Guest Post: Kim Culbertson, author of Songs for a Teenage Nomad (& GIVEAWAY)

Today, Leslie and I are excited to have YA author Kim Culbertson here on our blog guest posting! Her book Songs for a Teenage Nomad (Leslie will be reviewing it on Thursday), comes out this coming Tuesday, September 7th! Please join us in welcoming her... Before we begin, here's the blurb for Songs for a Teenage Nomad:
After living in twelve places in eight years with her drifting mother, fourteen-year-old Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Fearful of putting down roots anywhere, but armed with her song journal, she moves to her own sound track through a world that bounces her between the school drama crowd, a mysterious loner, and an unlikely boy who will become her first love. But it's the troubling truth she uncovers about her father that forces Calle to face the toughest choice of her young life.
Doesn't that sound like an awesome read? And now without further ado... Take it away, Kim!

The other day I was sitting in a cafĂ© with my friend and a Natalie Merchant song came on, an old one back from her 10,000 Maniacs days. I was saying something to my friend at the time and I stopped, the song suddenly vaulting me back to my college dorm room when I would stay up all hours of the night writing papers and letting Natalie’s rich voice fill the room.

Each person has a playlist. Music, for me, and for Calle, the main character in my young adult novel Songs for a Teenage Nomad, is like an audio scrapbook. There are so many songs in my life that act as snapshots for a point in my past. Sometimes, the memories are personal, special: I know that even though she’s now six years old, every time I hear a song from Jack Johnson’s On and On CD, I can feel the weight of my daughter’s baby-self in my arms. That CD got me (and her!) through many a long afternoon when she just didn’t really want to nap. Sometimes, though, the song memory is just about something random that makes me smile: When I hear the song “Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain come on a radio, I get a twitchy smile because I remember my friend Paul acting like a goofball and dancing around to it at the county fair.

Music – not so much specific songs but that great whole of it – is a unifying experience because we all have songs that remind us of something or take us back to a place or a moment. My students often times argue about bands and music, which is fine –they’re teenagers, they’re supposed to argue about which bands suck and which bands don’t – but I often like to chat with them about why it doesn’t really matter what the music is, it’s the fact that the music makes them argue in the first place that matters, that it evokes something in them so powerful that they form diverse, visceral responses to it. I love that about music. We all have different musical tastes, but the love of music seems universal, the way it gets under our skin. I’ve never met someone who has said “I hate all music. No music for me ever!”

Books are like that for me too – they have gotten under my skin and built a residence – which is probably why music ended up playing such an important role in my first novel. As a writer, I want to tap into that unifying love of words and of the memories songs bring and how the two of them together help define a young life.

Fantastic post, Kim! I know the whole Dashboard Confessional album A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar takes me back to my freshman year in college. What about you? Is there a song that takes you back to a certain time in your life or evokes a memory?

Thanks to Paul and Sourcebooks, we have a copy of Songs for a Teenage Nomad to giveaway to one lucky winner. Just answer the question in the comments below with your email address. It is open to US and Canadian residents and we will announce the winner next week Saturday. Good luck!


  1. Is there a song that takes you back to a certain time in your life or evokes a memory?

    ~~~ DON'T READ AHEAD!! ~~~

    Okay, so it may seem a bit silly, but Circles by Marques Houston. In 8th (?) grade, there was a boy. We liked each other, or at least I thought he liked me back-- that's what he said, and what everyone said. So anyway, a few months down the road, I'm convinced he likes this other girl, and so I get all dramatic and write him this full-on email expressing all my disdain for the situation he threw me in.

    He replies back in a day, and tells me he cried when he read the email. I go back on msn in hopes that he'll tell me something I'll like, but he's just like "I cried because I was listening to ____".

    TA-DAH! Embarrassing, maybe. Haha. If I win, I don't care.

    Even to this day, I'm reminded of him when I listen to that song... It's all so foolish.

  2. Radiohead: Creep
    That song takes me back to my teen years, when I did want to be special. I wanted to be someone at least a little. I was the nerdy girl in the library reading or finishing her homework at breaks since we did not have a computer at home, and we lived in the sticks. It was ironic to because just after I was reading this post it came up on my pandora radio channel.

  3. "Heartache Tonight" by The Eagles--takes me back to college when a big group of us girls would kick the guys off the dance floor and, fueled by PGA punch, would scream out the lyrics of Heartache Tonight at the top of our lungs. Poor guys were scared to death and it usually took some more punch to get them to settle down. *sigh* good times.

    Thanks for the great interview & contest! The book sounds fab!

  4. Cool post!
    A song that takes me back?
    Bittersweet Symphony :)

    (not an entry)

  5. Amazed by Lonestar takes me back to my wedding day. Please enter me in contest.

  6. whenever i hear nirvana's smells like teen spirit, it takes me back to my high school years....still listen to all that stuff to this day....

    thank you for entering me in the contest!

    k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

  7. Taylor Swift - Forever and Always
    Reminds me of this boy.... :)
    I'd like to enter the contest!

  8. My son, who is on the autism spectrum, could not tolerate music. It would set him off completely. I was willing to give it up for him. Then one day, out of the blue, while I was driving him to school, I forgot that I had left the radio on in the car. It started playing one headlight by the wallflowers. My son didn't have a reaction to it. I found I could listen to music with him in the car. (only in the car, everywhere else had a bad reaction)After many years of this, he is now desensitized, so he can actually listen and enjoy music, for brief periods. But this song is still very important to us. He says it is his first song.

