Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, January 9, 2017

An Inside Look #21 (Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder)

An Inside Look - With Monika Schroder
Author of Be Light Like a Bird

*This was a new feature I added to my blog during summer 2016.  I don't have as much time during the school year to run the feature weekly, but definitely will when I come across a book/author/series that I want to dig into more.

*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.

*Here are the links to the first TWENTY interviews…

*This book reading experience was quite the treat.  

*A Twitter "friend" sent this to me via a "book tour" group we have.  I didn't know much about the story, but loved the title and cover.  I was excited to start this story based on the positive reviews I had read about.

*Once I started the novel, I could not put the book down.  I loved the story, the characters, and all the feelings involved while I was reading.

*It had been awhile since I had conducted "An Inside Look" interview, but knew I wanted to further explore this character.  I reached out to Monika and she was more than willing to share her thoughts with me and other readers.

*Here are the responses she shared with me and I'm thrilled to share them with you...

Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder (Released September 1, 2016)

How did you come to know Wren?
In early drafts of the book the focus was on Wren's trouble being the new girl in school and her fight to save the bird sanctuary. Over many revisions I felt that I hadn't reached the core of who she was and what was hurting her. But I didn't know how to fix it and left the manuscript in the drawer for a long time. And then I suddenly knew who Wren was: her father had died and her mother had dragged her to northern Michigan. From there I rebuilt the emotional arc of the novel, focusing on the grieving and her relationship to her mother.

What do you think is Wren's most admirable quality?
What I like most about her is that she has the courage to stop pleasing Carrie and instead decides to be true to herself and continue her friendship with Theo. I also admire her tenacity when she and Theo work toward saving the bird sanctuary. It is great that a kid is conscious of the environment and becomes active in her own community.

Is there anything you wish Wren would have changed or done differently in her story?
Since it caused her so much pain, perhaps I wish she had found out earlier what made her mother act the way she did, but then the story would have been very different.

What do you think Wren can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
Obviously, it would be nice if children who have experienced the loss of a loved one could find some solace when they read about Wren. But I also hope that all readers can connect with her activism and her decision to be true to herself instead of trying to please others in order to keep her friendship with the popular girls.

How did you research Wren and the circumstances she found herself in?
I often start a book with setting. The 'seed idea' for Be Light Like a Bird came to me the first time I saw a landfill. My husband and I had cleaned out the cabin my husband inherited from his father in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I couldn't believe it when he drove all the stuff to a landfill nearby, a big hole where people bury unwanted items. In Germany we recycle or incinerate most of our garbage, so it left an impression on me when I saw a guy dropping a vacuum cleaner, a book shelf and an entire carpet into the landfill...a cemetery for junk.

I learned more about this landfill and read about the people in the community who had fought its expansion. Then I asked myself a "What if...?" question: What if there were a girl who loved birds and whose bird watching was threatened by the expansion of the landfill? Once I had that girl in my mind, I found myself asking more and more about her life. How did she get to Michigan's Upper Peninsula? And why was birding so important to her? As I mentioned earlier it took a long time until I learned that her father had recently died and that her mother had more or less dragged her up north. She was grieving and lonely and once she arrived in Upper Michigan she came up with a plan to make her mother stay. From there the story of Wren developed.

Do you and Wren share any similarities? 
When I was in middle school I tried to fit in with girls I had nothing in common with. So I am familiar with the pressure that such a situation puts on a girl. Then, as a teenager in the 1980s, when I was living in Germany I was very interested in politics. I collected signatures against Ronald Reagan, who was leading the Atlantic Alliance in their efforts to place more nuclear weapons on German soil, and I also attended a peace demonstration in Bonn, the German capital at the time, against the nuclear arms race.

What was the hardest scene to write about Wren?
The scene in which she finally finds out what happened between her mother and father was difficult to write. I had to dive into those emotions and find Wren's response amid her doubts regarding her mother's words. I rewrote that chapter many times.

Who do you think was Wren's biggest supporter and why?
I think her friendship with Theo is the most important support for her. He also experienced loss and it helps her to just talk to someone who also lost a parent. And when they start working on the school project together his steadiness and the fact that he helps her to stand up against the bully gives her a lot of strength.

Why do you think humans, especially adults vs. children, handle death or other traumatic events differently?  
I think a wife or husband has had a different relationship with the deceased and that influences the way they grieve. The same is true for children who loose a parent, they have had a different relationship to a father or mother than a surviving spouse. Those differences in the relationship determine the process of grieving. But I also think that individual people may have a variety of emotional responses to any major event in their lives. The important thing is to heal and to find people who help one to get through these hard times.

What do you think Wren is doing at the present time?
I hope she and Theo are sitting on their boulder, watching birds, or zipping through Pyramid on their bikes or, perhaps, she is enjoying a healthy meal her mother cooked after she took cooking lessons.

1 comment: