Like Jo Knowles, I am hopeful that our paths will one day (and soon!) cross in real time and space. Till then, I must content myself with visiting with her through her thought-provoking books, including her newest (just published onTuesday!), Still a Work in Progress (Candlewick).
Thank you so much for having me for Friend Friday. I am not sure how long we’ve been online friends but I sure do long for the day we meet in person. When my son was young, we listened to the audio of Hattie Big Sky and were both completely hooked. We’d drive extra long in the car to finish chapters. I find myself thinking of Hattie all the time, and with it the wonderful conversations Eli and I had about the choices she made, and the hardships she struggled with.
My new book, Still A Work In Progress (Candlewick, August 2), is about a boy named Noah who is trying to navigate middle school and what happens when best friends start dating and, well, changing. But for Noah, it isn’t just his friends he doesn’t want to change. A secret at home has him living in constant worry that his sister is going to relapse from an eating disorder.
As I wrote this book, I thought a lot about how many of us carry secrets and worries with us out in the world, where we try to bury them and function as if they don’t exist, at least until we get back home again. Noah manages for a while, but watching his friends worry about far less serious things starts to make him feel resentful toward them, and this eventually jeopardizes their friendship.
Recently I was talking to a friend about how hard it is to accept that the world keeps spinning when something tragic happens in your life. How you just want to tell everyone to stop posting funny memes on Facebook or cat gifs on Twitter for five seconds and let there be some quiet. This is how Noah feels when his world falls apart. He feels hurt that when he goes back to school, nothing has changed. Everyone has kept moving forward, being silly, arguing over the same mundane things. It’s as if he’d been riding along on this merry-go-round with everyone else and then got thrown off. But instead of stopping for him and waiting until he was ready to get back on, everyone else kept riding. At first he feels betrayed and deeply disappointed. But then as he begins to adjust to what’s happened, he realizes that we need the merry-go-round to keep spinning the way it does.
Despite the tragedies in our lives, despite how much it feels like the world as we know it is over, what saves us is realizing that it isn’t. We need to see that life goes on no matter what, even when it hurts. That the merry-go-round will always keep spinning, waiting for us to get back on.
Jo Knowles is the author of Read Between The Lines, Living With Jackie Chan, See You At Harry’s, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, and Lessons from a Dead Girl. Jo’s next book, Still A Work In Progress, was published August 2nd. Jo has a master’s degree in children’s literature and teaches writing in the Mountain View MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in Vermont with her husband and son.