beings. And I don't know how she did. Because she did find that balancing thing where you never, like I never felt unloved by her.

Jen Jumba (42:04):

Susan Petrone (42:04):
Never felt jealous that she was like, spending time with somebody else. Like she was really good at that. But, uh, most people can't/

Jen Jumba (42:15):
Mm-Hmm. I mean, and I think you bring that up because you talk about, is it Theo that's hanging out with his mom? And she's like, oh, you don't have to sit here with me. You don't have to.

Susan Petrone (42:23):
Oh, it's Bix.

Jen Jumba (42:23):
Okay. You don't have to hang out with me. And he's like, but I like hanging out with you. And then he says, that's my mom's superpower. Like, to credit to your mom that people just want to be around her and spend time with her, whether or not they're related to her or not. I mean, that's a gift to be able to give that sense of presence to somebody.

Susan Petrone (42:43):
Yeah. Making people feel like they're home when you're, when they're with you.

Jen Jumba (42:45):
Exactly. So like, everybody fit in when they were around your mom.

Susan Petrone (42:51):
Yeah, absolutely.

Jen Jumba (42:52):
That's a gift.

Susan Petrone (42:52):
That is. And I think Grace, the mom in the novel has some qualities of that. But she does make her mistakes.

Jen Jumba (43:02):
Yeah. We...

Susan Petrone (43:02):
But again, like you said, like the trying to do the best thing that she can. But anybody here who's a parent, knows that you do make mistakes. Like you try.

Jen Jumba (43:15):

Susan Petrone (43:15):
Like, if you get it right, like 30% of the time, apparently you're okay. Like, your kid's not going to be screwed up.

Susan Petrone (43:21):
30% of the time.

Jen Jumba (43:22):
That's it?

Susan Petrone (43:23):
I think I read that somewhere.

Jen Jumba (43:25):
Okay. It's kind of like baseball, right? Like, if you're hitting 300 and you're failing 70% of the time, you're like on the All-Star team. So.

Susan Petrone (43:31):
Exactly. Hitting 300, yeah. You're good. If you're only hitting 30% of the balls that come to you.

Jen Jumba (43:37):

Susan Petrone (43:38):
Batting 300's great.

Jen Jumba (43:39):
Exactly. All-Star.

Susan Petrone (43:40):

Jen Jumba (43:40):
So, I mean, I'm thinking about Viola when I ask you this question. Right? Because you're an artist in terms of writing and storytelling and sharing that with all of us. Do you think we're all artists and we just haven't figured out what our artwork is yet? Or our medium?

Susan Petrone (44:02):
Possibly. If we use a very broad sense of like what the medium or art is. Because I mean, I know everybody's got, everyone has some really ridiculously unique little talent.

Jen Jumba (44:19):
Mine is not singing.

Susan Petrone (44:20):
And that's okay! But like, I, like, I have this one friend who's just like, you want her with you at the grocery store. She has this unique gift. She can always find the most perfectly ripe avocado.

Jen Jumba (44:33):
Ohh, that is a gift.

Susan Petrone (44:34):
Like, not the mushy, not like when you open it and like, when you peel it and it's like black inside.

Jen Jumba (44:39):
Or not the one that's like a hockey puck and by the next day, it's already like, the really mushy squishy.

Susan Petrone (44:43):
Yeah. No, no. So she's got like that gift for finding the ripest, the perfect avocado.

Jen Jumba (44:49):
So she's the avocado artist. Okay. Whisperer. Whatever.

Susan Petrone (44:51):
Exactly. So I think that, I mean, is there an art to figuring out what, you know, what vegetable or fruit is perfect. Maybe there's an art to it. There's an art to a lot of things. There's, you know, there's the art to being the baby whisperer.

Jen Jumba (45:06):

Susan Petrone (45:06):
Like you would see those pictures of like, Obama and he would just, like, every baby would just like stop crying when they put him in. Like, baby whisperer.

Jen Jumba (45:14):
There you go.

Susan Petrone (45:16):
I know. He, he's maybe a bad example because he's got a whole lot of other talents. But...

Jen Jumba (45:22):
Well, I mean, those are so obvious. Those talents. So.

Susan Petrone (45:26):
Right. I, I think so. I mean, I'm not, yeah. I'm not going to say everybody's got a novel in them because I'm not.

Jen Jumba (45:32):
But like, everybody has some, as you said,

Susan Petrone (45:34):
Every got a haiku in them.

Jen Jumba (45:35):
Do you think...there's no way I could do a haiku. That's math.

Susan Petrone (45:40):
You can count.

Jen Jumba (45:41):

Susan Petrone (45:42):
<laugh> Did you have, okay. You got enough fingers. It's okay.

Jen Jumba (45:47):
I have enough fingers. But I'm, I'm kind of struck by that. And I think like these kids, their talent, their gift, unique gift was discovered at an early age. I'm hoping it's not too late for some of us to know what that is.

Susan Petrone (46:00):
Yeah. I mean, it's.

Jen Jumba (46:01):
Figure that out.

Susan Petrone (46:02):
It's too late to be a child prodigy, but it's not too late...

Jen Jumba (46:05):
Too late to be an adult prodigy

Susan Petrone (46:06):
Right. What's an adult prodigy? It's like, I'm going to be a savant. That's it.

Jen Jumba (46:11):

Susan Petrone (46:12):
It's too late to be a child prodigy.

Jen Jumba (46:14):

Susan Petrone (46:14):
But it's not too late to find your own talent. Absolutely. Pursue your own art. Whatever you, whatever, you know, follow your bliss.

Jen Jumba (46:24):
Absolutely. That's why like, it's so great. There's so many things in this community. Like Cleveland's amazing. With the amount of things that you can possibly do and learn and see and experience, whether it's the Cleveland Orchestra, whether it's Playhouse Square, whether it's Dobama Theatre, whether it's MOCA. I mean, there's just...

Susan Petrone (46:43):
There's so much art. And, and, and if you don't want to be involved in the arts, then, you know, if you like history, go be a docent at like the, the, the Cod or, or the Mather Steamship.

Susan Petrone (46:55):
Yeah. I mean...

Jen Jumba (46:57):
There's something for everybody.

Susan Petrone (46:58):
There's stuff. Sometimes you have to seek it out, but seeking it out kind of helps us become more human, because that, yet you start finding that connection to, to other people and, and to art and, and, and things that we create or, or your connection to history and your place in that, in that timeline.

Jen Jumba (47:17):
So it comes full circle, right?

Susan Petrone (47:18):

Jen Jumba (47:18):
About the more you experience, the more likely you are to figure out where you fit in.

Susan Petrone (47:23):

Jen Jumba (47:23):
With other people who share a similar interest.

Susan Petrone (47:26):
Yeah. You just got to explore.

Jen Jumba (47:28):
Awesome. So I'm joined in conversation with Susan Petrone, local superstar writer. So final five questions.

Susan Petrone (47:36):

Jen Jumba (47:36):
Okay. If you could play any instrument, what would it be?

Susan Petrone (47:40):
Surf guitar. Like, I wanted to be like Dick Dale, like just play surf guitar. That would be awesome.

Jen Jumba (47:47):
Favorite milkshake at Tommy's.

Susan Petrone (47:50):
Chocolate Banana.

Jen Jumba (47:52):
Good. Okay. So you mentioned in this book both classical music and pop music that the Mozinskis perform. What's your favorite piece of music that you can listen to over and over and over and never tire of?

Susan Petrone (48:05):
Bach, uh, concerto for Oboe and Viola. God, what is, it's like the, the Adagio and I can't remember Is that..is it like in B flat? It's just the most beautiful, the Adagio like the most beautiful piece.

Jen Jumba (48:22):

New Speaker (48:22):
Of music I've ever heard.

Jen Jumba (48:25):
I agree. There's a lot of great music. And I found myself when you would talk about the music that they were performing, that I was immediately pulling it up so that I could listen to it while I was reading it.

Susan Petrone (48:34):
I should make a Spotify playlist.

Jen Jumba (48:35):
You should have a Spotify playlist.

Susan Petrone (48:37):
Okay. Okay. All right.

Susan Petrone (48:37):

Susan Petrone (48:38):
I'm on it.

Susan Petrone (48:39):
Teach me how to make a Spotify playlist that I can share.

Jen Jumba (48:43):
Okay. We can do that. So we grew up roughly in the same era.

