Poetry Friday: An Interview with Ellen Hopkins

Thanks to Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for hosting this amazing community of poetry lovers.

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I am a long time fan and reader of Ellen Hopkins. Her book, CRANK, introduced me to novels in verse. It made me revise my WIP from prose to verse.

My oldest grand girl has been reading her since sixth grade. This year I purchased her latest, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE, to give oldest. I had to read (it was a CYBILS nomination after all). It’s a must read.

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Ellen Hopkins graciously answered the followings interview questions for me:

JRM: When and how did you get starting writing?


EH: I’ve been writing ever since I learned how. Poetry was my first love, but also short stories, essays, nonfiction, journalism. It’s a talent. It’s a passion.

JRM: What process do you use when writing in more than one voice?  Do you write the different voices as the story unfolds or each separately or a combo?

EH: I have to write chronologically, so I write each voice in succession. Often those voices connect somewhere, somehow, so it keeps everything in order in my mind, if nothing else.

JRM: If we could hear the actual voice of Violence, how would it sound? Old? Young? Or would it change?  What kind of picture did you have in your head as how Violence would look as a character?

EH: The call to violence is an ancient one, so for me the voice of Violence is ancient. Sometimes soft, sometimes loud. I picture Violence as a crone, but maybe one who can make herself beautiful if the need arises.

JRM: What kind of research did you do for this book?  Did you talk with people who’ve had first hand experience with Violence? Were you able to ask people the question of why pull a trigger?

EH: I mostly interviewed victims of gun violence… that, of course, includes the families of victims. I can tell you once someone crosses that line it changes lives forever. I was also raised in a household that had guns. My father hunted and also collected/traded them, so there has never been an aura of curiosity or inexperience with weapons surrounding me. On two occasions, as a child I witnessed my “responsible” gun-owning father (alcohol involved) put a loaded gun to my mom’s chest. She talked him down, but the fear was incredible.

Blending immigration, racism, violence and gun control seemed like a such tremendous task to weave together into one story.  Were there points when you needed to step away from the manuscript to allow it to percolate?

Stepping away from the manuscript was mostly for research. The percolation is in the pre-write for me. I generally have a real relationship with my characters before I sit down to write, especially with multiple viewpoints in the story.

JRM: How did you counter balance these hard themes when you were in the middle of writing? I wonder if it energized you or drained to write this book and how you balanced that out.

EH: Honestly, it depended on the day and what was going on, both in my life and in the world. There were several mass shootings in the news, which made it more difficult to write but also much more important. Without understanding the WHYS of gun violence we can’t work to mitigate it. Rarely do I have the luxury of stepping away from a writing project too long, by the way.

JRM: Would you like to share what’s next for you in the writing world?

EH: The next YA, which releases in October, is SANCTUARY HIGHWAY, a politically charged near-future look at where this country could end up if it keeps moving in the direction it has been. After that, I’m hoping to finish a middle grade novel about how a troubled kid who changes the lives of his new family negatively—-but much more positively.

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Stay tuned! In fourteen days, the CYBILs Awards will be announced.

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Poetry Friday: RIP, Mary Oliver


Thank you to Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

I don’t know about you, but my heart was saddened to hear the news of Mary Oliver’s passing today.

One of my treasured gifts last June was FELICITY by Mary Oliver. A recorded interview about the book can be founded HERE.

Besides the natural world that she has explored so often, in FELICITY Oliver explores the mysteries of the heart.

There are so many lines to consider in this book:

“I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
reasons and proofs.” (The World I Live In)

“All the important ideas must include the trees,
the mountains, and the rivers.

To understand many things you must reach out
of your condition.” (Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way)

“Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look
up at the blue space?

…Rumi said, “There is no proof of the soul.
But isn’t the return of spring and how it
springs up in our hearts a pretty good hint?” (Whistling Swans)

And finally this:

Humility

Poems arrive ready to begin.
Poets are only the transportation.

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for transporting poems to the world all these years. You will be missed. Your voice will remain.

Poetry Friday: Third Grade Poetry

Kat at Kathryn Apel is hosting Poetry Friday today. Thanks, Kat. Here are some more third grade “I Come From” poems.

I Come From by Juno

I come from Mom and Dad

From mac and cheese
yummmm!

I am from puppies

beautiful

I’m from playing with my sister

From Eleanor and Grandma Nikkie

I’m from the  family and kind

From Oregon

My family pictures are found next to the TV

My family means a lot to me

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I Come From by Alicia

I come from cats and dogs

From lasagne, spaghetti and raviola

Tasty, meaty, and juicy

I am from roses of red

Bright red

I’m from board games and Apples to Apples

From Krysta W and Mikchall W

I’m from the most funniest and silliest in town.

From “Drink your water” and “Do your Reading”

I’m from Salmon Creek hospital

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I Come From by Ellie

I come from an easel

From chicken pot pie

Flaky, juicy, bumpy, and warm

I am from a cactus

Prickly, spiky, and tall

I’m from kindness and surprises

From Amy and Zack

I’m from playing pranks and giving things

From “pick up after yourself.”

From going to Girl Scouts

I’m from America, Vancouver, WA

Cookies and cupcakes

My mom was a veterinarian

Dakotah’s is Great Grandmother Ruth’s middle name

My family pictures are on the wall
History and stories

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I Come From by Jazlyn

I come from slime

From the ocean and the sunset

Beautiful and coming

I am from a carnation

A colourful thing

A beautiful,nice, loving family

I’m from

From Drew and Chena
My grandfather was in the Army

My family pictures are in the hall

They care for me

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I Come From by Jonathan

I come from my tablet

From Doritos and my phone

Cheesy and crunchy

Soda

Sweet and lots of sugar

I am from my dad, my mom, me and my brother

We are funny

I’m from clocks, time, food, and days

I’m from California

From cheeseburgers and calderez

From my mom who went to Washington

From my grandfather who lives in Mexico

Poetry Friday: Process for I Come From Poems

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Thanks to Sylvia at Poetry for Children who is hosting today. She has a teacher rarified Sneak Peek of the 2019 poetry titles.

DISCLAIMER: I usually am teaching poetry lessons with a limited time amount. It may be thirty minutes or forty-five minutes. And as when I was in the library, I had to do over several weeks. If I were teaching in a regular classroom, I would probably teach in a different way.

I’ve been thinking about my process for working with students with creating poetry. A lot of times, I’m a “pantser” (versus being a planner). So last month I had an opportunity to work with two third grade classes on a more complicated version of the “I Come From” poems that George Ella Lyons has offered to the world. If you search on the Internet, you will find a variety of templates to use.

I decided to adapt a template into a format that I have used with students for a several poetry forms.

The first week I subbed in December, I used this form after sharing a lot of examples (particularly ones that I’ve shared in earlier blog posts).

At the end of writing time, I gathered them up so that I could type their drafts (if I were in a classroom full time, I would probably have them type them).

When I returned the second week, I handed out the drafts. I shared from my own experience in submitting poems that I get to look at the draft and the “editor” suggestions. I had them reread and make changes.

I met with these two boys and they shared what they wanted. Students got to choose which lines they wanted to use.

On this second class, I offered this for those who wanted to write their poem.
Nathan reread his draft and decided that he wanted to revise in a big way by using the above format.

He was so pleased with the outcome.

To showcase the class poems, I’m in the process of creating a Padlet for their work.