Video Conference with Cordelia Jensen, Author of "Skyscraping"


Last semester, Cordelia Jensen, author of Skyscraping, was invited by the English Department at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, as a guest speaker for the Basic English course (INGL 3202). We had the opportunity to talk with Cordelia about one of her novels, Skyscraping, a wonderful, free-verse YA novel about family, life, and relationships written in a beautiful way!

(Meeting with Cordelia Jensen, author of Skyscraping)


The video conference with Jensen began with a welcome message by Dr. Mary E. Sefranek, who also presented the author. There were over 700 students in the Basic English course, so there were two sections for the conference, and the students were accompanied by their English class instructors.“The story of how Skyscraping was born begins with my own college experience,” Jensen began, “Like Mira, my own father passed away from AIDS the summer before I went to college.” Since one can see how this story also presents personal aspects of the author’s life, it’s the perfect example of a realistic fiction book.


(More pictures of the event found on Instagram: problematicshopaholic)


In college, Jensen majored in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, specifically in poetry. She also attended Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she got her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Now you can see why she decided to write verse novels! Cordelia also told us, “I really love how verse novels are a hybrid form, not quite poetry sometimes, not quite a story at other times, but somehow, often, more powerful as a blend. I love how some poems in a verse novel might make sense if you just pick it up and randomly read in the book, but they are given so much more weight and depth getting to know the characters inside the story.”

(Cordelia Jensen’s books. Photo by wereadblog.)


Dr. Sefranek has been known to coordinate outside course activities to further build the understanding of class material for our INGL 3201-3202 undergraduate population. It is important for students, who are currently embarking in a journey to master English as their second language, to practice their skill set in various ways. Dr. Sefranek explains how “our students often focus on their assignments as just words, and they don’t get the sense of who is behind those words, as in a real person writing the text they are reading for class. Since this is a novel assigned as part of the course curriculum, they don’t necessarily see this as a work of literature written by a real person in the real world.”

(Students and their instructors of INGL 3202)


Furthermore, the reason Dr. Sefranek was inspired to organize and host this event, was thanks to an employee of the UPRM who was the contact to approach Cordelia Jensen and invite her for this event. Dr. Sefranek really values that she is able to “surprise students with this information, open their eyes and show them what it means to be a writer and to enable them to interact with the author and ask them questions about their work and also about who they are as a person, biographical information, and also what future projects they are working on.” During the talk, the audience had the opportunity to interact with Cordelia Jensen and ask her a variety of questions, ranging from topics about the novel, to advice on how to be more creative and crafty with our own writing.

(Conversation with Cordelia Jensen, author of Skyscraping)


Jensen also discussed her writing process and the inspiration she had for  her novel, Skyscraping. The novel itself was a two year project she was working on when completing her graduate studies. She wanted to write a story of sorrow and grief to show the reality of what is like seeing a loved one decay slowly from the effects of AIDS, while managing to survive the challenges of everyday life. There were many ways she experimented to express these feelings into a story in verse form. As Jensen thought back into her own high school experiences, looked back into her poetry from her past self, and combined it with her own craft of creativity, she completed a novel where it was possible for the audience to understand and look into the perspective through the first hand experience of the protagonist, Miranda.


“It is very real that most authors live by the pen, so they are constantly working on new material while holding other jobs, since they are professionals in other areas, so it is interesting for students to see that becoming a writer or express their creativity is a very real possibility for them,” reflected Dr. Sefranek as Cordelia Jensen was talking about the outline for Skyscraping.


What the audience found most curious about her novel were the instances where Miranda appeared to have gone through different emotional changes, which correlated with the seasons presented in Skyscraping. Jensen explained how these emotional arcs represent “themes of capturing time and stopping time,” where the reader sees Miranda trying to escape the reality of her current situation with her family and slowly accepting them as each season passes. Jensen also expresses the importance of memories and storytelling is that one can just jump right into their most treasured space in the past and bring it back to life through writing.

(Dr. Sefranek and INGL 3202 Instructors)


All in all, this conference was a successful event were the audience grasped a better understanding and emotional connection with the novel Skyscraping. At the end, Cordelia Jensen inspired the audience by giving them encouraging advice as a writer, "if you are a writer, my best advice is to try not to be a perfectionist. Let yourself play and experiment with words and don’t be shy or scared."


Book trailer: