Guest Edition

Cordelia Jensen–What Was on Her . . .


Cordelia Jensen

This month, What Was on… celebrates the release of Skyscraping with author Cordelia Jensen!

Skyscraping has been hailed as ‘exquisite free verse poems.’ ‘Illuminating and deeply felt.’ (Booklist’s Starred Review). And Pop Crush has named it one of the 10 Best New YA Books that Explore Sexuality.

Mira is just beginning her senior year of high school when she discovers her father with his male lover. Her world–and everything she thought she knew about her family–is shattered instantly. Unable to comprehend the lies, betrayal, and secrets that–unbeknownst to Mira–have come to define and keep intact her family’s existence, Mira distances herself from her sister and closest friends as a means of coping. But her father’s sexual orientation isn’t all he’s kept hidden. A shocking health scare brings to light his battle with HIV. As Mira struggles to make sense of the many fractures in her family’s fabric and redefine her wavering sense of self, she must find a way to reconnect with her dad–while there is still time.

Mira’s story was inspired by Cordelia’s discovery that her father was HIV-positive when she was a New York City 9th grader.  Although Skyscraping reaches beyond Cordelia’s own experience, it inevitably touches on similar issues of family, identity, and forgiveness.

As for Cordelia herself, she went on to study creative writing in college and received her MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the prestigious Vermont College of Fine Arts. She currently lives in Philadelphia, from where she tells us What Was on Cordelia Jensen’s . . .

9780803739260_NearlyGone_JKT.inddPre-Release Schedule: Editing and marketing Mt. Airy Musers, the kids’ literary journal I run, which is sold at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore. Doing a presentation on my semester abroad in Ghana for my kids’ third grade class and helping with their African market. Planning launch party activities . . . such as a nineties photo booth and a celestial craft project. Booking summer and fall events for Skyscraping. Re-watching “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix.

List of Biggest Surprises About Publishing a First Book: How many times I would revise said book. How much I would enjoy the copy edit process. How I don’t seem to get better at saying a “pitch” for my book. How many steps there are in the whole process and how (in a good way) seriously it is all taken.

Desk: Dowels and prop sunglasses and hats for said photo booth. 20ish writing craft books (they are up on a shelf above really). My MFA degree from graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sticky notes with to-dos. Too many pens. Handouts from grad school on writing craft. An ARC of SKYSCRAPING. (Can you tell my desk is too crowded? I was using that show don’t tell thing, but now I’m telling anyway. Also I edited out ten things from this list.)

Catalogue of Favourite Quotes: I don’t really have a whole catalogue. My favorite writing quote is by Natalie Goldberg:

“Writing, too, is ninety percent listening. You listen so deeply to the space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of you.”

I love the idea (and I love when this happens to me) that characters are speaking to authors or poems are coming from the atmosphere or something and you just need to pay attention. Sort of opposite of this, I do also still love my favorite Camus quote from high school:

“In the midst of winter, I found, within me, an invincible summer.”

FullSizeRender-4Inner-strength is something I have, at times, lacked—being overly dependent on external approval and confirmation. I need a quote like this to remind myself of my own capabilities.

Drawing Pad: Currently, I’m drawing a big “Summer Schedule” for the family that will hang in our living room. I do this every summer because I spent 11 summers as a camp counselor and so I am just sort of always going to be half-camp counselor. Also I love to draw but really I think I love to doodle.

Kitchen Table: A frozen container of beef stew my husband made. He’s the real chef. I just fake it. Or, in this case, microwave it. (You know my book is in verse, right? 🙂 )

Wish List: Simply (and always) for my kids and husband’s health and happiness. For real! Oh and okay, I would really like someone someday do that thing to me where you think you are going to school or work but really you are going to Disneyworld. WHAT? That’s amazing.

64-Hour Train Ride: Which I will never do again. I somehow planned a Grand Canyon extravaganza train ride all the way back to Philly forgetting I get altitude sick, have a terrible fear of heights and even worse claustrophobia. One day I will tell you the whole story but it takes about 22 minutes and you really need to be also drinking your beverage of choice.

Refrigerator Door: Too many condiments. Too many salad dressings. (Maybe my wish list should’ve been someone to come organize my things and throw stuff away? Hmmmm . . .)

Night Table: Four books, my glasses, foot balm, cups.

Mind: The release of my debut novel Skyscraping! It really is on my mind. And on my Google. Hang on as I neurotically Google my book title again. Is there a cure for this? (Wait . . . can I change my wish again? My wish is to never neurotically Google my book again! Oh but I guess I am in control of that. Okay how about I re-do what surprises me about publishing my book and I say “how often I neurotically Google my book.” Or maybe I need to find a better quote to remind me, um, not to well, you know.)

Cordelia Jensen Cordelia Jensen Cordelia Jensen Cordelia Jensen Cordelia Jensen

Thank you, Cordelia.

You can keep up to date with Cordelia Jensen by visiting her online at and by following her on Twitter at @cordeliajensen. If you would like to order Skyscraping, simply click on the book below:


  Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel

3 thoughts on “Cordelia Jensen–What Was on Her . . .

  1. Love these glimpses into authors’ lives. I’ll bet that drawn summer schedule is full and awesome.
    I love that Camus quote!! And I love Skyscraping. Oh man. What a book. So rich. I can’t recommend highly enough.

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