  9. Changes by Blind Melon takes me back to high school and listening to that song in my old car. I would listen to the opening verse with the sound panned to the left, cutting out the guitar track so it was only voice and harmonica and then a little mandolin would come in. I'd pan back to the middle eventually letting the guitar back in just as the drums start up. It was like my own personal remix. (Em of Love YA Lit)

  10. I love the song Big Girls Don't Cry from The Jersey Boys...makes me think of all of my high school angst...but in a lovely way...

  11. Welcome to the Jungle reminds me of my first job--at a department store. The stock boys always used to sing it as they "rode" their carts through the store like huge skateboards after making a delivery on the floor. Singing and riding--two things they weren't supposed to do on the floor.

  12. The outside by Taylor Swift. Thanks for entering me. :)

  13. Time of your life by green day always reminds me of some fun times with friends. Thank you so much for the contest!

    inthehammockblog at gmail dot com

  14. Oh there are so many songs I could list!! I guess 2 that really mean something to me, take me back to when my kids where still babies are It Won't be Like This For Long by Darius Rucker (aka Hootie!) and Little Guy by Gord Bamford. I am not a big fan of country music, but these songs really remind me of my children.

    Please enter me.
    lusravesandrants AT gmail DOT com

  15. Anything by Neil Diamond or Barry Manilow. We used to listen to them on long car trips as a kid.

    Thanks for entering me.
    bkhabel AT gmail DOT com

  16. There are a few, but the two most profound ones for me are:

    "This Used to be my Playground," by Madonna, which reminds me of skipping high school classes to hang out with friends in a little-used playground a short distance away from the school. Aside from the obvious connections to the song title, there's also the feeling of loss evoked by the song because the old high school gang isn't together anymore, we've changed so much, and nothing can ever be what it was. It's a wistful song that brings me some bittersweet nostalgia.

    The second song is "These Living Arms," by the Tea Party. While role-playing a particularly angsty scene with a friend, one we were working on because of a story I once intended to submit for publication, this song came on and the lyrics fit so perfectly to the situation that it almost made me cry. To this day, whenever I hear that song I feel a tugging at my heart and the memories of both playing and writing that scene.

    I'd love an entry in this contest. My email address is jazriyah(AT)gmail(DOT)com

  17. Open Arms by Journey.

    16th summer.

    First kiss.


    ntaylor228 at yahoo dot com

  18. We Danced Anyway - Deanna Carter

    Ahh summer and a forbidden boyfriend...high school and growing up. Wow, it's amazing what a simple song can bring back!


  19. Cascada's version of "Every time We Touch" It brings me back to the winter of my senior year. That was one of the songs used in our winter guard show. It's also the song that we do our most memorable move. That year was the first time I have ever gotten a 1st place medal. Even to this day if any guard members are together and that song is heard we do the routine to it (minus the flags).

    my email is

  20. The entire Linkin Park Hybrid Theory album saved my life. Literally!

    This book sounds awesome :)

  21. Glory Days - Bruce Springsteen. Takes me back to the days when I was young, touring, on fire, and having way too much fun.

    Kim - you rock! I want your book to be #1.

  22. Pretty much any country song that was popular in the early 90's takes me back to my middle-school days. Also, the song "One Sweet Day" reminds me of middle school - when one of my classmates passed away due to a failed lung transplant. Pretty much any time I hear a song, I am reminded of what was going on when I first learned it.

    jlelliott08 AT gmail DOT com

  23. Well, a lot of songs by Fred Penner or Raffi will take me back to childhood! The Cat Came Back and Baby Beluga, for instance, come to mind :)

  24. Oh, gosh, I can't even pick one.

    When my dad died, I listened to I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing by Aerosmith on repeat for the longest time. Now it just serves as a reminder of how confused and hurt and lost I felt back then.

    In 10th/11th grade, a lot of MCR/Panic! at the Disco songs (there's no specific one). Autumns Monologue by From Autumn to Ashes. It was a really... melancholy era of my life.

    In 12th grade, The Bird and the Worm by the Used and Swallow the Sun by Thrice. That was a uber depressing era.

    In the year between 12th grade and college, I was going through a hard time dealing with my depression and the loss of my boyfriend. I listened to Damien Rice constantly. Two that stick out are The Rain within the Grain and Accidental Babies.

    When I got with my ex-boyfriend, I had a playlist of our "songs", which included Michael Buble's Everything, A Fine Frenzy's You Picked Me, Landon Pigg's Falling In Love at a Coffee shop, and The Ataris - Looking Back on Today. It was winter 2007, going 2008, and it was cold.

    And more recently, Love Story by Taylor Swift reminds me of my NUMEROUS trips to Disneyland. They were such good, happy trips that listening to Love Story now makes my heart swell with the happy memories.

    And now with my current relationship, I remember my time in Texas with them singing Amazed by Lonestar to me. I can even smell their car when I hear the song. Ahhh, good times. <3

    Oh, right... You only wanted one answer. Right? :/ *ends life story*


  25. Silly enough, the song Laid by James the band reminds me of the first time someone I had been totally enamoured with for years kissed me, just because it was playing a few minutes before. Every time I hear it now, I remember getting all excited about it playing in the club we were in, since it's not a song you often hear, and then getting even MORE excited a few minutes later!

    CrystalW07 at

  26. Anberlin: A Day Late - Reminds me of a good friend from high school. I'm in and out of touch with him every few years and even though there's always so much time in between things just fall together easily with him every time. Always leaves me thinking"ah what could have been"


Thank you so much to stopping by today and taking the time to comment.