Susan Petrone (48:48):

Jen Jumba (48:48):
Right. Tiger Beat. Who was your favorite musician that was featured in Tiger Beat?

Susan Petrone (48:53):
God <laugh>, Rick Springfield.

Jen Jumba (48:57):
Yeah, absolutely.

Susan Petrone (49:00):
Dr. Noah Weber.

Jen Jumba (49:01):

Susan Petrone (49:01):
Oh my. You know it, he's not a, he's not a bad little musician man. He, he, he can bring it.

Jen Jumba (49:08):
Absolutely. Absolutely. And what book are you currently reading?

Susan Petrone (49:13):
I am rereading NORTHANGER ABBEY because for Christmas, my husband gave me this really lovely set of complete Jane Austen, probably like printed in like the 20s. It's lovely. So I'm rereading NORTHANGER ABBEY because I just, I forget how, how in some ways very modern that is because it's such a great satire of gothic novels. And she gets very meta because like she is, she's talking about, you know, she breaks down the fourth wall.

Jen Jumba (49:48):

Susan Petrone (49:49):
Of, of, of books. So I'm reading that and every night I read two of the essays in Ross Gay's THE BOOK OF DELIGHTS.

Jen Jumba (49:57):

Susan Petrone (49:57):
That's like, I think everybody does. Like your new medicine, just take two essays and call me in the morning, you'll feel so much better.

Jen Jumba (50:04):

Susan Petrone (50:04):
Yeah, and, uh, let me see what else? I think that's it right now.

Jen Jumba (50:10):
The fact that you can read more than one is pretty cool. Well, thanks. I can typically read one at a time or one fiction and one nonfiction.

Susan Petrone (50:18):
Okay, yeah. Oh, and I'm finishing and I'm, I've been plowing slowly through, uh, PLEASE KILL ME. Which the history. An oral history of punk. So there's my nonfiction.

Jen Jumba (50:28):
There you go. Perfect. So, as we wrap up this evening, we have lovely people here and want to give them the opportunity to ask you questions.

Susan Petrone (50:39):

Jen Jumba (50:40):
And I'll just repeat the question just so we have it for the purposes of our recording anybody.

Audience Member (50:47):
I'm going to stay with the, uh, Bible book questions from the Times, uh, <laugh>. But I don't want to start with, you know, the novel you hated. Let me go to the very last question they usually print. If you could invite three people to a dinner party...writers.

Susan Petrone (51:04):

Jen Jumba (51:04):

Susan Petrone (51:06):

Jen Jumba (51:06):
Three people...three writers living or dead to a dinner party.

Susan Petrone (51:09):

Jen Jumba (51:09):
Who would you invite?

Susan Petrone (51:10):
God, that's hard. Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut, and my mom, who was a writer. And she would be delighted to meet both of them.

Jen Jumba (51:23):
How thoughtful.

Susan Petrone (51:23):
And if I was tongue tied, she would know what to say.

Audience Member (51:26):
And, and she and Kurt would get along?

Susan Petrone (51:28):
Oh my God, yes. Actually she, they, she, she could, yes. She and Kurt would totally get along.

Audience Member (51:35):
So Jane Austen.

Susan Petrone (51:36):
Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut, and my mom. Because it also, it just would be nice to see her again. So

Audience Member (51:41):
That's a great trio.

Susan Petrone (51:42):
It'd be fun. Yeah.

Jen Jumba (51:43):

Susan Petrone (51:43):
And we could eat falafel from Tommy's <laugh>.

Jen Jumba (51:46):
I was going to say, what would you serve? Falafel from Tommy's.

Susan Petrone (51:49):
Falafel. I, I think Jane would be down with that. Or some like broccoli risso. She'd be like, oh look at this. This is a bit like soup, isn't it?

Jen Jumba (51:56):
It's exactly. Anybody else have any questions?

Audience Member (52:00):
Well, this isn't a question so much as an observation.

Susan Petrone (52:03):
Yes sir.

Audience Member (52:04):
But, one of the Mozinski children is named Bix.

Susan Petrone (52:07):

Audience Member (52:07):
For those who don't know, Bix was named after Bix Beiderbecke the...

Susan Petrone (52:11):
Yes sir.

Audience Member (52:11):
Jazz cornet player from the 20s.

