Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, April 17, 2023

An Inside Look #247 (Author INTERVIEW)


An Inside Look with Jarrett Lerner

(Author of A Work in Progress)

*Season #ONE (June of 2016 to March of 2017)

*Season #TWO (Summer of 2017)

*Season #THREE (School Year 2017/2018)

Season #FOUR
 (Summer/fall of 2018)

*Season #FIVE (School Year 2018/2019)

*Season #SIX (Summer 2019) 

*Season #SEVEN (Fall 2019) 

*Season #EIGHT (Winter/Spring 2020)

*Season #NINE (Fall 2020)

*Season #TEN (Winter/Spring 2021)

*Season #ELEVEN (Fall 2021)

*Season #TWELVE (Winter/Spring 2022)

*Season #THIRTEEN (Summer 2022)

*Season #FOURTEEN (Fall 2022)

*I'm excited to present season #FIFTEEN with brand new interviews/authors.  

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

*This is the THIRTEENTH interview in which I'm calling Season #FIFTEEN. 

*Thank you to Jarrett for being the Two Hundred Forty-Seventh author I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

A Work in Progress

by Jarrett Lerner

(May 2, 2023)

How did you come to know Will?
Will is, in a lot of ways, me. Not exactly, of course. The book is a work of fiction. But all fiction contains truth, and this work of fiction contains a great deal of my truth. While the specifics of Will's situation and the timeline of his journey differ from mine, the emotional roller coaster he goes on is one I rode.

What do you think is his most admirable quality?
I think, even in his darkest moments, Will contains a trace of hope, and that is enormously admirable. In those darkest moments, his hope is certainly misdirected. But it's there. And by the end of the book, that hopeful side of him has been redirected, aimed at healthier ends. That's what I tried to make sure really shone forth from him. Because as the story closes, things aren't wrapped up nice and neat. Will is still hurting. Still struggling. But I think he's learned -- and truly believes -- that tomorrow can be better, and the day after that even better, and so on and so forth.

Is there anything you wish he would have changed or done differently in his story?
It broke my heart, over and over again, to see Will descend into the darker depths that he reaches in the book. And while I wish he hadn't had to plummet quite so far down, I think, in his case, it was necessary. More than I hope anything about Will, I hope young readers of his story will be able to glean some of his hard-fought wisdom without having to do so much of the "hard fighting," if that makes sense. I hope, if they recognize any of themselves in Will, they can find some bright, hopeful light to cling to before things get too dark.

What do you think Will can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?
I hope that Will can offer hope. That he can serve as an example -- at first a warning of sorts, but also, ultimately, a role model. I hope that, through experiencing his journey in this book, kids won't have to struggle and suffer with the same things. That, like I said in response to the question above, they'll gain some of Will's hard-fought wisdom without having to do quite so much of the "hard fighting" themselves.

How did you research Will and the circumstances he found himself in?
As I mentioned in response to the first question, much of Will's story is my own. On that front, there was very little research done. However, I did a lot of research-like reading as I was working on the book. I read a great deal about other people's journey's with the issues Will struggles with, and also studied many formalistically adventurous Middle Grade books (other novels in verse, and also other heavily illustrated, journal-like books) as I figured out the best possible way to tell Will's story.

Do you and Will share any similarities?
Many. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But also, on our best days, the wonderful and beautiful, too. At least I hope.

What was the hardest scene to write about him?
The scenes in which he is humiliated or made extremely anxious around other kids were super hard, but without a doubt the toughest scene was the one that occurs about a third of the way through, when Will rushes home, locks himself in his bathroom, strips down, and confronts his body in the mirror. That's a big turning point in the story. It's the moment we see his discomfort with and dislike of his body turn into something larger and darker. Standing there, staring at himself in the glass, he begins to hate his body. From that point on, it's his enemy, and Will essentially wages war against it.

Who do you think was his biggest supporter and why?
In the end, I hope, it's himself. And I hope that's something my readers take away from Will's story. That you can appreciate and love yourself while, at the same time, acknowledging that you're not perfect, that you still struggle with this or that. We're all works in progress, right? If we can acknowledge that about ourselves, and respect that about everybody else we interact with, we can hopefully become our own biggest supporters -- and at the same time be bigger, better supporters of everybody else.

