Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, August 8, 2016

An Inside Look #9 (Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin)

An Inside Look - With Melanie Conklin
Author of Counting Thyme

*Another summer Monday, means another "inside look" with an author.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" with them about their novel, the characters, and their thoughts about the story.

*I have had such fun connecting with authors and "picking" their brains.

*Here are the links to my first eight interviews...

Interview #1 with Elly Swartz (Author of Finding Perfect)

Interview #2 with Jeff Zentner (Author of The Serpent King)

Interview #3 with Nora Raleigh Baskin (Author of Nine, Ten, A September 11 Story)

Interview #4 with Cammie McGovern (Author of Just My Luck)

Interview #5 with Kate Messner (Author of The Seventh Wish)

Interview #6 with Paul Griffin (Author of When Friendship Followed Me Home)

Interview #7 with K.A. Holt (Author of House Arrest)

Interview #8 with Abby Cooper (Author of Sticks and Stones)

*I received an ARC of this book during #NCTE15 here in Minneapolis.

*I read it over the winter months and absolutely loved it.

*Melanie and I got to know each other via Twitter conversations.

*We then met each other in person during #NerdCampMI this past July.

*This is a very special story and I look forward to using it during the coming school year with my fourth grade readers.

*Thanks to Melanie for giving us an "inside look" at her novel...

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin (Released April 12, 2016)

How did you come to know Thyme?  
Thyme and I met over Thanksgiving break, when I was home visiting in North Carolina. I was sitting on my mom’s couch, enjoying a couple hours of writing time while my kids played with their grandparents and I started writing a new story. It was about a girl whose family had just moved to New York City. She wasn’t happy about it. Then I thought of the rewards system her mom might use to make up for it, and the concept of “counting” time arose—that’s when I knew the character’s name was Thyme, too.

What do you think is Thyme's most admirable quality?
I admire Thyme’s tolerance for unfairness. I am terrible at accepting unfair situations. I have a temper. Thyme is far more patient and accommodating than I am.

Is there anything you wish Thyme would have changed or done differently in her story?
During the revision process, I often wondered if Thyme should be more honest about her feelings, especially with her parents. But then I remember how hard it was for me to tell my Mom about certain things—even good things—because it’s so hard to define yourself at age eleven. Sometimes, you need privacy. Other times, you need to share. I had to let Thyme do things on her own terms.

What do you think Thyme can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?  
I hope that other children reading Thyme’s story see that the small stuff matters just as much as the big stuff. It’s easy for grownups to dismiss the importance of regular, every-day life in the face of disaster, but it is normal and human to care about every part of your life. All feelings are valid.

How did you research Thyme and the circumstances she found herself in?
Research was a very important part of writing Thyme’s story. I knew about neuroblastoma and antibody treatments from the families I knew in that situation, but in order to be true to their stories I spent countless hours reading research studies from hospitals and non-profits, blog posts from cancer patients and survivors, and memoire accounts of families around the world who had faced neuroblastoma.

Do you and Thyme share any similarities?  
Thyme and I both love pastries. Pastries are the key to my heart.

What was the hardest scene to write about Thyme?
 No spoilers, but the scene where Thyme and Val are reading a beloved picture book was very tough for me to write. Val’s questions are so earnest, and Thyme wants so badly to say the right thing—and that’s something I worry about a lot, in real life.

Who do you think was Thyme's biggest supporter and why?
In the book, Thyme’s biggest supporter is not who she expects it to be. In the world, COUNTING THYME was very fortunate to have early reads and support from Colby Sharp and Mr. Schu, as well as tremendous support from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a non profit that raises funds to fight pediatric cancer. 

Why do you think young people/children are sometimes able to handle difficult or challenging situations better than adults do?     
I think young people are resilient in the face of adversity because they are very good at doing something grownups sometimes forget to do: children live in the moment. They feel joy; they laugh. They allow themselves to access the full human experience, even when faced with difficult circumstances— that it’s okay to laugh even when you’re crying.

What do you think Elyse is doing as this present time?  
These days, I imagine Thyme as a teen living in the city, experiencing life fully and with great hope and joy. I am often asked if I will write a sequel, and while I don’t know the answer to that, I can say that Thyme and her family live on inside my heart.

Parole Thyme makes in the book    

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