Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, April 30, 2018

An Inside Look #51 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Gae Polisner
(Author of In Sight of Stars)

*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 Gae Polisher for being the Fifty-First author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first FIFTY interviews…


*I've had the honor of meeting Gae in person.  I've read her novels and have enjoyed them all.  I would say this is my favorite of her books.  After finishing it over spring break, I reached out to her to see if she would like to be my guest author for the blog feature.  

*She was kind, gracious, and giving with her 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 In Sight of Stars

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

In Sight of Stars
by Gae Polisner (Released March 13, 2018)

How Did You Come to Know Klee?  
It’s such an interesting question, how we get to know our characters. Of course, the simplest answer is, “By writing them.” But more specifically, as I talk about quite a bit in this Nerdy Book Club post ( ) In Sight of Stars originally started as a book about a kid who loves art, with this scene between Klee and Sarah (rather than the one that now opens the book):

Now, not appearing until pages 9 – 11, this scene was just there in my head one morning, and so I sat down and wrote it, and it became the catalyst for the rest of the story. Because, as the daughter of an artist, and a writer myself, I know that you don’t touch someone else’s artwork. You just don’t. Not without permission. That would be akin to me leaving a manuscript open on my laptop and someone walking by and taking the liberty to just start changing all my words.  

And, the thing I knew typing that scene was that, as an artist, Klee knows this too. And, so, in that moment I also suddenly learned a ton about Klee and who he was going to be when we meet him: a kid who knows better, but is in such a fragile place he can’t stop himself. He gives in to an impulse, feels utterly compelled. It’s a desperate attempt to connect, and literally the first instant when Klee is out of control. And Sarah forgives him. More than that, there is something about his impulsivity, his compulsion, that draws her to him.

So this actually told me so much about both of them.

I then kept asking myself the question, “But, why?” Why was Klee in that fragile state? Why was his fragility so intrinsically related to art, and specifically the art of Van Gogh? And that led me to flesh out his story.

What do you think is Klee most admirable quality?
I love so many things about Klee, but particularly: his sense of humor and ability to make light of his dire situation, and his desire to dig deep, even when it’s painful, to get better. I just want to hug him. And I want to sit and have a cup of coffee with him now and see how he’s doing. I imagine he’s doing pretty well. 

Is there anything you wish Klee would have changed or done differently in his story?
Such a funny question, isn’t it? Because, of course, if he did anything differently, we wouldn’t have his story for what it is. I think the path he has taken is one that was brutal in many places, but will serve him well as he matures. He learns from all of it. They are lessons that will stay with him.

What do you think Klee can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?
I’m hoping he offers the simple understanding that we all suffer at times, we all fall apart. There’s no shame in it. Some of us crash and burn so quietly you wouldn’t even know; some spectacularly making it clear we’re needing help. 

And, that there are people who care and want to help. So, we shouldn’t keep things bottled up inside, but rather talk about it, because often what we’re thinking, worrying about, upset about, isn’t even the objective truth. And often knowing the objective truth could change everything.

How did you research Klee and the circumstances he found himself in?
Oh, you know, the usual writer ways. A combination of what we know well, with what we learn from reading deeply, and talking to others. Observing the world around us. But many of the therapeutic details come from wonderful therapists I am lucky to have had help me and my family throughout the years. What was the question again? None of your business is the answer. Move along, now. 

Do you and Klee share any similarities?  
Yes. We both have a rather dark sense of humor and believe there is power in being able to laugh at ourselves. We both have learned the value in working to see the world around us, and our relationships in it, as they really are, rather than how they feel, which means seeing them from a mindful place, which his so much easier said than done. And we both appreciate the healing power of water.

What was the hardest scene to write about Klee?
The scene where he finally confronts his mother. I’m a “less is more” writer and tend to stray away from big drama, and that scene is full of it, and I had to find a place where it both reflected that, and felt real. I rewrote it many, many times.

Who do you think was Klee's biggest supporter and why?
I actually think he has more support than he initially realizes, and naming some of those names would be spoiler alerts. But I think Dr. Alvarez sincerely likes and appreciates Klee, and is moved by his deep desire to do better than he has done. And, of course, there is Sister Agnes Teresa for obvious reasons, but I even believe his friend Cleto is a good support in many ways, not that we see tons of him.

Why do you think children and/or young adults only want to see certain parts of their parents and ignore the parts they don’t want to see?  Do you think most children and/or young people have a favorite parent they bond with more than the other?    
That says question 9. but it’s really two questions, and the second one is a doozy!

As for the first part, I think children only see their parents through their eyes with their unformed Id-state brains, borrowing from Freud for a moment. So, I’m not sure they ignore versus can’t even see those other parts if they wanted to, and if they could, it would be way too complex for them to handle. Being a grown up is complicated. Being married is hard and complicated (even in the best marriages). Imagine if a child could really see their parents as the fully formed complex humans they are rather than as just “Mom” and “Dad”?!? To some extent, that could be terrifying. Or at least way too difficult and overwhelming.

