A Night Divided Author Jennifer Nielsen Discusses Writing With MS Students
Julian Corbett

Earlier this month, CGPS was pleased to welcome accomplished young adult novelist Jennifer Nielsen to the Middle School, where she discussed her creative process and took questions from students. Over the summer, seventh-graders read Ms. Nielsen’s book A Night Divided, which follows the journey of a young girl living in post-war Berlin as she tries to cross the recently-constructed Berlin Wall and escape into West Germany.

Ms. Nielsen told students that the key to her writing process was finding subjects she loves, focusing on stories or characters that grab her attention, fostering an intense curiosity and asking questions. “You have to find the thing that makes you wonder and then run with it,” she said. “If it grabs your attention, it can be the basis for a story.”

After walking students through her approach to writing, including a photo tour of the abandoned church that inspired her forthcoming fantasy novel, Ms. Nielsen took questions from the seventh-graders. Asked about the source of her inspiration to become a writer, Ms. Nielsen said a key moment was finding authors she could relate to. “At your age I’d never met an author. I thought of them as mythical creatures on a library wall,” she said. “In sixth grade, I discovered a book called The Outsiders. It was the first time I went to look up the author and found out it was someone who felt real – she was a teenage girl like me!”

Ms. Nielsen encouraged the students to let their imaginations roam and dive deep into the ideas and themes that excite them. “Every book that an author writes is somebody’s favorite,” she said. “That’s why every book matters – because it was written for somebody.”

  • Middle School

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