Archives: Author Feature

Laura’s Boo!shelf: The Memory Trees

This week’s Poetry Friday hostess with the mostest is Irene Latham. You’ll find all of the links at Live Your Poem.

Big news, Poetry Friday friends! Today is the cover reveal for my latest middle grade novel, Takedown. This prose novel is about two middle school wrestlers, a boy and a girl, who are *not* happy when their coach makes them training partners. Curious? Stop by Nerdy Book Club for a sneak peek.

This month, I’m blogging about scary stories. The next book on my October Boo!shelf is Kali Wallace‘s just-published YA novel, The Memory Trees.

The Memory Trees is the story of 16-year-old Sorrow Lovegood, who has lived with her father and step-mother in Florida since she was eight years old. As the novel begins, Sorrow travels to rural Vermont, returning to the home and apple orchard the women in her family have owned and farmed for generations. She’s devoting this summer to reconciling with her mother. But Sorrow is also hoping to trigger her own memories of the death of her older sister, Patience, eight years ago.

The Memory Trees is an atmospheric mystery about two families (the Lovegoods and the Abramses) whose scuffles, hostilities, and secret friendships are woven into the stark Vermont landscape. Kali addresses issues of grief, mental illness, co-dependency, and Sorrow’s fight to uncover the mystery of her sister’s death.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous. Sorrow’s growth as she reconnects with her own history makes for a powerful story. Highly recommended!

The Memory Trees published this week, October 10. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

The Memory Trees is a dark magical realism novel about a mysterious family legacy, a centuries-old feud, and a tragic loss that resurfaces when sixteen-year-old Sorrow returns to her mother’s family orchard for the summer.

Sorrow Lovegood’s life has been shaped by the stories of the women who came before her: brave, resilient women who settled long ago on a mercurial apple orchard in Vermont. The land has been passed down through generations, and Sorrow and her family take pride in its strange history. Their offbeat habits may be ridiculed by other townspeople—especially their neighbors, the Abrams family—but for the first eight years of her life, the orchard is Sorrow’s whole world. 

Then one winter night everything changes. Sorrow’s sister Patience is tragically killed. Their mother suffers a mental breakdown. Sorrow is sent to live with her dad in Miami, away from the only home she’s ever known.

Now sixteen, Sorrow’s memories of her life in Vermont are maddeningly hazy; even the details of her sister’s death are unclear. She returns to the orchard for the summer, determined to learn more about her troubled childhood and the family she left eight years ago. Why has her mother kept her distance over the years? What actually happened the night Patience died? Is the orchard trying to tell her something, or is she just imagining things?

The elements play an important role in Sorrow’s story. Fire and ice, heat and cold, familial warmth and long-frozen memories swirl and push and angle for control at the Lovegood homestead. That’s why I’m pairing Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” with The Memory Trees. Read the book, then let me know what you think of this pairing.

Fire and Ice
By Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,   
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Kali Wallace studied geology and earned a PhD in geophysics before she realized she enjoyed inventing imaginary worlds more than she liked researching the real one. She is the author of the dark fantastical young adult novels Shallow Graves and The Memory Trees, and the upcoming middle grade fantasy novel City of Islands. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, F&SF, Asimov’s, Tor.com, and other speculative fiction magazines. After spending most of her life in Colorado, she now lives in southern California.

I blogged about Kali’s debut novel, Shallow Graves, in 2015 (read that post here). It’s one of my favorite horror novels.

If you’d like to read more about Kali’s book, she’s on a blog tour. I enjoyed this “Halloween Reads” post about The Memory Trees. And she talked about the ups and downs of writing book 2 at Chuck Wendig’s blog. (So exciting! That’s one of my favorite blogs about writing.) I’ve enjoyed both of Kali’s books, so I can’t wait to read her middle grade novel.

See you next week. I’ll have another scary story to share.

Laura’s Boo!shelf: The Rattled Bones

Violet Nesdoly is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Stop by her blog for a list of poetry posts around the kidlitosphere.

Autumn is here at last! Goodbye, sweating buckets at the Baltimore Book Festival. Hello, sweaters and crunchy leaves. I’m cozying up with a pumpkin spice latte (just kidding — flavored coffee is truly frightening) and some spine tingling stories.

The first novel on my October Boo!shelf is Shannon Parker’s ghost story, The Rattled Bones.

