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Shining some ‘Sun’ on Colorado

Katie Hankinson
Post Independent contributor

While scrubbing her bathtub listening to a podcast, the last thing author Jandy Nelson expected was to receive a call from the Michael L. Printz committee saying her book, “I’ll Give You the Sun,” was a Printz Award-winner. Naturally, their announcement was met with tears, laughter and an embarrassing, yet called-for, amount of screaming.

“I wish I hadn’t lost my mind so bad and hadn’t lost the capacity for speech so I could have done something besides scream at the committee on the phone,” Nelson said with a laugh. “It was the best. It was truly the most exciting moment of my life.”

Nelson’s second novel draws on the lives of twins, Noah and Jude, told from each twin’s perspective, three years apart. The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. At 13, the twins are closer than ever. At 16, they are barely speaking. Art is the go-to for the twins, turning life into a masterpiece, even when tragedy strikes and changes their lives drastically forever. What neither of them realizes is that they each have only half the story, and if they can find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

After three and a half years of writing the novel in a pitch black room filled with white noise and headphones on, Nelson’s “I’ll Give You the Sun” received the 16th Printz Award, an award that annually recognizes “the best book written for teens, based on literary merit.”

“Knowing this changed my life as a writer. You need to get your personality on the page. You can’t break into other people’s hearts and minds without breaking into your own first.”Jandy NelsonAuthor

Aspen Words took the opportunity to invite Nelson to participate in their Authors in Residence program for the month of May, allowing Nelson to live in Woody Creek and write with the Rocky Mountains outside her living room window.

“It was very soul-awakening for me to be in nature like that because I live in the city,” Nelson said. “And so I just can’t talk enough about your mountains and your rivers. I would go hiking most days by the Maroon Bells and Crater Lake. I would be up there, and it was so open and beautiful, and I feel like it made me open up my story in a way.”

Nelson took the chance of writing from Colorado for a month to begin working on her third novel, and found she took more home with her than just the beginning of her new manuscript.

“I had one on those experiences where a character dropped through my brain when I was at the Maroon Bells,” Nelson said. “This new character, I fell in love with Woody Creek itself, and he’s going to be from Woody Creek. I want him to have that sort of natural world the area offers in his psyche and be really important to him as a person.”

Her third novel, currently titled “The Fall Boys and Dizzy in Paradise,” is still in the works. The book, as described by Nelson, tells the story of a family from Northern California invested in food and music and faced with not knowing the cause behind the father’s disappearance 16 years before. One day, a girl, Dizzy, arrives, turning the boys’ lives upside down and into tumult. Nelson suggests features seen during her time in Colorado will find their way into the novel, as well as the new character from Woody Creek that dropped out of the sky.

Presently, a release date for Nelson’s third novel is not set since she is still in the process of writing it. However, Warner Brothers has motioned toward a film adaptation of “I’ll Give You the Sun.” The script will be written by Natalie Krinsky, and Nelson said, “I’m excited about the possibility of seeing Noah’s paintings featured in the film for audience members to see.”

Nelson’s finishing advice for any and all authors is to be yourself in your work.

“It seems so simple,” Nelson said. “Knowing this changed my life as a writer. You need to get your personality on the page. You can’t break into other people’s hearts and minds without breaking into your own first.”

To see more from Jandy Nelson, visit jandynelson.com.


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