Headley, Maria Dahvana 1977–
Headley, Maria Dahvana 1977–
PERSONAL: Born 1977, in ID; married Robert Schen-kkan (a playwright and screenwriter), 2003; stepchildren: two. Education: Attended New York University.
MEMBER: The Memoirist's Collective.
AWARDS, HONORS: TenTen Award for Fiction, Word Smitten, Web site, 2003; MacDowell Colony fellow, 2006.
The Year of Yes (memoir), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.
Also author of plays and short works of fiction.
ADAPTATIONS: Paramount Pictures has aquired the movie rights for The Year of Yes, which will be produced by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen.
SIDELIGHTS: Maria Dahvana Headley is a fiction and nonfiction writer who studied dramatic writing at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in the 1990s. Having grown up in Idaho feeling as if she did not fit in, the move to New York City offered her many new opportunities. However, after dating a number of men she thought she would like but ultimately did not, Headley decided to agree to any man or woman who asked her out on a date. Making only a few exceptions, such as not agreeing to meet up with someone who is drunk or high, she realized that dating among a larger pool of people would increase her chances of finding someone she liked. For one year, she followed her plan and ultimately married someone she met during that period.
It wasn't until a decade later that she published her memoir based on that year of dating adventures, The Year of Yes. In a Newsweek article, she said of her year of dating: "It's something I never would have picked, but it's turned out to be this kind of amazing experience." Reviews for The Year of Yes were mostly positive. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly labeled it "sheer chick fluff" but admitted it was "amusing." Leah Greenblatt praised the memoir in Entertainment Weekly saying it was "charming, hyperliterate," and "laugh-out-loud funny." Elizabeth Morris's review in Library Journal was not as complimentary. Calling it "hollow and tragic," Morris wrote that "the story has a rambling, breathless quality." Kristine Huntley, writing in Booklist, however, had a positive perception of the book: "Snappy and readable, Headley's fun memoir will be sought out by singletons everywhere."
Headley told CA: "I got interested in writing because I'm a reader. In The Year of Yes, I talk about how I started in the A section of the library and worked my way through to N, as a kid. I come from a small town. There's not a lot to do. The library is where town freaks often hang out, and I'm no exception. Fairly quickly, I realized that a lot of town freaks turn into writers, and I thought I might be able to find my comrades in the writing world … which, alas, is a pretty solitary place. My work is influenced by everything I've ever read—if something is really great, I try to figure out how the writer accomplished it—as well as by everything I've ever heard. I listen to music as I write, and the mood of whatever song I'm hearing often dictates the mood of the writing. I'm a huge Tom Waits fan. Bob Dylan too. Anyone who loves words and has a story to tell, basically, can win me over. My writing process is similar to dumping a 1,000 piece puzzle on the floor and trying to put it together without any idea of what the whole thing ought to look like. I usually find myself sitting amid a heap of disparate bits, with no idea what will string them together. Finally, though, I find a piece that fits, and then another, and soon it's all linked. Or, at least, in a best case scenario, that's what happens. Sometimes I find myself with a picture of something that still doesn't make sense. That's when I get out the scissors and start illegally snipping puzzle pieces. Like all writers I know, I have a drawer full of things that just didn't quite get there. That drawer is great for procrastination.
"The Year of Yes has been a lesson in the diversity of this country. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a different favorite part … people also have all kinds of different most-hated parts, though the people that hated me most tend not to have actually read the book. A lot of people got really up in arms after reading an article about me, or seeing me on TV. This was odd. Their response had very little to do with the book, and a lot to do with the fact that by saying 'ye' to dates with everyone who asked, I'd broken some deep social rules—largest among them, 'do't talk to strangers.' While promoting this book, I got everything from love letters, to preachers preaching against me. I was amazed, and kind of thrilled, by how much my subject matter seemed to galvanize people. Plenty of people have embarked on their own 'year of yes' as a result of reading the book, and that is pretty great.
"As for favorite books—I only have one out, so far. When my next one comes out, though, I'll change allegiances. Every writer's favorite book is the one they're working on—or at least, that's the case with the writers I know. The ideal situation is to feel as though you're becoming a better writer the more you write.
"I hope The Year of Yes first and foremost makes people laugh. As well, I hope it inspires people to be less judgmental in their own lives. I think that'd be a pretty great effect to have on your readers. The thing I love best when I'm reading, is the sense that I'm being taken away for a while, swept up into a story, and emotionally effected by it. That's what I hope happens with my work."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Headley, Maria Dahvana, The Year of Yes, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.
Booklist, January 1, 2006, Kristine Huntley, review of The Year of Yes, p. 34.
Entertainment Weekly, January 13, 2006, Leah Green-blatt, review of The Year of Yes, p. 83.
Library Journal, January 1, 2006, Elizabeth Morris, review of The Year of Yes, p. 130.
Newsweek, January 16, 2006, Daniel McGinn, "Dating: Positive Thinking."
People, February 13, 2006, Judith Newman, review of The Year of Yes, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, November 7, 2005, review of The Year of Yes, p. 66.
Time, February 10, 2006, Andrea Sachs, "A Year in the Underbelly of Sex in the City."
Maria Dahvana Headley Web log, http://www.myspace.com/mariadahvanaheadley (April 12, 2006).
Mumpsimus Web log, http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/ (December 27, 2005), author interview.
My Space, The Memoirist's Collective, http://www.myspace.com/thememoiristscollective (June 1, 2006).
Year of Yes Web site, http://www.theyearofyes.com (April 12, 2006).
Washington Post Online, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ (February 7, 2006), online author chat.
Word Smitten, http://www.wordsmitten.com/ (April 12, 2006), author award information.