by Eric Dolente
This past Tuesday, behind a table stacked with her hot-off-the-press novel, Mt. Airy resident Blair Thornburgh waited patiently for city-goers, family and friends alike to purchase her new teen novel, “Who’s that Girl.”
The novel, published by HarperCollins, is a reflection on Thornburgh’s life, living in the Northwest Philadelphia area, as well as her experiences at her high school alma mater, Germantown Friends School.
According to Harper Collins’ press material, Thornburg’s new book is “a laugh-out-loud debut filled with hilarious awkward encounters, a supportive LGBTQ organization, and too many cheesy lyrics to count.”
The storyline opens with an “under the radar straight girl who hangs out in the cafeteria with her gay-straight alliance friends” at school. Tides begin to change when Junior Nattie McCullough, the novel’s protagonist, gets a song named after her by her summer crush, musician Sebastian Delacroix.
The story then delves into an LGBTQIA school dance Nattie plans to keep her mind off of Delacroix, but the story only becomes more heart wrenching when Nattie begins to have feelings for her friend, Zach.
Thornburgh said this book details her experiences with her group of friends growing up, but also how her writing has been shaped by her memories. Germantown Friends, for Thornburgh, “brings back all the memories, for better or worse.”
Thornburgh is the daughter of David Thornburgh, CEO of the Committee of 70 and
granddaughter of former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh
Thornburgh wrote “Who’s That Girl” during her free time while working as an editor for Quirk Books, an editing and publishing business on South Street in Philadelphia. Thornburgh reads and edits both nonfiction and fiction novels.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway of her time at Germantown Friends was the sense of community.
During one year in high school – the week before thanksgiving – she and her friends brought in food for a “friends-giving,” where everyone sat around and ate food together. The math department had also been invited because there was extra food. The point of the meal was that it had brought different groups of people together who all thoroughly enjoyed it.
Although this is a new book hitting the shelves for Thornburgh, it is not her first published book. “Stuff Every College Student Should Know” is a detailed how-to manual for up and coming college students looking for help on tackling the challenge of college.
Thornburgh said she had a chance to learn even more about the subjects of her book when she spent time teaching an English course at GFS. During this experience, she said that it was “great to talk [and teach] about the kind of fiction that I like.”
It helped clarify for her the purpose of teen novels.
“Teens and kids alike need to see how they are represented in the world,” Thornburg said. “Writing a book is not a cakewalk. Behind the scenes, there are extensive revisions being made and a whole lot of anticipation, but patience is key.
It’s a waiting business.”
It took her about two years after the finished transcript for her book to be edited, revised and finished.
On top of just finishing the new book, Thornburgh is currently completing an M.F.A. in writing for children at Hamline University in St Paul, Minnesota.
As for other books, she didn’t mention plans for anything new.
“I’m trying to take it one book at a time,” she said.
Thornburgh’s launch party for her newly published book was downtown at Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse Square on July 18.