Why do you think young people judge others for their appearance, skin color, or what they wear; instead of basing their opinions on getting to know the real “inside” person first?
Well, for better and often for worse, one another's appearances are what we see first. And with the majority of people, appearances are all we ever really know. We can't befriend and get to know in a deep, penetrating way every single person we encounter. So we form our idea of all those people based largely if not solely on their appearance. And the human brain -- it thrives on knowledge. On knowing. It's not easy to remind yourself, every time you come across someone, that you really don't know the first thing about them and what might be going on inside of them. This, combined with the fact that our world and our country's culture specifically is hyper-focused on body and diet and consumption, and you've got a bit of a perfect storm. I don't think it's kids' fault -- they are prompted, even trained to judge others based on their appearance. They are inundated with messages -- from movies and TV, from social media, from their family and friends -- to do exactly this. I think it's getting better, though. I think, generally speaking, kids are more sensitive and aware of all of this, and also more open-minded and accepting of differences and diversity.

What do you think Will is doing at the present time?
I hope he's smiling, whatever he's doing. I hope he's happy. Or at least content. Maybe he's skateboarding. Maybe he's found a local park and met some other skaters there who he's become friends or at least friendly acquaintances with. Or maybe he's drawing. Filling up another notebook with, hopefully, happier thoughts and feelings and art.

*Here are links to the Two Hundred Forty-Six interviews...

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

SEASON #SEVEN (Fall 2019)

SEASON #EIGHT (Winter/Spring 2020)

Interview #121 with Melissa Savage (Author of Nessie Quest)

Interview #122 with Tamara Bundy (Author of Pixie Pushes On)

Interview #123 with Lindsay Lackey (Author of All the Impossible Things)

Interview #124 with Tae Keller (Author of When You Trap a Tiger)

Interview #125 with Jamie Sumner (Author of Roll With It)

Interview #126 with Hena Khan (Author of More to the Story)

Interview #127 with Phil Bildner (Author of A High-Five for Glenn Burke)

Interview #128 with Leslie Connor (Author of A Home for Goddesses and Dogs)

Interview#129 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Queen Bee and Me)

Interview #130 with Jody J. Little (Author of Worse Than Weird)

Interview #131 with Jenn Bishop (Author of Things You Can't Say)

Interview #132 with Kaela Noel (Author of Coo)

Interview #133 with Rebecca Stead (Author of The List of Things That Will Not Change)

Interview #134 with Gae Polisner (Author of Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me)

Interview #135 with Emily Blejwas (Author of Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened)

Interview #136 with Joy McCullough (Author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost)

Interview #137 with Kim Baker (Author of the Water Bears)

Interview #138 with Erin Entrada Kelly (Author of We Dream of Space)

Interview #139 with Jess Redman (Author of Quintessence)

Interview #140 with Melanie Conklin (Author of Every Missing Piece)

Interview #141 with Lindsey Stoddard (Author of Brave Like That)

SEASON #NINE (Fall 2020)

SEASON #TEN (Winter/Spring 2021)

Interview #158 with Rebecca Ansari (Author of The In-Between)

Interview #159 with John David Anderson (Author of One Last Shot) 

Interview #160 with Tracy Holczer (Author of Brave in the Woods)

Interview #161 with James Bird (Author of The Brave) 

Interview #162 with Marcella Pixley (Author of Trowbridge Road)

Interview #163 with Barbara O'Connor (Author of Halfway to Harmony)

Interview #164 with Alan Gratz (Author of Ground Zero) 

Interview #165 with Lisa Fipps (Author of Starfish)

Interview #166 with Ann Braden (Author of Flight of the Puffin)

Interview #167 with Kimberly Willis Holt (Author of The Ambassador of NoWhere Texas) 

Interview #168 with Elana K. Arnold (Author of The House That Wasn't There) 

Interview #169 with Erin Soderberg (Author of The Great Peach Experiment)

Interview #170 with Donna Gephart (Author of Abby, Tried, and True)

Interview #171 with M. Evan Wolkenstein (Author of Turtle Boy)

Interview #172 with Lindsey Stoddard (Author of Bea is for Blended)

Interview #173 with Jess Redman (Author of The Adventure is Now)

Interview #174 with David Levithan (Author of The Mysterious Disappearance of Aiden)

Interview #175 with Chris Grabenstein (Author of The Smartest Kid in the Universe)

Interview #176 with Ali Standish (Author of The Mending Summer)

Interview #177 with Holly Goldberg Sloan (Author of The Elephant in the Room)

Interview #178 with Jeff Zentner (Author of In the Wild Light)

SEASON #ELEVEN (Fall/Winter 2021)

Interview #179 with Katherine Applegate (Author of Willow) 

Interview #180 with Padma Venkatraman (Author of Born Behind Bars)

Interview #181 with R.J. Palacio (Author of Pony)

Interview #182 with Kyle Lukoff (Author of Too Bright to See)

Interview #183 with Barbara Dee (Author of Violets are Blue)

Interview #184 with Anne Ursu (Author of The Troubled Girls of Dragonmir Academy) 

