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STUDENT FEATURE: Claiborne Fifth Grader Joy Norman, Published Author

Posted Date: 04/03/2024

STUDENT FEATURE: Claiborne Fifth Grader Joy Norman, Published Author

As a young child, Joy Norman loved writing short stories and the name Mercedes.

At the age of 11, the Claiborne fifth grader combined the two to achieve a rare feat at her age of becoming a published author.

Mercedes and the Big Leap is a story about a young girl adjusting after her mother’s job moves the family from a small town in Alabama to New York City.

“Mercedes adjusts to a new change and meets new friends and goes to a new school,” Norman said. “I just got the idea from my head because I thought people needed a book to relate to because a lot of people move because of lots of different things. So I made Mercedes move because of her mom’s job because I think a lot of people do that now.”

Norman said she named the character Mercedes because she’s always liked the name since her father had a Mercedes vehicle when she was younger – around the same time she started writing short stories.

“I would watch videos, and then I would write a book about it and bring it to school,” Norman said. “I really loved and enjoyed doing that. Whenever I was bored, I would write little stories and draw pictures and my mom would post them. She would be like, ‘She’s turning into a little author!’”.

Norman officially became a “little author” last summer when her book, made up of 93 pages, was published. It is now available on Amazon and ranks in the Top 250 in Teen & Young Adult Literary Fiction. Like her title character, Norman had to take a big leap of her own having enough courage and confidence in herself to put her book out there with the chance of negative reviews.

“At first I was really nervous like, ‘What if people don’t like it? What is there is something they don’t like about my book?’” Norman said. “I didn’t like talking to people about my book, but whenever people started telling me they actually loved it, I started feeling more comfortable because I realize my book is actually really good and people actually like it.”

Norman credits her family with giving her the support she needed to publish her book – a publication that now has a five-star rating on Amazon and all positive reviews. Unlike her character Mercedes, Norman has never been to New York City, but her mother is taking her there for her 13th birthday.

“Definitely my family, especially my mom, she’s so sweet,” Norman said. “She’s like my “momager”. She gets everything done for me. My older sister – we are eight years a part, but she’s like my best friend. She tells me that she tells people all the time about (the book).”

Norman, who also enjoys dancing, said Claiborne teacher Hester Jane Burnside, now at Drew Elementary, is a key cheerleader in her life too.

Norman has done a couple of book signings around town and also participated in the Women’s Symposium at ULM, where she featured her book to those in attendance.

Claiborne principal Kevin Welch said Joy’s name perfectly describes the young lady he has watch grow since she was a toddler coming into the school with her mother to drop off her older sister. She is full of joy – and full of talent.


Mercedes is surprised when her mom announces they are leaving their small Southern town and moving to New York City. Despite the promise of a new house and new friends, Mercedes is nervous about leaving the only friends and home she has ever known. Still, she knows the move could mean a better life for everyone, including her brother Mike.

Mercedes feels excited as she makes new friends and adjusts to her new school. Yet, she soon realizes her new friends and house can not replace her old life. The new life in New York has come with some challenges, and Mercedes finds herself wondering if making the big move was the right thing to do.

Joy Norman pictured with her book at the ULM Women's Symposium