Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

Posted November 20, 2002:

Angie Day ’94 is working on her second novel and continues to produce programs for MTV.
(Photo by Rob Barocci)


Do keep your night job
Angie Day '94 writes a coming-of-age novel after work and on weekends

Angie Day '94 wrote a short-story collection, "We Do Angels," for her thesis, but her creative writing faded after she started her first job, as a financial analyst for consultant Marakon Associates in Stamford, Connecticut. "I didn't think I could be the broke artist right away," says Day, who majored in English with a certificate in theater and dance.

After 18 months at Marakon, traveling in Latin America and "developing the right side of my brain," Day left for a more freewheeling existence in the New York film and TV industry. After production work for commercials, films, and the Travel Channel, she freelanced for MTV's blooper show, "F*Ups." And "F*Ups," in a roundabout way, led Day back to writing and her first novel, The Way to Somewhere, published earlier this year by Simon & Schuster.

"There's nothing like looking at bloopers all day to reinforce the need to write," recalls Day.

Working "every other night and one day on the weekend," she cranked out a draft of the novel in six months. The book chronicles the rocky but picaresque coming of age of Taylor Jessup in working class Houston. The book follows Taylor's tumultuous family life, first loves, adventures south of the border, her serendipitous interest in furniture restoration, her move to New York, and evolving sense of self and family. Day blended her life experiences from growing up in Houston and traveling in Mexico with imagination and intensive research.

Day is careful to point out that the book is not autobiographical, noting, "Taylor is me if I made the opposite decision at every point in my life."

Case in point: Day is not a furniture restorer at all. Instead, once she settled on the idea, she dusted off her consultant research skills to learn the topic, reading voraciously, visiting lumber yards, and having a carpenter check the manuscript for accuracy.

An understated sense of faith, specifically Catholicism, also winds through The Way to Somewhere. In one scene set in Mexico, Day even combines religion and woodworking, writing, "At first I was so taken with the view that I didn't notice what was staring at me from every corner of the room. Mary. The Virgin Mary. Mary with a half-shaped head. Mary before she's sanded. And Joseph with varying staffs, from carved pieces of wood to twigs. And sheep. And cows. And mangers. And hay. And, of course, the babies Jesus. All were carved with simple lines out of wood. The faces were not quite faces, more like silhouettes."

Day says she "fell in love with the character" of Taylor, who struggles to find her own definition of happiness. "The character began being successful after disengaging from the American dream and looking inward," observes Day. The book's other characters — Taylor's parents, friends, men she meets — are drawn with realism and sympathy, as people with foibles but the ability to change. Writing about such characters' relationships, recalls Day, was another major challenge of the project.

The effort shows. In one passage, about Taylor's parting from Joe, her first mentor in woodworking who gives her his books on woodworking, Day writes, "We said our final good-bye days later. But this is the moment I'll always remember. This moment when I looked into his eyes and understood that he was giving me everything that lay behind them. And was expecting nothing back except that I use what I was being given."

Unlike Taylor, who eventually leaves New York, Day is content in the city. She continues to produce and edit programs for MTV, such as "True Life," a documentary series. She's working on her next novel, which "follows more of a family than just one character." And like every good writer, she reads constantly, most recently Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook and Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson.

Like Taylor, Day likes to hit the road, to go hiking in Colorado and snowboarding in Vermont. And sometimes the travel intersects with The Way to Somewhere. In March, Day visited her old all-girls high school in Houston, St. Agnes Academy, to talk about the book. The visit became more than a chat, as Day delighted the students by reading from the book's "Driving" chapter — all about teenagers cruising Houston.

By Van Wallach '80

Van Wallach is a freelance writer in Connecticut.