Interview #185 with Margaret Finnegan (Author of We Could Be Heroes)

Interview #186 with Jasmine Warga (Author of Shape of Thunder)

Interview #187 with Joseph Bruchac (Author of Rez Dogs)

Interview #188 with Kathryn Erskine (Author of Lily's Promise)

Interview #189 with Elly Swartz (Author of Dear Student)

Interview #190 with Heather Clark (Author of Lemon Drop Falls)

Interview #191 with Veera Hiranandani (Author of How to Find What You're Not Looking For)

Interview #192 with Elizabeth Eulberg (Author of The Best Worst Summer)

Interview #193 with Cathy Carr (Author of 365 Days to Alaska)

Interview #194 with Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard (Authors of REAL)

Interview #195 with Gillian McDunn (Author of These Lucky Stars)

Interview #196 with Alyssa Colman (Author of The Gilded Girl) 

Interview #197 with E.L. Chen (Author of The Comeback)

Interview #198 with J.M.M. Nuanez (Author of Birdie and Me) 

SEASON #TWELVE (Winter/Spring 2022)

Interview #199 with Jamie Sumner (Author of One Kid's Trash)

Interview #200 with Chad Lucas (Author of Thanks a Lot, Universe) 

Interview #201 with Jenn Bishop (Author of Where We Used to Roam)

Interview #202 with Rebecca Caprara (Author of Worst-Case Collin) 

Interview #203 with Leslie Connor (Author of Anybody Here Seen Frenchie?)

Interview #204 with Caroline Gertler (Author of Many Points of Me)

Interview #205 with Margaret Finnegan (Author of Susie B. Won't Back Down) 

Interview #206 with Shawn Peters (Author of The Unforgettable Logan Foster)

Interview #207 with Aisha Saeed (Author of Omar Rising)

Interview #208 with Adrianna Cuevas (Author of Cuba in my Pocket)

Interview #209 with Jennifer Swender (Author of Stuck)

Interview #210 with Brenda Woods (Author of When Winter Robeson Came)

Interview #211 with Danya Lorentz (Author of the Book Of a Feather)

Interview #212 with Saadia Faruqi (Author of Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero)

Interview #213 with Ellen Hopkins (Author of What About Will) 

SEASON #THIRTEEN (Summer 2022)

Interview #214 with Nora Raleigh Baskin and Gae Polisner (Authors of What About the Octopus)

Interview #215 with Lauren Wolk (Author of My Own Lightning)

Interview #216 with Rebekah Lowell (Author of the Road to After)

Interview #217 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Honestly Elliott) 

Interview #218 with Dan Gemeinhart (Author of The Midnight Children)

Interview #219 with Melanie Conklin (Author of A Perfect Mistake) 

Interview #220 with Kyle Lukoff (Author of Different Kinds of Fruit)

Interview #221 with Tracy Edward Wymer (Author of The Great and Mighty Benjamin Teller)

Interview #222 with Louise Hawes (Author of Big Rig)

Interview #223 with Paul Acampora (Author of In Honor of Broken Things)

Interview #224 with Shannon Doleski (Author of Gabe in the After)

Interview #225 with Jennifer Ziegler (Author of Worser)

Interview #226 with Natalie Lloyd (Author of Hummingbird)


Interview #227 with Celia C. Perez (Author of Tumble

Interview #228 with Greg Howard (Author of The Visitors)

Interview #229 with Rob Buyea (Author of The Daredevils)

Interview #230 with Sashi Kaufman (Author of Sardines)

Interview #231 with Lindsey Stoddard (Author of The Real Deal)

Interview #232 with Margaret Finnegan (Author of New Kids and Underdogs)

Interterview #233 with Amanda Rawson Hill (Author of The Hope of Elephants)

Interview #234 with Jasmine Warga (Author of A Rover's Story)

SEASON #FIFTEEN (Winter/Spring 2023)

Interview #235 with Varsha Bajaj (Author of Thirst)

Interview #236 with Torrey Maldonado (Author of Hands)

Interview #237 with C.C. Harrington (Author of Wildoak)

Interview #238 with Margi Preus (Author of Windswept)

Interview #239 with Dayna Lorentz (Author of Wayward Creatures)

Interview #240 with Katrina Nannestad (Author of We are Wolves)

Interview #241 with Anika Fajardo (Author of Meet Me Halfway)

Interview #242 with Chrystal D. Giles (Author of Not an Easy Win)

Interview #243 with Gregory Maquire (Author of Cress, Watercress)

Interview #244 with Will Taylor (Author of The Language of Seabirds)

Interview #245 with Gillian McDunn (Author of When Sea Becomes Sky)

Interview #246 with Ann Braden (Author of Opinions and Opossums)

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