From Harper Teen in April, 2022:
Raw and unvarnished, Jennifer Wilson’s debut is about one girl’s messy, unglamorous, very real summer in central Illinois.
“Where to?” Blake asks.
“Anywhere but here,” I say.
Seventeen-year-old Bliss Walker has been stuck in a home that doesn’t feel like hers for six years. Ever since Mama dropped her off and never came back.
Then, the summer before her senior year of high school, two things happen: Mama returns out of the blue, and Bliss meets Blake, a boy who listens like everything she has to say is worth hearing.
It should be a dream come true. But as the summer spins on, Bliss finds herself facing a painful choice: between the life she’s always longed for, and the world she’s starting to make for herself.
Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson and Bryan Bliss, this unforgettable debut takes readers on a heartbreakingly real journey of self-worth, understanding, and finding the people who believe in you.
What inspired Someday We’ll Find It?
Many years ago, I heard of a child named Bliss, and I thought that was a fascinating name to give a baby, full of so many promises. Then at my second residency, someone gave a lecture about exploring the settings of our lives, and images of the corn and the soybeans and the sun streaming down on the wide-open landscape of Central Illinois came back to me from my childhood. It was like a chemical reaction: Bliss came alive for me in that moment and started whispering in my ear, telling me her story.
What were the challenges (literary, psychological, logistical, etc.) in bringing this book to life?
For my second semester at Hamline, I had meant to be working on a Middle Grade fantasy about fairies and changelings and cheerleaders with Gary Schmidt. When we met, I told him, “There’s also this YA voice that I hear…” and he said, “Always follow that voice.” He encouraged me to work on both projects. I was driven to finish the novel, to get Bliss’s story on the page (I’ll come back to the fairy story someday!), and I finished a draft in four months. Bliss, Walking (original title) was my creative thesis. I did another round of revisions, and queried a bunch of agents right after graduation. Six months later, an agent requested the full, and we had a call, but she felt the book wasn’t ready yet. We talked again later that year, and she gave me notes for a revise and resubmit. I spent eighteen months refining and reshaping the book and it was during this time that I finally figured out what the book was really about. Bliss isn’t about bad boyfriends. Bliss is about me, missing my mom, desperate to have her back, and I wrote myself a healing journey where Bliss has to realize her mama can’t be who she wants her to be, but she can get what she needs from within herself and from the family she has around her. The agent loved the revision but didn’t feel she was the right fit for representing it. I eventually found my amazing agent Suzie Townsend, and we sold it to the awesome Kristen Pettit at Harper Teen five years after I finished the first draft.
What did you edit out of this book?
A lot of sex scenes (don’t worry, there are still plenty), and a LOT of bean walking! (In the July heat, teens walk between rows of soybeans hand-cutting weeds from the fields: it’s as organic as farming gets.) Before each revision, I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly cut a single, precious, word. Now? I barely remember what I’ve cut. Other than the word “just.” There used to be a lot more “justs.”
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m a teacher, tutor, freelance writer and editor. I craft with my niece every week and sew quilts, and I keep meaning to be a gardener, but that keeps not happening. I’m in two book clubs and this summer I’m working my way through watching the Marvel Universe chronologically. I see my grown daughters as often as I can and I play baritone in the local concert band. My feline assistant Lola helps out by selecting and deleting work on my laptop, and my canine companion Bear sleeps by my feet when I write, unless the oven is on, and then he goes outside because he’s scared of the oven.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
You are uniquely qualified to tell your stories.
And they matter.
Of course, we want to improve as writers, and of course we want to share our work with the world, but even if all you have to show for it is a stack of notebooks half-full of story beginnings, that work is important. Even if you aren’t telling the big stories, the ones that change the world, you are changing your world every time you sit down to write. You can write alone, but having a community makes life so much richer. Through Hamline’s MFAC program, I’ve met amazing mentors and writers and friends, and with my cohort, The Front Row, a win for one is a win for all. They have gotten me through polar vortexes, the pandemic, and the publication journey.
What is next for you? What are you working on now?
I’m revising a YA Contemporary novel about a girl who forms an intense bond with two new friends titled Best of All. It’s a bit overgrown at the moment, but I’m trying to lovingly prune it down into its best self. I’ve been working on some picture books, and, boy, are they challenging! Writing 110K words wasn’t easy…but it doesn’t hold a candle to keeping the word count under 1,000! Someday We’ll Find It is out from Harper Teen April 26, 2022, and will be available for preorder soon.
And now for the cover…
I loved reading this! Congratulations Jennifer! I’m so excited for you. Can’t wait to read your book.
Loved reading about your novel and process here! Congratulations, Jennifer!
You are an amazing human do I can’t wait to read the words that come from your storytelling.