Six months from today, a vibrant and truly remarkable book called Every Shiny Thing will be released into the world. It is remarkable because two friends, Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen, wrote it together. Laurie conjured the voice of Lauren in prose. Cordelia channeled the voice of Sierra in verse. And the characters they created virtually leap off the page—they are that vibrant and alive.
The story itself is as shiny as its golden cover. Both Lauren and Sierra are flawed, yet loveable characters, who put together a scheme of taking from the rich to give to the poor. That might have worked just fine for Robin Hood, but these are middle school girls, attending a private school run by Quakers. They make mistakes, their lives get messy, and … well, you’ll just have to get a hold of the book yourself to find out what happens to these two endearing characters.
After reading an advance copy of Every Shiny Thing, I was curious to know how such an extraordinary story was written. I knew that Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen had met at the prestigious Vermont College of Fine Arts, where they each received their MFAs in creative writing. But how did the idea for the story come about? How did they write it? I contacted Laurie, and she agreed to stop by and tell us what was on her…
Mind When She and Cordelia First Started Talking: When Cordelia offhandedly suggested we try to write a book together, I was excited in a hypothetical way. I thought, “Yes! We already admire each other’s writing and rely on each other as critique partners. That would be so much fun, and I bet we’d push each other in energizing ways because we have such different strengths.” I figured we might bat around story ideas for a while, and maybe eventually we’d come up with something to pursue. But just a couple of hours later, she texted me a pitch for our book: Jessica Leader’s Nice and Mean meets Coe Booth’s Kinda Like Brothers. I love both of those books, so I was intrigued. “I guess she’s serious about this!” I thought, and then I was excited in a more-than-hypothetical way.
List of Biggest Worries: Our idea for Every Shiny Thing was pretty far outside my comfort zone, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do justice to Lauren’s story. Before this book, I had mostly worked on lighter, more humorous projects. Every Shiny Thing has its share of fun and funny parts, but I knew there needed to be sad, thought-provoking aspects. I knew that Lauren’s point of view would sometimes be raw and angry…and that she’d break rules in ways I never would have been able to fathom as a kid. Lauren is very, very different from me (which is ironic because her name is so much like mine—we’re not sure why, but the name Lauren just came to us and fit, so we went with it!). Somehow, though her character let me tap into something I didn’t know was deep inside me. Her voice poured out of me, and writing this book was an incredibly joyful and cathartic experience.
Agenda: When we first started writing Every Shiny Thing, I was on my summer break from school and was able to treat writing as a full-time job. I was revising a YA novel then, too, but could spend hours at a time drafting my chapters and giving feedback on Cordelia’s. Then the school year started, and I had to squeeze in writing work around teaching, grading, and lesson planning. I was worried we’d lose the momentum we’d built up over the summer…but luckily for me, the Pope came to Philadelphia, and the roads near my school were closed for multiple days! I got a few bonus days off from teaching and managed to crank out a draft of Lauren’s last few chapters then.
Drive Between Her and Cordelia’s Homes: Lovely views of the Schuylkill River…and lots and lots of traffic. We mostly collaborated over Google Docs and email, but we initially brainstormed in person and then, after we’d reached the halfway point of the novel, we met at a restaurant that’s just about halfway between us to plot out the rest, chapter by chapter. Then we met again to make a revision plan once we started working with our editor, Maggie Lehrman.
School Desk: On my desk at Friends Select, the wonderful Quaker school where I taught seventh and eighth grade English for several years, I pretty much always had a coffee mug, a water bottle, dry erase markers, a stack of books, student work to grade, and a laptop. I’m taking some time off from teaching now, but Every Shiny Thing was very much inspired by Friends Select and the students I taught there, who were fiercely attuned to social justice issues and passionately committed to making the world a better, fairer place (but without resorting to the…creative and not always legal strategies Lauren comes up with). A fictionalized Quaker school was the perfect setting for Every Shiny Thing because Quaker schools actively prioritize values like simplicity, community, and equality, and Cordelia and I wanted to write about characters who are grappling with the fact that the world doesn’t seem to operate by these values they’re being taught to honor.
Home Desk: When we were writing Every Shiny Thing, I didn’t have a home desk and wrote at the kitchen table or at coffee shops…but now I’m settling into a new house with an office and, as I type this, a brand new desk and built-in bookshelves are being constructed upstairs! On my new desk, I will have a beautiful metallic print of the cover of Every Shiny Thing that was a gift from my husband, a coffee mug, a water bottle, and my laptop, which has drafts of my solo middle grade debut, Up for Air (due out in spring of 2019), and a couple of other projects that are currently vying for my attention. Oh, and I’ll have a notebook in which I problem-solve when I get stuck with writing, and another notebook that’s supposed to be a bullet journal…but I keep forgetting to use it. I’m afraid bullet journaling may be like Scrivener for me: a system so many other people swear by and that I love the sound of, but that I can’t seem to make good use of.
- Buy a bed for the new guestroom and more laundry detergent
- Clean the bathrooms
- Make broccoli-cheddar quinoa casserole
- Rewrite the beginning of new YA book
- Write the next chapter of new MG book
- Draft a blog post
- Create a press kit for Every Shiny Thing
- Make a discussion/curriculum guide
- Contact local teachers and librarians about setting up school visits this spring
List of Hopes for Every Shiny Thing: I hope this book will appeal to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade readers who usually gravitate to young adult books because age 8-12 middle grade books feel too young, but who like reading about characters who are closer to their age. (I’m delighted that the cover signals the slightly older, age 10-14 vibe of our book.) I hope people will love our flawed, vulnerable, loyal, kind, and passionate girls as much as we do and root for them to heal and learn and grow together. I hope this book will resonate with kids (and adults) who are looking at the world around them and thinking, “So many things around me don’t feel right. What can I do to make a change?” I hope it will help them find some insights about how they want to answer that question at a time when it feels more relevant and important than ever.
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You can keep up to date with Laurie Morrison by visiting her online at lauriemorrisonwrites.com and by following her on Twitter at @LaurieLMorrison. If you would like to preorder Every Shiny Thing, simply click on the book below:
If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit sandranickel.com.
Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel