My new novel, Every Last Word, is about a popular girl named Samantha who discovers a secret poetry club hidden beneath the school theater.

When Sam first finds Poet’s Corner, she’s terrified and overwhelmed. The whole room is painted black, the furniture is completely random, and the walls are covered with scraps of paper. She considers making a run for it, until a familiar girl steps onto the makeshift stage and reads a funny poem about Chicken McNuggets. By the time a cute guy named AJ settles in on the tall stool and starts playing acoustic guitar, Sam’s no longer afraid. She’s awestruck.

The song AJ sings is one of my favorites, “So Long, Lazy Ray,” written and recorded by a good friend. When I was first writing this scene, this song immediately came to mind, so I added a few lines as placeholders. I intended to write lyrics of my own, but “Lazy Ray” just… stuck. I felt like it belonged there.

This story is ultimately about learning to be brave with your words. Throughout the process of writing it, I’ve repeatedly—and totally by accident—discovered some incredibly talented teens, sharing their poetry and music with the world. They’re brave. And they’ve inspired me.

In the spirit of honoring one of these brave teen voices, Joe Rut, the original artist of “So Long, Lazy Ray” not only gave me permission to use his beautiful lyrics in Every Last Word, he also gave a nod to an extremely talented 17-year-old musician, allowing him to re-record and put his own spin on the song.

It’s my honor to share it with you today. Introducing Henry Hodder, performing “So Long, Lazy Ray.” Music and lyrics by Joe Rut.

Huge thanks to Hypable​ for debuting this video! Read more about Every Last Word and Poet’s Corner HERE.

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