Susan Petrone (52:14):

Audience Member (52:14):
Died of alcoholism at like age 25 or something like that. When I was a teenager, I worked at McDonald's in Brook Park, Ohio. And I thought I knew everything in the world, you know, because I was 17 years old.

Susan Petrone (52:27):
<laugh> You knew everything.

Jen Jumba (52:28):
Yeah. <laugh>.

Audience Member (52:29):
One of the managers of that McDonald's was a man named Jim. And Jim was weird for several reasons. One, he a Volkswagen and two on that Volkswagen, there was a bumper sticker that read "Bix Lives". And I'm 17 years old. I don't know who Bix is, but we, he told us off, well he was this guy who used to play jazz cornet in the 20's and we're like pbbbt, "The whole period, whatever. Cornet?? Yeah." <laugh>

Jen Jumba (52:55):

Audience Member (52:59):
That's not...Grand Funk Railroad and Aerosmith. It was just the stupidest thing I could imagine.

Susan Petrone (53:04):

Susan Petrone (53:05):
Somebody would have a bumper sticker on their Volkswagen about a dead jazz cornetist from 50 years prior. And once I actually grew up a little bit and got my head out of where it was, this was Bix Beiderbecke for the first time. I'm like...

Jen Jumba (53:22):
Oh yeah, right.

Audience Member (53:24):
Wait, I owe Jim an apology. And if I ever run into him, he's going to get that apology.

Susan Petrone (53:31):

Audience Member (53:31):
But I love that you named one of the characters because it was like a little jab in my, and of course you didn't know this.

Susan Petrone (53:40):
How do you know?

Audience Member (53:41):
It was like...reminded me that hey, you were a real clown 50 years ago.

Susan Petrone (53:46):

Audience Member (53:47):
I argue that I'm not much less of a clown now, but I loved it. It was really a cool thing.

Susan Petrone (53:54):
Thanks, man.

Audience Member (53:55):
And yeah, look up, you know, what you're looking up the other things Susan said, look up Bix Beiderbecke.

Susan Petrone (54:00):

Jen Jumba (54:01):

Audience Member (54:01):
And listen to him play the cornet for about five minutes.

Susan Petrone (54:04):
Yeah. If we had had a son, we probably, we were going to name him Bix. We adopted. I mean, so I, have an Ella.

Jen Jumba (54:11):

Susan Petrone (54:11):
Like Bix and Ella, like the jazz. Oh my gosh. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Jen Jumba (54:13):

Susan Petrone (54:14):
How Bix is not like a name for people. Like what is wrong with people? Why are people not naming their children Bix.

Jen Jumba (54:25):
I don't have children, so that's my excuse <laugh>.

Susan Petrone (54:27):
Well, you know, y'all, anybody listening to this? If you're having a kid, name them Bix.

Jen Jumba (54:32):

Audience Member (54:33):
...son Banks. Which is close.

Susan Petrone (54:34):
I know. Like Banksy. I just, yeah.

Jen Jumba (54:38):
So, thank you all so much, uh, for joining us this evening. Thank you to those who are listening. Thank you to Jaime.

Susan Petrone (54:45):

Jen Jumba (54:46):
And his amazing group for allowing us to hang in the South campus at Cleveland Public Library. Thank you to our tech team, Brian, for making sure everything sounds all right.

Susan Petrone (54:56):
Thank you, Brian.

Jen Jumba (54:56):
...Catherine for capturing photos and memories, and I'm Jen Jumba.

Jen Jumba (55:01):
Oh, Mac's Backs Books.

Susan Petrone (55:02):
Mac's Backs Books!

Jen Jumba (55:03):
Sorry. Mac's Backs Books...Carly. Mac's Backs-Books. And all of you. So, I'm Jen with Cleveland Public Library. Happy reading!

Laura Maylene Walter (55:18):
Page Count is presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and leave a review for Page Count wherever you get your podcast. Learn more online or find a transcript of this episode at ohiocenterforthebook.org. Follow us on Instagram @ohiocenterforthebook, on Twitter @cplocfb, or find us on Facebook. If you'd like to get in touch, email ohiocenterforthebook@cpl.org and put "podcast" in the subject line. Finally, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @LauraMaylene. Thanks for listening, and we'll be back in two weeks for another chapter of Page Count.


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