Photo of Jessica Ford by Kitty Fan.
Originally printed during her freshman year, 11th grader Jessica Ford’s book I Don’t Smoke Flowers Anymore (IDSFA) is sold at Normal Books in Athens and will be sold at Story on the Square in McDonough starting on Oct. 12, which is also the date of her book signing there. In this past week, I had a chance to interview her about the book and her writing experiences.
Jessica wrote her first book in fourth grade. Although the book is not her best work, it led her to embark on the journey of writing. Over the next several years, Jessica wrote many short stories and one more book before she wrote IDSFA. She developed her own writing style along the way: “My writing style is very much stream of consciousness, [which is] just the continuous flow of thought, and I primarily write in first person.” This is because she thinks it’s fun to write through “a biased lens and write out the thought process of the characters.” Jessica believes she is writing for the characters, which is the most important part of a good book. “If you don’t write the characters like they are real people, you are writing a bad book. Because if they are not real, you will not believe in your story; if you don’t believe in your story, you are not writing a good book.”
Jessica’s emphasis on character development and use of stream of consciousness are very much reflected in IDSFA. The main character of the book is called Sawyer, whose gender is not specified so that the reader can have their own understanding of Sawyer depending on their interpretation of the story. In order to get into Heaven after they die, Sawyer has to identify their greatest sin; otherwise they will be trapped in the eternal nothingness. To save Sawyer from damnation, the angel Allie Walsh leads Sawyer through their memories to find their greatest sin. The book is written in first person and uses the stream of consciousness technique. Jessica spends much time on building the characters and tries to make the characters as vivid as possible by walking the readers through the characters’ own mind. If you are curious about the story, you should definitely get a copy or talk to Jessica Ford!
At the end of our interview, I asked Jessica about her future plans and her advice for others. Jessica is determined to study creative writing in college and pursue writing as her career. She said the best way to find your dream job is to think of something you cannot “live without.” Because your job is what will take up the majority of time in your life, Jessica believes time is only worth spending on your passion, just like her devotion to writing.