Here is the description:

Maine-bred, independent Rilla Brae is no stranger to the deep. She knows the rhythms of hard work and harder seas. But when she experiences the sudden death of her father, the veil between the living and the dead blurs and she begins to be haunted by a girl on a nearby, uninhabited island. The girl floats a song over the waves, and it is as beautiful as it is terrifying. Familiar and distant.

Then Rilla meets Sam, a University of Southern Maine archaeology student tasked with excavating the very island where the ghostly girl appeared. Sam sifts the earth looking for the cultural remains of an island people who were forcibly evicted by the state nearly a hundred years ago. Sam tells Rilla the island has a history no locals talk about—if they know about it at all—due to the shame the events brought to the working waterfront community. All Rilla knows for sure is that the island has always been there—an eerie presence anchored in the stormy sea. Now Sam’s work and the girl’s song lure Rilla to the island’s shores.

As Rilla helps Sam to unearth the island’s many secrets, Rilla’s visions grow—until the two discover a tragedy kept silent for years. And it’s a tragedy that has everything to do with Rilla’s past.

Today, Shannon is stopping by for 5 Questions with the Author. And since it’s Poetry Friday, I’ve got the perfect scary poem to pair with her book.

Laura: As the The Rattled Bones opens, Rilla Brae has just graduated from high school. She was excited about going to college, but her father’s recent death has her rethinking her plans. Then she experiences a haunting. Why is it important for Rilla to solve this family mystery before she decides whether to stay and support her family or leave home?

Shannon: This is a great question!

The Rattled Bones is part mystery, part historical fiction, part contemporary and, of course, a ghost story.

At the beginning of the book, Rilla’s father has died at sea and her grief causes the veil between the living and the dead to lift. Through tragedy, this 17-year-old fisherman quickly becomes the sole financial provider for her family. As she works the seas, she begins to see an eerie presence on an uninhabited island, starts to hear a familiar but distant song carry over the waves. Rilla sees this girl—this ghost—in the dark of the underwater, on the shores of her back yard. The girl is all seaweed hair and gravel-rough voice. She is everywhere and nowhere.

Rilla can’t leave for college knowing her Gram might be in danger, that this girl could haunt her grandmother too. But more importantly, Rilla can’t resist the pull of this otherworldly girl because they are connected in a way that changes Rilla’s future and her past.

Laura: Rilla comes from a family of lobstermen. This part of the story is fascinating – there’s the lingo (lobsters are known as “bugs”), the banter on the docks, and the long-standing superstitions. How does Rilla’s struggle to be accepted and respected in this community reflect the overall themes of the novel?

Shannon: Lobster fishing is fascinating. It is hard work on rough seas. The industry is familial and insular and has a language and rhythm all its own. Rilla has grown up lobstering—catching bugs—all her life, but when she becomes captain of her own boat, the reader sees the prejudice and misogyny that can exist in segments of this male-dominated industry.

The novel has many feminist themes and Rilla’s work on the ocean is one way to highlight the overall feminist tone of the book.

Laura: This is a novel that is deeply tied to setting. The closely drawn details of Rilla’s small Maine fishing village keep the reader grounded as the haunting progresses. Could you talk about coastal Maine and the writing techniques you used to capture it so vividly?

Shannon: Maine’s coast is harsh and beautiful. When a thick fog drops over the water, it can feel as if you’re standing at the edge of the universe. When the sky is blue, you can feel the world pulse on into eternity. I can’t speak to any writing techniques I used because I never considered the ocean from a craft perspective. She was a character like any other and I needed to develop her in a way that the reader would feel the salt lick of the ocean’s breath, know the cold reaches of her depths, the pulse of her tides. The sea needed to move and shift and breathe around Rilla so that I could explore some of the paranormal elements of the haunting, but I also needed the reader to feel the dangers of Rilla’s work at sea, how the ocean often takes more than she gives.

Laura: The Rattled Bones is a ghost story, but its foundation is built on a historical event. How did you become interested in the history of the island of Malaga? Did your research lead you to any unexpected places?

Shannon: About ten years ago I came across a photo-documentary called: Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold. The storyteller in me was immediately intrigued. I couldn’t imagine any story better for being silenced. So I told it.

The most unexpected part of my research was learning of the legacy of shame that still haunts Malaga descendants—many of whom still fish the waters around the island today. The shame has taken root in the psyches of the descendants of Malaga Island victims, not the perpetrators. That will never stop surprising me.

Laura: What made you decide to make The Rattled Bones a ghost story with a contemporary teen protagonist instead of exploring Malaga’s past through historical fiction?

Shannon: I don’t think I could write historical fiction. Also, I’ve always wanted to be haunted by a ghost.

Shannon M. Parker is an author and educator who spent her young adult years collecting thirty-seven stamps in her passport. She holds degrees in English Literature, Linguistics and Educational Leadership from Saint Michael’s College, UMass Boston and University of Southern Maine respectively. She lives in New England with her family.

Shannon has been a Poetry Friday featured guest before. You can read my post about her first novel, The Girl Who Fell, here. 

Readers, you know how excited I get when I find the *perfect* poem to pair with a novel.

Cynthia Huntington’s poem “Ghost” has the same eerie quality as Shannon’s book. The other sits just at the edge of every day, ordinary life, watching.

Ghost

At first you didn’t know me.
I was a shape moving rapidly, nervous
 
at the edge of your vision. A flat, high voice,
dark slash of hair across my cheekbone.
 
I made myself present, though never distinct.
Things I said that he repeated, a tone
 
you could hear, but never trace, in his voice.
Silence—followed by talk of other things.
 
When you would sit at your desk, I would creep
near you like a question. A thought would scurry
 
across the front of your mind. I’d be there,
ducking out of sight.

Read the rest at the Poetry Foundation.

A note for middle grade readers: If Malaga Island sounds familiar, it is the setting of Gary Schmidt’s historical fiction, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.

Poetry Friday: Landing on Her Feet

It’s Poetry Friday! This week, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has hosting duties. Congrats to Amy on her latest poetic picture book. READ! READ! READ! came out this week. You’ll find all of the Poetry Friday links at The Poem Farm.

Winner of the 2015 Donald Justice Poetry Prize.

My friend, novelist and poet Patricia Valdata, visited recently. She was here to feature at the local literary and open-mic series I co-host, Wilde Readings.

Pat’s latest book is Where No Man Can Touch, a book of persona poems! You know how much I love persona poems. This series is all about women who were first in flight. (Pat is an amateur pilot.)

Here is a description of the book from JMWW literary journal:

“Valdata did extensive research to compile the stories of the many women around the world who took to the skies. Where No Man Can Touch is organized by time periods stretching through the centuries, beginning with the 1700s-1800s and then moving through the 20th century in 10-year increments, ending with the last poem in 1953. Each poem starts with a short epigraph that includes the dates of the woman’s life and the dates of her major flight-related accomplishments. By providing readers with a clear frame of reference, Valdata showcases the range of international women who were enchanted by the dream of flight.”

There are many wonderful voices in this book. One of my favorites is this concrete poem, “Landing on Her Feet.” Pat captures the humor and will of the poem’s speaker, Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick. I love that this is a shape poem, with the reader’s eyes billowing out in long lines first, then falling down the page.

Published with permission of the author.

The National Air and Space Museum has a great page about Tiny Broadwick. Her personality leaps off the page. You can check that out and see her parachute here.

Patricia Valdata is a poet and novelist. Her book of persona poems in the voices of women aviation pioneers, Where No Man Can Touch, received the Donald Justice Prize and was published in 2015 by West Chester University. Her poetry has appeared recently in Ecotone, Italian Americana, Little Patuxent Review, and Passager. She has work forthcoming in String Poet and Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse.

Poetry Friday: Into the Deep, Deep Brave

Want more Poetry Friday? Stop by The Logonauts for a round up of poetry links from across the kidlitosphere.

One of the best parts about being a Little Free Library steward is chatting with other LFL stewards. It’s always exciting when someone new joins our communication hub, sharing photos of their freshly painted library, filled with books, ready for people to discover and borrow.

Earlier this month, a steward in Ohio shared news that caught my eye. Sylvia Call was excited to announce that her son’s first book had just published. It is a book of poems, Into the Deep, Deep Brave. What’s unique about this book is that its author, Arthur H. Call, is a three-year old with Hyperlexia.

Sylvia and I began to talk about poetry and Arthur’s book. The poems are filled with humor, but also show profound insight — Arthur is clearly a deep thinker.

I’m thrilled to have Sylvia visiting my blog today, to tell us more about Arthur and share a few samples of his poetry.

Welcome, Sylvia! Tell us the backstory of Arthur’s poetry book.

During the fall and winter of 2016, Arthur (who was almost three) had just started talking for the first time (he also started reading and spelling words that I often had to look up).  Arthur is on the autism spectrum and has Hyperlexia which gives him this beautiful gift with words and language.

[Read more about Hyperlexia at the Center for Speech and Language Disorders.]

All through the winter, he would potter about the house making up these neat little poems and reciting them out loud to me. I wrote them all down the moment he said them, and tried to punctuate them based on his pauses and stops. (Many of his poems were hastily scribbled onto the backs of envelopes or along the margins of papers I happened to be grading.)

I didn’t have a plan for his poems at the time, but every now and then I would share one of my favorites on social media. It all sort of snowballed from there, and after talking things through with a phenomenally talented illustrator named Molly McGuire, I thought that perhaps publishing a book of poetry written by a toddler was really the only sensible thing left to do.

After months of collaborating, planning, and dreaming, Arthur’s first book is finally out in the world. What a fun little adventure it’s been.


Thanks for sharing Arthur’s story, Sylvia. I remember first learning about Hyperlexia through some articles by and about author Priscilla Gilman. Here is a link to check out to learn more about Priscilla’s experience with a child with Hyperlexia. 

Are you ready for some poetry, readers?

Selections from Into the Deep, Deep Brave
by Arthur H. Call
Shared with permission

I am everything–
I am change.
Into the deep, deep brave.

***

Strum the banjo
Walking in the snow.
I’ll show you the way
Through the night.
***

Dance with me
Spinning through the air
Like dragonflies

***

The bear stood on the shore
And roared at the sea.
Free from his cage
and brave.

As a teacher of young writers, I applaud Sylvia for publishing Arthur’s poetry. Today, I shared Into the Deep, Deep Brave with my friend Matthew Winner, a school librarian and kidlit podcaster. The book — and Arthur’s words — prompted a fascinating conversation about children, their insights into the world around them, and how they use language for meaning and play.

Congratulations to Arthur!

5 Questions for the Author: Stacy Mozer

It was the solstice this week, Poetry Friday friends. Summer is here. I’m not a hot weather person, but there is one thing I will go outside for: baseball.

I love going to Camden Yards for an Orioles game on a hot summer night, eating crab cakes, drinking beer or Icees, and spending time with my family through the long innings.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sports in the past several months as I finish up work on my next book, Take Down, which is set on a middle school wrestling team. Visiting me today for an interview — and to share a poem for Poetry Friday — is Stacy Barnett Mozer, one of the authors behind the blog Sporty Girl Books.

Stacy’s latest book is The Perfect Trip, about Sam (Samantha) Barrette, a girl who has just made the boys’ travel baseball league.

Thanks for joining me for 5 Questions for the Author, Stacy!

1. THE PERFECT TRIP works as a stand-alone novel, but can you fill us in on Sam’s first story, THE SWEET SPOT? How has the character grown and changed since that book?

In the first book Sam is struggling to find her place as a thirteen-year-old female baseball player. At the beginning of the book she learns that her coach feels she has an attitude and that the only way he’ll recommend her for travel baseball is if she gets a good performance at baseball camp. But when she arrives they expect her to be a boy and place her on the team with weaker and younger players and it goes downhill from there. As in this book, Sam’s family plays an important role in the story. At the start of the book Sam sees her stepmother Nancy as the enemy and is completely forgiving of her never-present birth mother. She has to learn to sort those relationships out too.

2. One of my favorite scenes in THE PERFECT TRIP takes place at a pick-up baseball game at a campground. A group of older boys is sure they’ll win against their younger brothers, even more so when Sam joins the younger boys’ team. I love the dramatic irony of this scene. Can you talk about how girl athletes challenge expectations?

Thank you for picking up on that scene. My two books were originally written in the reverse order and it was when I wrote that scene at the campground that I discovered the real motivation of my real main character. As an elementary school teacher, there have been many years that I have watched girls being undervalued when they want to play sports at recess. I used to be able to name on my hand the ones who were able to persevere and fight for the respect they deserved on the field. Fortunately, I do feel that trend is currently on the upswing. There has been more attention given to women and sports in the news and the boys don’t seem as surprised to see the girls playing with them. I don’t think it hurts that they all know about my book as well.

3. I loved the relationship between Sam and her younger half-sister, Deborah. Would you describe how you drew these sisters and made their moments of love, annoyance, and betrayal so believable.

My younger sister and I always had a very close relationship. Even though she is as different from Deborah as I am from Sam, I definitely put the emotion behind our relationship into the story. We had mostly good times, but there were those moments. Deborah also has in her some of my daughter Annie. Annie was Deborah’s age when I wrote the book and I would pluck some scenes and conversations from observing her behavior and interests. Then I would place myself in the role of her older sister to see how I would react.

4. Sam’s real name is Samantha — a name she doesn’t use much. One of the main characters in my upcoming book is a girl wrestler, and I played around with names and nicknames too. She’s Mikayla at home, but “Mickey” on the wrestling mat (on the advice of her older brothers). Why are names so important? When female athletes play on co-ed or male teams, do you think names impact how their teammates and opponents view girls and women?

When I first wrote The Perfect Trip Sam’s name was Zoey. When I realized I wanted the people at baseball camp to think she was a boy, I needed a unisex name. I wasn’t sure which one I wanted, so I took it back to my third grade class. They voted for Sam. I don’t think that names should matter, but in this case it was important for the mix up.

5. Who was your female athlete hero when you were Sam’s age? What was important to you about her?

I can’t remember any particular female athlete heroes from my childhood, but there were two movies with female athletes that I’ve never forgotten. The first was Quarterback Princess with Helen Hunt as a female football player. The second is a lesser-known movie called Blue Skies Again, which is about a female baseball player. I remember watching both movies over and over and thinking how amazing it was that these girls were fighting for their right to play with the boys. When I was older, I admired Mia Hamm, which is why I had Sam’s best friend Tasha give her a few shout outs during The Perfect Trip.

School’s out for Heidi Mordhorst! She’s hosting the first Poetry Friday of summer at My Juicy Little Universe.

Please stop by Stacy’s website to read her full bio. I had no idea we were both NYU grads!

Since it’s Poetry Friday, I asked Stacy to recommend a poem to pair with THE PERFECT TRIP.

Her choice? The perfect poem! Here is “First Girls in Little League Baseball,” by J. Patrick Lewis — shared with Pat’s express permission.

 

 

First Girls in Little League Baseball

By J. Patrick Lewis

December 26, 1974
Title IX of the 1972 Education Act is signed, providing for equal opportunity in athletics for girls as well as boys.

The year was 1974
When Little Leaguers learned the score.
President Ford took out his pen
And signed a law that said from then
On women too would have the chance
To wear the stripes and wear the pants.
Now what you hear, as flags unfurl,
Is “Atta boy!” and “Atta girl!”

Posted with permission of the author.

5 Questions for the Author: Meg Eden

Mary Lee Hahn is hosting this week. Stop by the blog A Year of Reading for this week’s poetry offerings from around the kidlitosphere.

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone.

This week, I’m celebrating my friend Meg Eden‘s upcoming debut YA novel, Post-High School Reality Quest. I first met Meg when I was editing Little Patuxent Review. She is a talented young poet, and our journal published several of her poems.

Here’s what you’ll find in this post:

  • blurb of Post-High School Reality Quest from Goodreads,
  • interview with author Meg Eden (she has fascinating insights into transitioning from poetry to long-form fiction),
  • a poem by Meg,
  • link to a book giveaway!

PHSRQ publishes next week, June 13. Here is the description from Goodreads.

Buffy is playing a game. However, the game is her life, and there are no instructions or cheat codes on how to win.

After graduating high school, a voice called “the text parser” emerges in Buffy’s head, narrating her life as a classic text adventure game. Buffy figures this is just a manifestation of her shy, awkward, nerdy nature—until the voice doesn’t go away, and instead begins to dominate her thoughts, telling her how to life her life. Though Buffy tries to beat the game, crash it, and even restart it, it becomes clear that this game is not something she can simply “shut off” or beat without the text parser’s help.

While the text parser tries to give Buffy advice on how “to win the game,” Buffy decides to pursue her own game-plan: start over, make new friends, and win her long-time crush Tristan’s heart. But even when Buffy gets the guy of her dreams, the game doesn’t stop. In fact, it gets worse than she could’ve ever imagined: her crumbling group of friends fall apart, her roommate turns against her, and Buffy finds herself trying to survive in a game built off her greatest nightmares.

***

Congratulations on your debut, Meg! Let’s dive into the interview.

  1. I love quest stories with female leads. How does Post-High School Reality Quest follow and/or break with the traditional quest narrative?

You could say Buffy’s quest is for Tristan, but there’s nothing epic about it. She’s not going to any dramatic lengths to get him, despite how much she might want him. What might be more accurate is to say that Buffy’s quest is to survive, to return to normalcy. When I think of quest narratives, I think of journeys and characters that actively travel to get what they want. Buffy isn’t “setting out” on a quest. In fact, her desire is antithetical to “setting out”—if it was up to her, she’d be “setting in,” remaining in the comfort of her patterns. But instead the world is changing around her, the text parser is calling her to action, and she’s just hanging on for the ride.

It’s interesting that many girl-led quests are about a return to normalcy. There’s Alice, Dorothy, Coraline. But that’s a topic for another day.

  1. It’s clear from your main character’s name (Buffy!) that there are a lot of Easter eggs in PHSRQ for geeks and gamers. Can you tell us about a few of those without revealing any spoilers?

Buffy’s name for her backpack is “inventory,” a shout-out to a vital attribute in pretty much every game ever. There are some beautifully illustrated memes, including a nod to “You don’t say” Nicholas Cage and “I know that feel, bro.” Merrill’s house has the address number 404, as if it doesn’t exist (a reference to 404 website errors). There’s a love letter written out like code, and a birthday cake written in binary. There are Slave Leia costumes, an NES Super Scope, multiple Pikachu instances, a prized Pokemon Stadium N64 cartridge, and all sorts of other things I’m currently blanking on.

  1. Your book is written in second person. That’s a challenging point-of-view to write from, but fitting for a novel about video games. Would you explain the importance of the “You” voice for non-gamers?

Post-High School Reality Quest is the form of a classic text-adventure game–that is, those old MS-DOS games, before graphics, where the game would narrate what was happening, and you would type in commands to interact with the game (e.g., “You are in a room. There is an axe. Exits are: out.” and to move out of the room, you’d type “out”). By narrating in second person, these games attempted to place the player in the environment as a character in their story. You could say that in text-adventure games, there are two distinct voices: that of the narrator and that of the player. This would be totally different if the games were narrated as “I”—they would make the game and the player one in the same.

Narrating from the “you” in PHSRQ allowed me to create conflict between the text parser and Buffy, to have two different narrators and two different goals. First or third person narration wouldn’t inherently carry this conflict.

  1. You’re a published poet who is debuting as a YA novelist. How was writing fiction was different than putting together a book of poetry? How did being a poet benefit you as you worked on this novel?

This is a great question, and a hard one to answer. I think in short: a book of poems is about (to me at least) different angles on a related experience. There are lots of tendrils, and there’s an emotional rise and fall, but not usually a plot. There’s not necessarily a climax or conclusion, and it’s focusing more on the experience than the end-goal. A novel is about following characters through a narrative of wants and obstacles. Poetry’s structure is a rising line: imagery leading to a realization. A novel’s structure is an arc of obstacles rising to a climax and choice, leading back down to a resolution.

All types of writing are exercises, like going to the gym. Poetry stretches my muscles for using space and words efficiently, using object-oriented language and imagery, and leading to a realization. Fiction stretches my muscles for keeping the action moving and going: of figuring out what my characters want, and what gets in the way of that.

Being a poet helped me focus in on the objects and specificity in Buffy’s experiences in PHSRQ. It gave me a fresh approach to writing a novel, where I was less concerned about what needed to happen or hitting the “outline” of what a novel’s structure is “supposed” to be and instead just enjoying observing what was already there. I feel like my background in poetry made me thrive on the complexity of the characters and situations, and observe instead of imposing my “game plan” of what should happen.

  1. Imagine one of your favorite poets has just written his or her first prose novel for teens. Which poet is it? Why do you think this person would be a great fit for a YA novel? Any guesses as to what the book might be about?

I would LOVE it if Fatimah Asghar would do this. I teach her poem “Pluto Shits on the Universe” in so many of my classes for lots of reasons, but the big one that I love to point out is the language of the experience. She makes Pluto into a real character, with a believable and relatable voice.  Whatever her novel would be about, it would have character and voice and I would without question get sucked into it.

I asked Meg to share a poem in which she explores similar themes to those in PHSRQ.

Shigeru Miyamoto Goes Spelunking

with a line from an interview[1]

By Meg Eden. Previously published in Cartridge Lit. 

When you say you explored caves as a boy,
I think about the abandoned Sears catalogue homes
I grew up with: watching them rot, heavy with secrets.
What I’d give to go in that unreachable place.

Playing Zelda, seeing those doors on-screen
that resided on the other side of a wall—why
are there always so many walls? No matter
how many games I play there are always

impassable places. Disappearing places.
When McKenzie from down the street died
I told my dad I was biking to his house
to explore it & he didn’t stop me. I biked there

but couldn’t go inside: those ripped curtains
in the window, that sign on the back door
with drawing of a gun that read: If you’re here
today they’ll find your body here tomorrow.

