Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

An Inside Look #47 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Cordelia Jensen & Laurie Morrison
(Authors of Every Shiny Thing)

*This was a new feature I added to the blog during the summer of 2016.  It was a shot in the dark that it would work, but much to my surprise; it took off and over first season I conducted 22 interviews with a variety of authors.

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

*I ran a series of interviews for Season #TWO over the summer of 2017.  It was great to get back to these conversations, that I decided to run Season #THREE during the 2017/2018 school year.  

*Thank you to Cordelia and Laurie for being the Forty-Seventh author(S) of the third season.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first FORTY-SIX interviews…


*I was lucky to receive an ARC of Every Shiny Thing and was excited to read it.  I so enjoyed the story of the two young girls.  I also loved how part of the story was told in verse and the other half was told in prose.  It was interesting to me that the book was written by two authors.  After finishing, I reached out to both of them and was thrilled when they agreed to answer some of my questions for the blog.  

*They were kind, gracious, and giving with their answers to the questions.  It is an honor to post the responses with my "Inside Look" feature.   

*Here is a link to my review of Every Shiny Thing

*Thank you Cordelia and Laurie for writing this story for readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here on the blog...

Every Shiny Thing
by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison (Released April 17, 2018)

How did you come to know Lauren and Sierra?
We started out knowing one main characteristic for each girl. We knew Sierra would be fiercely loyal to her mom, a trait that was inspired by Cordelia’s experience working with kids who felt deep loyalty to their parents despite difficult home situations. We knew Lauren would be compassionate and have a strong commitment to justice, like many of the middle school students Laurie had taught. Then the girls continued to reveal themselves to us from there!

What do you think is Lauren and Sierra’smost admirable quality?
We especially admire Sierra’s ability to trust and hope for the best in people and Lauren’s sense of justice.

Is there anything you wish they would have changed or done differently in their story?
If we step back from the book and re-read it from our perspective as adults, there are a lot of moments where we’d think things like, “Lauren! Open up to your parents and tell them how you’re feeling!” and “Sierra, Anne wants so much to connect with you! Talk to her!” But we think the girls go on the emotional journey they need to take and make mistakes they learn from, and we like where they end up in the end.

What do you think they can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what they went through?
Both girls get in over their heads in difficult situations and need to ask for help. We hope kids reading the book--especially kids who might be dealing with difficult circumstances with family members and friends--might see that Lauren and Sierra need to ask for help and be encouraged to do the same. It’s also a book about addiction, and we think that’s an important topic for kids to be able to read about, especially if they have people close to them dealing with addiction and haven't read books that tackle that topic. It felt good to us, for instance, to include an AlaTeen scene.

How did you research these two characters and the circumstances they found themselves in?
For Sierra, Cordelia used her background as a counselor to help inform the story, and we got feedback from people who work in the foster care system. In order to develop Ryan’s character and present his school and occupational therapy in authentic ways, Laurie got valuable feedback from sensitivity readers, read a lot about autism and neurodiversity in books and on blogs, and watched YouTube videos posted by teens with autism. Steve Silberman’s book NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity was a really helpful book to start with and one we recommend.

Do you and the girls share any similarities?
Like Sierra, we both tend to be caretakers and sometimes get in over our heads with wanting to help other people and be good friends. Like Lauren, we’re both compassionate and we try to be conscious of our privilege. However, neither of us break rules in the way Lauren does!

What was the hardest scene to write about them?
For Laurie, the very first chapter was the hardest to write because that’s where Lauren’s driving misbelief, that her parents are not doing the right thing by sending her brother to boarding school, gets established. It was hard to walk the line of showing readers why Lauren feels this way while also suggesting that she might not be fully understanding what’s best for her brother. For Cordelia, the hardest scene was the reveal where the reader finally discovers why Sierra’s mom got put in jail. That was loosely based on something Cordelia saw at the mall one day and was a gut-wrenching scene to witness and to write.

Who do you think was their biggest supporter and why?
Sierra’s biggest supporter is her foster mother Anne, because Anne can relate to what Sierra is going through and helps Sierra realize what she needs. Sierra ends up being Lauren’s biggest supporter, both because she is the one person Lauren really lets in and because she ends up recognizing what Lauren needs and doing that even though it’s painful.

Why do you think children, and sometimes adults, cover for their friends when they know in their heart it is the wrong thing to do?
It can be hard for kids and adults to be in situations where it feels like there are two competing right things to do. It feels right to be a good friend, and it’s also right to follow socially accepted rules for what behaviors are moral. It’s tricky when you can’t simultaneously feel like you’re supporting a friend and abiding by those rules. It’s also very hard (for adults, but maybe even more so for kids) to worry that a friend will be hurt or angry because of your behavior or will think you're a "tattletale." Often covering for someone makes that person happy and grateful at least in the short term, which feels a whole lot better than making them mad.

What do you think the two girls are doing as the present time?
We finished major edits on the book about a year ago, so we’ll imagine it’s one year after the book ends, when the girls are in eighth grade. The girls are good friends, but they’ve expanded their friend group and don’t just rely on each other. Sierra is struggling

academically at school because the gaps in her education are making eighth grade difficult, but she now knows how to ask for help when she needs it. Lauren is figuring out healthier ways to volunteer for social justice causes and she’s going to a summer program in D.C. that will connect her with other social-justice-focused kids from around the country.

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