The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by the French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing, soul-searching questions. In the hot seat today: Laurie Morrison, author of EVERY SHINY THING (with Cordelia Jensen; Abrams, 2018) and UP FOR AIR (May 7, 2019, Abrams).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? A beach vacation with my husband and kids during which everyone miraculously sleeps at night despite the change in routine. Or a writing retreat with friends…preferably also at the beach!
What is your greatest fear? Making a mistake that will hurt someone else.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My tendency to worry, especially about things I can’t control.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Lack of compassion.
Which living person do you most admire? It’s a tie between my mom and my husband, so I’m lucky they are the two humans (over the age of 2.5) I spend the most time with.
What is your greatest extravagance? Having my house cleaned every other week. We started after my son was born last summer, and it makes such a difference in my stress level.
What is your current state of mind? A little worried (see above…) but hopeful.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Spontaneity. It seems fun and glamorous to be spontaneous, and sometimes it is…but the grumpy part of me thinks being too spontaneous often goes hand-in-hand with not factoring in other people’s plans and needs.
On what occasion do you lie? I lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Or, often, when someone has hurt my feelings, but I instinctively downplay the hurt and say it’s no big deal even if it is. I’m working on that second one.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Just. I just can’t tell you how many unnecessary justs I took out of my next book Up for Air in the editing process. The draft was suddenly far shorter without them! And sometimes I use “just” to minimize something I’m suggesting or make myself seem less demanding, as in, “I was just wondering.” I’m working on that, too.
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? I wish I could read music so I could be a better singer. I love to sing but, as a soprano, I usually got the melody and could just remember it, so somehow reading music never clicked. But at a certain point, that held me back from musical opportunities I would have enjoyed.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I made a lot of difficult decisions in my twenties, and I’m proud that I listened to my gut and had the courage to make those choices. Between the time I graduated from college and the time I turned 30, I left a job that didn’t feel right, a PhD program that didn’t feel right, a few relationships that didn’t feel right, and two cities that eventually didn’t feel right. None of those changes were easy, but they helped me find my way to the life I have now as a mom, wife, middle-grade author and middle-school-teacher-currently-on-hiatus-from-teaching. I’m not saying my current life is easy, but it’s fulfilling and it calls forth the best parts of me.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Something that lives in or near the ocean, because the ocean gives me such a sense of peace. Maybe a dolphin or a shell.
What is your most treasured possession? My writing desk, which is part of a wall unit we designed. It has a work spot for me, a work spot for my husband, and lots of built-in bookshelves.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? I’m still shaken by the experience of reading news stories about kids being separated from their parents while nursing my sweet, tiny baby in the middle of the night. The idea of not being able to be with my kids is the most devastating thing I can imagine.
What do you most value in your friends? Openness and honesty. I’m realizing, especially as a mom of young kids and as someone braving the publishing industry, that the people I most want to connect with are people who are real about what’s challenging.
Who are your favorite writers? Too many to name, so I’ll go with the ones who have influenced me most as a writer: Judy Blume, Rebecca Stead, Jaclyn Moriarty.
Who is your hero of fiction? Mia in Front Desk by Kelly Yang. On multiple occasions, when I have been on the verge of feeling sorry for myself for something that’s a minor frustration but not really a hardship in the grand scheme of things, I’ve thought of Mia and her positivity and resilience and asked myself how she would react.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Maybe Betsy Ross. I used to live right down the street from the Betsy Ross house, so one time I played tourist in my own city and visited. I was so moved to learn about how hard she worked to take care of her family despite suffering terrible losses (whether she really made the first American flag or not).
What is your motto? “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
LAURIE MORRISON taught middle school English for ten years and is the author of three middle-grade novels, all published by Abrams/Amulet Books: Every Shiny Thing (co-written with Cordelia Jensen), Up for Air, and Saint Ivy (2021). She collaborates with other authors to run Middle Grade at Heart, an online book club and newsletter. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she lives with her family in Philadelphia. Learn more about Laurie on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.