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February 20, 2019

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15 minutes with Ashley (aka Ashley Gratz-Collier)

BHS 2002 grad lives in New York City

15 minutes with Ashley Garland
aka Ashley Gratz-Collier

When did you graduate from Bluffton High School?
I understand you live in New York City. Tell us exactly where you live.
We live in an apartment in the Prospect Lefferts Garden area of Brooklyn. We're on the 3rd floor. There is only one other apartment (on the floor below us) and the store front is rented out to artists to use as studio space. We, like a lot of New Yorkers, have moved around a lot, so this is the 4th apartment we've lived in since moving here over 10 years ago. We've been in this apartment since our oldest son was born and we have a dishwasher, washer/dryer and a backyard. Those are all real luxuries here, so I don't think we'll leave this apartment any time soon.
Sounds like you have a very interesting job. What is it and what exactly do you do?
I really love my job. I'm the Associate Director of Publicity at Ecco, a small imprint at HarperCollins Publishers. I work with authors on the publicity campaigns for their books, which includes everything from booking interviews for them on radio and TV shows, pitching newspapers and magazines to review their books and setting up events and book tours. I can't believe I get paid to read books, hang out with the brilliant people who write them, and tell people why I like them.
Dumb question - do you have a vehicle? Or, how do you get around the city?
I do! We park it on the street and have to move it every weekday for alternate side parking. We still take the subway to work because it's cheap and efficient. Plus my commute isn't bad (about 40 minutes door-to-door) and sitting on the subway gives me a chance to catch up on reading. Even though we don't use the car during the week it's nice to have it on the weekends to run errands, visit friends in Brooklyn, drive to the beach, which is only 20 minutes away, or to take longer trips to visit my in-laws in D.C. or my parents in Bluffton.
Do you have any really good New York City taxi stories?
It scares me a bit that I know I've had some but can't really remember them. When everyone you meet is so wildly different and you never see the same people twice, strange things and the unexpected becomes the norm here. I've heard a lot of stories from cab drivers about coming here from other countries where they were doctors or businessmen. And there was one time when a cab picked me up from the airport and every time we were at a stop light he'd pull out his harmonica and play. No talking or explanations. Just a little diddy at every stop. For some reason that one stuck with me.

Can you remember who you sat beside in first grade?  Do you remember any thing about first grade?
I'm not sure why, but I remember so very little about first grade. I know I liked Mrs. Schaaf! I remember a lot from Kindergarten (peeing my pants and Mrs. Romey telling everyone I had spilled some juice) and from 2nd grade (Kala Parthmore sat behind me and had a huge box of Crayloa crayons that she's let me use), but not a lot from 1st grade. I think that was the year I was sick a lot with things like chicken pox and strep throat and missed quite a bit of school.
Do you have any tee-pee stories worth mentioning?
We used to go tee-peeing every fall at Kendra Caskie's slumber party. We'd always go to Jared Burkholder's house, who lived around the corner and some years we added in another stop. I remember getting Mr. Sykes one year.
What’s the most interesting thing about living in New York City?
Honestly I can't pick just one thing. On one hand, I pay way too much to live in a pretty small apartment, this city is dirty, everyone has an attitude, and living here can feel exhausting. But on the other, in the summer my kids go on field trips to the beach one day and the museum of national history the next. I live in a Caribbean neighborhood and can walk around the corner and eat the best jerk chicken or doubles or we can hop on the subway and have hot pot in Sunset Park. To watch my kids grown up around people of all colors and religious and cultural backgrounds, and it not phase them in the slightest, blows my mind and is why I don't think we'll ever leave.
Have you seen any really good movies lately?
I've been on a movie kick lately because the movie theaters here are pretty amazing. I have two favorites. One lets you reserve your seat and the seats recline all the way back. You basically get to lay down and watch a movie. And the other is an Alamo Drafthouse theater that also lets you reserve your seat and you can order drinks and food off a full dinner menu that's delivered to your seat. The last two movies I saw were I, Tonya (really good) and Jumanji (shockingly enjoyable and funny). But I think my favorite movie this year was Get Out, which I find myself getting really worked up about whenever my husband tries to tell me it was really good, but not great (at this point I think he's just doing it to see me get worked up).
Do I imagine this? Were you on a BHS homecoming court? If so, which year? Remember anything about it?
Sure was! I was on the court my senior year and my escort was Dustin Rogers. I think Jared Burkholder and Kendra Caskie were there and Mollie McCullough and Josh Weaver were our King and Queen. I was so excited to not wear my band uniform for once!
List the social medias that you use.
Instagram - mainly to post pictures of my kids
Twitter - I use to promote the books I'm working on
Facebook - to keep up with friends and media outlets I follow
When someone asks where you grew up, how do you describe Bluffton to them?
"It's a really small town in northwest Ohio. It has 3 stop lights. And one of the streets just outside of town is named after my family (Gratz Road), but nobody lives on it."

Sometimes I mention that there is 1 movie theater which cost $3 and if they get a big movie it can stay there for a month.

And every once in awhile, if I'm really going in on how small it is, I'll mention that for the longest time it was a dry town and you could only get beer at the one bar in town. If you wanted beer from anywhere else, or liquor at all, you had to drive outside the town limits. On more then one occasion I've had someone respond to me with "Like the town in Footloose?"
What was your eighth grade science project? What grade did you receive?

I tested different speeds of film for how they responded to light and movement. Somewhere in Bluffton is a box with dozens of photos of my dad's green Taurus driving up and down Bentley Road so I could see which speed of film captured the movement best. I'm pretty sure I got an Excellent. And I swear I did all the research required, conducted my own experiments, etc. but honestly you can find the results on the back of a film box.