By Ashley Williams
The University Scholar Selection Committee invited the campus to a special presentation by the 2022-2023 University Scholar, Dr. Ashley Wurzbacher, in the Pat Scales Collection Room at Carmichael Library on March 13.
Wurzbacher gave a presentation on her writing process and her upcoming novel, “How to Care for a Human Girl,” which is set to release on Aug. 8. Her novel was published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.
Before the presentation began, UM students were able to enter their names for a free autographed copy of “How to Care for a Human Girl.” Dr. Jody Landers, a professor of music, spoke on behalf of the University Scholar Selection Committee. Landers introduced Dr. Emma Atwood, Associate Professor of English. Atwood then introduced Wurzbacher, who took to the podium.
At the beginning of the presentation, Wurzbacher discussed the writing process and what inspired her to write “How to Care for a Human Girl.” When she was a graduate student at the University of Houston in 2015, she started on the novel, which was inspired by her interest in gender studies and reproductive rights. In total, it took Wurzbacher eight years “How to Care for a Human Girl,” writing three full drafts.
The novel, which was originally titled “A Wonderful Child,” is about two estranged sisters, Jada and Maddy Battle, who reunite two years after their mother’s death, with both sisters having an unexpected pregnancy. Some chapters are in Jada’s point of view while others are in Maddy’s point of view. During the presentation, Wurzbacher read excerpts from Chapters 2, 8 and 14 to show her audience the two sisters’ points of views.
Wurzbacher conducted research before she started writing the novel. In order to make her characters more realistic, she visited places that would influence her characters careers, traits and personalities. Wurzbacher completed volunteer training at the Alabama Wildlife Center. Additionally, she read textbooks and studies about social psychology and even impersonated one of her characters in an online chat with a crisis pregnancy center.
Wurzbacher received feedback on her drafts from multiple readers, including a writing group, literary agent and editors at Atria.
At the end of her presentation, she shared a QR code linked to Birmingham-based indie bookstore Thank You Books, where the audience could preorder “How to Care for a Human Girl.”
Shortly after, Dr. Courtney Bentley, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, presented Wurzbacher with her university scholar portrait.
The remaining time was for audience members to ask Wurzbacher questions. The majority of the questions were about reviews, her parents, marketing strategies, advantages and disadvantages of creative writing processes during the pandemic, writing schedules and writing breaks.