I biked back home. If I was born a boy,
would I have gone inside? Or were there caves
in Sonobe that you were afraid of, too?
You say that going back home, someone has blocked

the entrances to your caves. Does that stop you
from going inside? I like to think I’ll go inside
the dilapidated houses I see off the side of the road
but instead I take pictures from my car & try

to rebuild them inside me. It’s not the same
as reaching your hand in a river & realizing
you’ve touched a fish but what else can you do
in this paved and partitioned world?

[1] from Master of Play by Nick Paumgarten (The New Yorker)

Would you like a copy of Post-High School Reality Quest? Enter this giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NPM 2017: 5 Questions for the Verse Novelist, Featuring Holly Thompson

National Poetry Month 2017 has flown by in a blur of words. I’ve asked poet and author Holly Thompson to close out my NPM17 series of interviews with verse novelists. You’ll find links to each interview at the bottom of this post.

Holly has published many books–including a picture book, MG, YA, and new adult novels–but two of my favorite are her verse novels ORCHARDS and THE LANGUAGE INSIDE. We met years ago at an SCBWI conference and connected over poetry (what else?!) As I was working on my own novel-in-verse, Holly read early drafts. I am grateful for her feedback and her willingness to mentor a pre-published author.

Happy National Poetry Month, Holly!

Tell us about your most recent verse novel. What is it about the story and characters that led you to write the book as poetry?

My third and most recent verse novel Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth confronts school bullying in Japan. As with my verse novel Orchards, and sections of The Language Inside, Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth is set in Japan. Bullying, or ijime, is a chronic social problem in Japan. Incidents of bullying and intimidation are on the rise in U.S. schools as well, but in Japanese schools, bullying tends to be a group phenomenon. My children’s experiences as outsiders in Japanese schools and the experiences and struggles of many other intercultural children I have come to know in my years of living in Japan led me to write this story. Main character Jason, a non-Japanese boy attending a Japanese school, has so much bottled up inside him as he copes with bullying—yet he confides to no one. Writing this story in a spare free verse style enabled me to tap into his struggles—and his valiant efforts to overcome his problems.

Does your story spin on one central event and how it impacts the characters in the book? If so, how did you incorporate poetic elements such as metaphor and symbolism to show the echoes of that event through the novel? Would you share an example of this from your book?

In Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth, Jason is an outsider and a year older than his classmates, and when the classroom han groups are changed, Jason finds himself placed with five of the most aggressive members of the class. He knows he will be with seated with this han for many weeks—in homeroom for most classes, at lunch, and during unsupervised school cleaning periods. His friends at school are sympathetic but remain passive bystanders, urging Jason to just go along with the bullies and not make waves. Jason tries to find confidence and balance through his practice of the martial art aikido as aggressions escalate.

The following are two of five “page poems” in an early chapter of Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth called “Centering.”

You can see the correct formatting of the poems on the page in this photo.

_____

at the dojo
you bow to enter
and on the mats
you kneel, you meditate
you hold your one-point center
even when Yamada-sensei
pushes your forehead to test you

you chant, you stretch
you roll
across
the mats
forward
and back
you bow to your opponent
you practice holds and moves
you take your opponent’s energy

and turn it to overcome him
or her

and what matters most
through every move and fall
is you keep firm
you stay in control
you hold your center

_____

in aikido
we practice protecting
we imagine attackers
we use mind and body together
our ki energy
to keep calm
perform our best
so we can dare to face
an enemy of millions

but today I picture real attackers

so while entering and turning
and receiving strikes
I’m thinking of
Shunta

Yuki
Naho
and Mika

I focus hard
make no mistakes
calm and action
as one
_____

Have you ever written a full or partial draft of one of your verse novels in prose (or vice versa), only to decide to switch? How did you go about making that change? What were some of your clues that you needed to rethink the form?

Before setting out to complete a full draft, I always play with scenes in both prose and poetry, and listen to the narrative voice closely to test and confirm that verse is the appropriate form for the novel. One scene of Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth had first existed as a prose short story, but that storytelling mode felt too distant. For a character enduring ongoing harassment in a society like Japan that emphasizes conformity and where the standard survival mechanism is to do anything to blend in and gaman—persevere stoically, I felt that free verse enabled an interiority that was critical in this book. In verse, you can pare the language down to reach the core of an episode, which can make the experience of a scene more visceral. With this interiority, and with pages that don’t overwhelm with details, verse can also enable readers to enter a world they may not know and to experience a situation in a first-hand sort of way.

