PAYA newcomer Sarah Darer Littman chats with long-time Pennsylvanian Josh Berk about books, scrapple, and other things to expect when she visits the Keystone State.
Sarah: So Mr. Berk – Have you lived in PA your whole life?
Josh: I certainly have! I’ve lived in PA and nowhere else, except for a brief stint when I went to college in (whispers) Jersey. We shall never speak of this again.
Sarah: My son calls Jersey the second circle of Hell.
Josh: He is not the only one.
Sarah: Did you find many cultural differences between New Jersey and PA? Particularly when it comes to food? For instance – a lack of scrapple? And by the way, what the heck IS scrapple?
Josh: The main thing I noticed was that Jersey had a lot of Yankees fans and/or Mets fans, which bothered me deeply.
Sarah: Did everyone look like Snooki and The Situation?
Josh: Only the man in the mirror.
Sarah: Wait – did you look like Snooki or the Situation. Or BOTH, which is a very frightening prospect….
Josh: A little from column A, a little from column B …. OK: BACK TO SCRAPPLE. You have never tried it?
Sarah: I believe Scrapple has content of the porcine variety, and being a Nice Jewish Girl – well, at least a Jewish Girl, I refrain from such products.
Josh: Well, no one is quite sure what is in scrapple. It’s a great mystery, the likes of which will never be known.
Sarah: So it’s Mystery Meat! Maybe I’ve have eaten it! They served it in my college cafeteria at Duke on Thursdays….
Josh: You haven’t truly had Scrapple until you’ve had Pennsylvania Scrapple. We’re the champions of Scrapple. But yeah, maybe it’s a weeeee bit not kosher. We could go out for cheesteaks. That’s, um ….
Sarah: Yeah, also a bit of a problem 😉 Unless I put tofu cheese on it.
Josh: I’m 99% sure if you ordered tofu cheese at a Philly cheesesteak shop that the guy behind the counter would die laughing.
Sarah: Yeah, I was thinking that…I guess I’d better stay in CT, huh?!
Josh: My home state really is not kosher-friendly. I apologize in advance. But, no, you still should come! We’re very excited to have you come to PAYA.
Sarah: I’m very excited to be joining you!
Josh: It’s a really great event! Last year was a blast. Tell me a little about your latest book. Smooth transition, Berk!
Sarah: WANT TO GO PRIVATE? is about Abby, who is finding the transition to high school difficult because her best friend is spreading her wings and making new friends and Abby…isn’t. So she finds solace online in the form of Luke, who listens and finds her wonderful. They decide to meet. And then Abby’s missing. And the FBI, the police and her family and friends must figure out the clues if they ever want to see her again.
Josh: Whoah, sounds great!
Sarah: It’s had a good reception so far- in fact, there was a nice write-up in Entertainment Weekly (!!!!) last week!!!!!!
Josh: I saw that! Cyn Balog’s book was mentioned in there too. She’s going to be at PAYA as well. It’s totally star-studded with you EW superstars! (“EW superstars” does not sound like a compliment, but it is.)
Sarah: I have to say, that as a Mom, it gave me massive cred with my teenage daughter that my book was in there not just with, but ABOVE Sara Shepard’s latest. My stock with her rose for at least…45 seconds.
Josh: Forty-five glorious seconds.
Sarah: When you are the parent of teenagers, you learn to treasure each and every second of cred. Because there are so freaking few of them.
Josh: Sara Shep is from PA too, you know? Although I do not think she will be at PAYA.
Sarah: I didn’t know that!
Josh: I call her Sara Shep. She’s kinda my BFF.
Sarah: Can I touch you and then say that I’m BFF by association? It might earn me 5 cred units?
Josh: How many credits is it if I in fact met Miss Shepard just the once and nver called her Sara Shep?
Sarah: Maybe only 1 then.
Josh: I’ll take it.
Sarah: Awesome, you rock! So tell me about YOUR book, dude!
Josh: My first bit o’ news is that THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN is newly out in paperback, and will be available at PAYA with its shiny new cover and lovely papery-back.
Sarah: I will be buying and you will be signing. I NEED this book!
Josh: With this I will not argue J My next book comes out in March of next year. It’s called GUY LANGMAN: CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR and is another funny YA mystery about a lovable (I hope) and sarcastic (definitely) teen dude.
Sarah: Wait – I have to wait till MARCH to buy your next book?! That’s SO NOT FAIR!!!!
Josh: However, I should warn you that this one, unlike HALPIN, is not set in Pennsylvania. It is set in … New Jersey?!?!?!
Sarah: The Second Circle of HELL!!!! Do any of the characters wear bumpits?
Josh: Just the guy in the author photo.
(Note: Dear Readers Who Live in New Jersey, you should totally make the short drive to PAYA. Josh & Sarah promise to be nice to you. PAYA, the Pennsylvania Young Adult Literature Festival, is held August 27th beginning at noon in West Chester, PA. The PAYA Facebook page has all the info.)