Local Bookworms: Kailey Tedesco
Welcome to our little blog feature, Local Bookworms. Featuring readers, writers and other strange souls from our community here at The Spiral Bookcase, these interviews are meant to help you discover new authors, new books, new ways of engaging with literature and add a little interest to your day. Check back to see who we feature next!
Up this week is Kailey Tedesco! A writer, poet, teacher and editor based in Bethlehem, PA, Tedesco currently teaches English courses, including classes on the the archetype of the Witch, at Moravian College, Northampton Community College, and Lehigh Carbon Community College. Some of her interests and inspirations include Shirley Jackson, Sylvia Plath, the Fox Sisters, Lizzie Borden, possessed dolls, dumb suppers, antique mourning beads, ghost stories and Twin Peaks. Her first collection, She Used To Be On A Milk Cart, can be purchased here. Her latest release, Lizzie Speak is available here.
When did you discover your love of reading? For some folks, it’s almost immediately, but for others, it’s a later-in-life revelation.
I think I first fell in love with the aesthetic of reading. My mom would read Stephen King and V.C. Andrews paperbacks at a super speed and then stack them around the house. I just thought that whole process looked so cool and mature, so before I could even sound out words, I would carry books around the house or on the playground. This sometimes surprises people who know me well, but I was a super outdoorsy, play-in-the-mud, and walk-around-with-scraped-knees kind of kid. So, while I’d read a Goosebumps or Baby-Sitters Club paperback every so often on rainy days, it wasn’t until I read The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket in 5th grade that I felt that real, won’t-put-this-book-down-for-anything kind of love. I adore A Series of Unfortunate Events to this day.
What’s your favorite book in the whole world? Why?
This is so, so hard. I’m going to choose a specific copy of a book and would be my copy of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It’s a second edition, so it’s actually published under Plath’s pseudonym, Victoria Lucas. Knowing I was a huge fan of everything Plath, my partner gifted it to me early on in our relationship, and I treasure it so much. Regardless of my precious copy though, I would say The Bell Jar anyways because Esther Greenwood’s story was one that came to me at the very exact moment that I really, really needed it. If I’m allowed to cheat a little though, I’m going to say that We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is tied as my favorite because I read and teach this book multiple times a year, and I’m still finding little kernels of secret, between-the-lines things to love about it.
On a typical week (ha, what are those anymore), what kinds of things would we find you reading?
Lately, I’ve been doing almost all of my reading in the bathtub and it’s become a ritual that I look forward to all day long. I just finished Death Industrial Complex, a poetry collection by Candice Wuehle, and I loved it so much that I immediately reread it two more times. It’s so good — one of the best collections I’ve read all year. I’ve also been reading a lot of graphic fiction lately. I think that these smaller pieces have just been a little easier to engage with and dedicate time to these days. Admittedly, the past two graphic novels I’ve read were just okay, so I’m not going to mention them here, lol. But, generally I’m a fan of anything Kerascoet has anything to do with (Beautiful Darkness, Beauty, Miss Don’t Touch Me, and Satania are all big faves). I’m also kind of always in a state of reading about the Salem Witch Trials, and I’m currently reading The Magical Writing Grimoire by Lisa Marie Basile, so I like to pull bits of non-fiction into my bathtub ritual now and then as well.
You've written quite a few books yourself and have another coming soon! Tell us about ‘em.
She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publishing 2018) was my first collection. That was a very confessional and personal deep dive into my childhood and how growing up Catholic and very afraid of men impacted my sense of self later on in life.
This one took a lot of out of me, so when I wrote Lizzie, Speak (White Stag Publishing 2019), I knew I wanted to get out of myself completely. I’ve always been fascinated by Lizzie Borden, and I’m also really interested in the Spiritualist movement. While I was writing Lizzie, Speak, I took a tour of Spiritualist destinations in Salem, MA and our tour guide recommended the book Radical Spirits by Anne Braude. All of this sparked something in me, so, I decided to write a poetic seance where I attempted to conjure the voice of Lizzie Borden directly.
Most recently, I finished my third collection, FOREVERHAUS (White Stag, forthcoming fall 2020). This one is a kind of mythic or fairy tale-like journey into an afterlife and everything that I feel would haunt me in that space. I thought of it as an exercise is making a folktale or ghost story out of myself.
I love the idea of unofficial trilogies that are common in horror cinema. I definitely think a reader could put these three collections in conversation with one another, so I’m hoping these will function as an unofficial trilogy where the common thread is just things that really scare me.
Folklore and the occult are common themes in your work. What tales or stories draw you in the most, and why?
The Jersey Devil will always be my number one cryptid. I grew up in the Pine Barrens, and my family used to camp right near Leeds Point. For the first five years of my life, I truly believed that if my milk was spoiled it meant the Jersey Devil flew over our house.
I’m also a caulbearrer, so I love hearing the lore from various cultures about those born with the caul. Currently, though, I love reading about St. Columba of Sens, Bloody Mary (and all of her cultural implications!), and I continue to read about Spiritualism, mesmerism, and necromancy.
Also, I’ve always been a fan of both Angela Carter and Jan Svankmajer’s ALICE (a Czech film based on Alice in Wonderland). By some cool fate, I recently found an essay by Carter where she breaks down some of the fairy tale motifs in the film. It’s really rad.
What’s your comfort read — you know, that book you always revisit, the one with worn pages and a cover that’s soft like a blanket?
This sort of brings everything full circle, but I can (and do!) read V.C. Andrews over and over forever. Her work is wild, ridiculous, abject, strange, wonderful, and somehow, at times, strikingly real. My favorite book of hers is Dark Angel. My copy was used when I bought it, but after several reads in the bathtub and a few unintentional tug-of-war sessions with my dog, it’s almost not even readable, but of course, I don’t really mind the wear and tear at all.