I do think that children often have a parent they bond more with, and the list of reasons that go into that, I’m guessing, is long. I also think that bond can commonly switch over time. Or maybe a third variable: they bond differently, but equally strongly with each. It’s an interesting question. I have no real answers, except my own personal experiences.

What do you think Klee is doing as this present time?  
Ah, as I said above, I think he’s doing well. I believe he’s in college in art school, weighing the things we all weigh at that age. I believe he views the people he meets and his relationships differently than he used to – that he checks in with himself about his perceptions vs. the reality in front of him. And I bet he texts often with his mom. J

Music Monday #28 (We Know the Way from Moana)

"We Know the Way" from Moana

*Music Monday is HERE and I'm excited to share a year's worth of musical selections with you.

*I know it is going to be a GREAT year of music, writing, thinking, and sharing.

*This is a new music Monday selection.  It came to me via a student in my class.  I love that they are noticing other students suggesting songs to be used of our writing on Mondays.  I checked out the song and thought it would be perfect!  

*Today is our TWENTY-EIGHTH Monday together and that means it is time for our musical selection.

*I truly believe Mondays are my favorite day for our writer's notebooks.  

*Each Monday I present a piece of music to my fourth graders.  I usually present the song via a video so they are hearing and "seeing" the music.  

*After I share the video, we discuss the song/video for a few minutes as a class.  It is always a joy to hear what my young listeners have to say about the song.  

*They then get busy writing in their notebooks.  We start off at the beginning of the year writing for about five minutes.  This will gradually increase as the year progresses.  

*Here are some ideas I give the writers to think about during their writing time...

*Their opinions of the song.
*Their likes and dislikes of the song.
*What the song reminds them of.
*Any connections they may have to the music.
*What they think the message in the piece may be.
*What listeners can learn from the song.
*A fictional story about the music/video.

*These are just some ideas I give to the writers.  They are really free to write anything they would like as long as it connects to the song.

*After our silent reading, we spend a few more minutes sharing out what we wrote.  

*I keep a collection of the videos on our Schoology Site so that my students can always go back and rematch them anytime they wish.

Our Musical Selections for 2017/2018... 

Week #1:  "What I Am" by                                                  Click Here for Week One MUSIC
Week #2:  "Hopeful" by Bars and Melody                                         Click Here for Week Two MUSIC
Week #3:  "Somebody" by Lemonade Mouth                                  Click Here for Week Three MUSIC
Week #4:  "Dream Big" by Ryan Shupe                                            Click Here for Week Four MUSIC
Week #5:  "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield                                 Click Here for Week Five MUSIC
Week #6:  "The World's Greatest" by R. Kelly                                    Click Here for Week Six MUSIC
Week #7:  "Candyman" by Zedd, Aloe Blacc                                   Click Here of Week Seven MUSIC
Week #8:  "Thriller" by Michael Jackson                                         Click Here for Week Eight MUSIC
Week #9:  "Clay" by Grace Vanderwaal                                           Click Here for Week Nine MUSIC
Week #10:  "I Don't Know My Name" by Grace Vanderwaal           Click Here for Week Ten MUSIC 
Week #11:  "Brand New Eyes" by Bea Miller                               Click Here for Week Eleven MUSIC
Week #12:  "You Will Be Found" from Dear Evan Hansen         Click Here for Week Twelve MUSIC
Week #13:  "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka                    Click Here for Week Thirteen MUSIC
Week #14:  "Rise Up" by Andra Day                                          Click Here for Week Fourteen MUSIC
Week #15:  "Carol of the Bells" by The Piano Guys                     Click Here for Week Fifteen MUSIC
Week #16:  "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman                Click Here for Week Sixteen MUSIC
Week #17:  "A Million Dreams" The Greatest Showman        Click Here for Week Seventeen MUSIC
Week #18:  "I'll Be Your Water" by Keb Mo                              Click Here for Week Eighteen MUSIC
Week #19:  "The Champion" by Carrie Underwood                  Click Here for Week Nineteen MUSIC
Week #20:  "Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake             Click Here for Week Twenty Music
Week #21:  "Legends" by Sleeping with Sirens                    Click Here for Week Twenty-One MUSIC
Week #22:  "Geronimo" by Sheppard                                   Click Here for Week Twenty-Two MUSIC
Week #23:  "Fresh Eyes" by Andy Grammer                     Click Here for Week Twenty-Three MUSIC
Week #24:  "One Shining Moment" by Luther Vandross     Click Here for Week Twenty-Four MUSIC
Week #25:  "Happy People" by Little Big Town                  Click Here for Week Twenty-Five MUSIC
Week #26:  "The World is Ours" by David Correy                 Click Here for Week Twenty-Six MUSIC
Week #27:  "Wavin' Flag" by K'Naan                                Click Here for Week Twenty-Seven MUSIC