I see a similarity between the poems in novels-in-verse and dramatic monologues. Each poem in a verse novel has a character communicating his or her emotions and observations. There is often a realization or shift in thinking that happens in both monologues and in a verse novel’s poems. What do you think about the overlap between a speech for the stage and a poem in a verse novel?

In my three verse novels so far, I’ve written in chapter poems that are composed of “page poems” or “sub poems.” These page poems are not titled, and rarely can they stand alone, but they are broken deliberately for page turns that affect the pacing in the novel. As a result, some chapters may resemble dramatic monologues. Or, a series of page poems from a subplot that spans multiple chapters may cumulatively serve as a dramatic monologue. I was pleased to learn that students sometimes perform dramatic interpretations for speech contests using my excerpts from my verse novels.

Most of the middle grade and YA verse novels I have read are contemporary or historical. I’d love to see a fantasy or science fiction novel-in-verse for kids. Do you think the form is flexible enough to stretch into other genres of fiction? Why or why not?

I think any genre of story can be told with poetry. There are so many ways to write poetry, and limitless possibilities for using poetry to propel a narrative, so I think we’ll be seeing many style, structural and genre variations in verse novels in the future. Why not a fantasy novel? Why not sci-fi? Poetry can do anything, and verse novels are a completely malleable form. I look forward to future verse novels!

I agree. With poetry, anything is possible. Thank for visiting, Holly!

Holly Thompson (www.hatbooks.com) is a longtime resident of Japan and author of the verse novels Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth, The Language Inside, and Orchards. She edited Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, and she writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction for children, teens and adults and teaches writing in Japan, the U.S. and internationally.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of  interviews with verse novelists. Thanks to all of the authors who took the time to share insights in their writing.

Here is the full list of posts:

4/3 Jeannine Atkins, STONE MIRRORS: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis (Find the post here.)

4/6 Caroline Starr Rose, BLUE BIRDS (Find the post here.)

4/10 Leza Lowitz, UP FROM THE SEA (Find the post here.)

4/13 Shari Green, MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS (Find the post here.)

4/17 Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu, SOMEWHERE AMONG (Find the post here.)

4/20 Ellie Terry, FORGET ME NOT (Find the post here.)

4/24 Margarita Engle, MORNING STAR HORSE and FOREST WORLD (Find the post here.)

4/25 Tamera Will Wissinger, GONE CAMPING (Find the post here.)

4/27 Debut novelist Amanda Rawson-Hill (Find the post here.)

4/30 Holly Thompson, FALLING INTO THE DRAGON’S MOUTH (Find the post here.)

You can find a list of National Poetry Month blog projects at Jama’s Alphabet Soup. And check out this great list of recommended MG verse novels from educator Cassie Thomas at the blog Teachers Who Read.

NPM 2017: 5 Questions for the Verse Novelist, Featuring Amanda Rawson Hill

It’s the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month. We’re down to the last two author interviews of my NPM17 series on verse novelists.

A quick note first: I’m part of Bookology’s month-long poetry mosaic, which features many of our Poetry Friday friends reading their own poems. You can find that here.

Thanks to JoAnn Early Macken for hosting Poetry Friday this week. You’ll find April and all of this week’s poetry links at Teaching Authors.

I have something and someone different to share with you today:  A verse novelist in the making! Meet Amanda Hill, a debut prose-novelist who just finished polishing up a novel-in-verse with her agent. The working title of that book is THE HOPE OF ELEPHANTS.

Amanda interviewed me about writing verse novels a few months ago. (Read part one of that interview here.) I’m happy to include her in this months verse novelist series.

Tell us about the verse novel you’re working on, Amanda. What is it about the story and characters that led you to write the book as poetry?

The verse novel is an MG/YA crossover about a girl who finds out she has a 50/50 chance of having the same cancer gene that is killing her father.

I knew it was in verse almost from the very beginning, simply because that is how the character started speaking to me before I even wrote anything down. It took me a couple minutes of listening to her words and hearing the rhythm of them before I said, “I think she’s talking in free verse.”

Sure enough. She was. And it’s a good thing, too. Because the idea in the story of something being 50/50 and having two different paths one can possibly take in life is something that I was able to actually illustrate in form using poetry.

Does your story spin on one central event and how it impacts the characters in the book? If so, how did you incorporate poetic elements such as metaphor and symbolism to show the echoes of that event through the novel? