New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.
Are you a debut author whose book is being published in 2018? It’s not too late to sign-up! If you want to participate in New Kids On The Block this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can send a tweet or DM on Twitter to @Pop_Reader or email me at Jen@PopGoesTheReader.com. I would love to collaborate with you!
About Laurie Morrison
Laurie Morrison taught middle school English for ten years and writes books for middle-school- aged readers. She loves iced coffee, the ocean, just-out-of-the-oven pastries, and being outside, even when it’s cold or rainy. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she lives with her family in Philadelphia
Things I Learned From Every Shiny Thing
Hooray, it’s April 17th! Tax day, release day for my debut middle grade novel, and the 17th day of National Poetry Month, which is quite fitting since half of Every Shiny Thing is written in poetry! In honor of this special day, I’m here to share a special celebratory poem with all of you!
First a disclaimer, though: I am not a poet.
Luckily for me (and everyone who picks up Every Shiny Thing), my co-author Cordelia Jensen is. Our book is written in alternating points of view — one in prose and one in verse — and Cordelia wrote the verse.
But I taught middle school English for ten years, and even though I don’t really write poetry, I absolutely loved teaching poetry. Although I have to admit, I didn’t love it right away. When I took my first teaching job and found out I was expected to spend the whole month of April immersing my students in a poetry study that would culminate in a big event with all of their families attending, I felt completely out of my element.
But eventually, I found a way to make the poetry unit work for my students and me. I found some great, playful poem anthologies and exercises, and we examined poets’ craft choices and had fun writing our own poems that used some of the same structures and styles as the model poems. Pretty soon, the poetry unit was one of my favorite things to teach.
The process of writing Every Shiny Thing was similar to the process of figuring out how to teach poetry. When Cordelia and I began discussing this book, I started off thinking, “I’m way out of my element here. There’s no way I can write a book like this.” I didn’t know if I could write a character who would break rules, make some really bad decisions, and feel a whole lot of anger.
But soon, I realized I could identify with my character’s love for her brother; her quick, deep bond with a new friend; and her confusion in recognizing the discrepancy between the ideals she’s taught to value — like simplicity and equality — and the materialism and inequality she sees around her. Ultimately, I found a way to approach this story that worked for me. My point-of-view character, Lauren, has become one of my favorite characters I’ve ever created, and this book is one of my proudest accomplishments.
So in honor of Every Shiny Thing’s release, I thought it would be appropriate to share a list poem—one of the most popular types of poems my students and I wrote together. This one is loosely inspired by one of the list poems my students and I examined: “Things I Learned Last Week” by William Stafford. If you want to check out more list poems my students and I liked, also look for Bruce Lansky’s “What Bugs Me” and “My Noisy Brother,” and James Arlington Wright’s “Lying on a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota.” They are random, silly, profound, and completely unintimidating, so they’re perfect for non-poets like me to attempt. I hope you enjoy my poem, and I hope you enjoy Every Shiny Thing if you check it out. Thanks for helping Cordelia and me celebrate its release!
People say to write what you know.
I now say to figure out what you know
about the story you want to write.
Just because a character’s behavior stresses me out
doesn’t mean I can’t dive deep inside her mind,
Some other people will adore her too!
Some of them will tell me that!
That will feel amazing!
Other people will not adore her so much.
I may find out about that.
It will feel devastating.
But I have to find ways to care deeply about this book,
while also letting it go.
Meditating helps. Exercise, too.
And creating new characters.
If you use the word “like” when you mean “as if,”
a copy editor might suggest you change it every single time.
But then another kind of editor might say you can “stet, stet, stet”
and keep all of the “likes” you’d like!
It’s possible I overuse the word “like.”
And, strangely, “giant.”
It takes a whole team of talented people to edit,
It takes a whole lot of steps
(and a whole lot of time)
from acquisition to launch day.
It’s overwhelming in the very best way
to know all these people are behind something
you made up!
Out of your own private, idiosyncratic brain!
Covers printed on shiny metallic paper look truly spectacular.
When you take the jacket off a hardcover book,
what’s left is called the case cover.
Foil stamped case covers are pretty extraordinary, too!
If a friend you admire and love
asks if you’d like to write a book together,
JUMP at the chance.
It may be the most rewarding,
you’ve ever had.
Title Every Shiny Thing
Author Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison
Pages 368 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Poetry
Publication Date April 17th 2018 by Abrams/Amulet Books
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
In this beautifully constructed middle-grade novel, told half in prose and half in verse, Lauren prides herself on being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren’s parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren’s wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don’t have her family’s resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong. Lauren must learn that having good intentions isn’t all that matters when you battle injustice, and Sierra needs to realize that sometimes, the person you need to take care of is yourself.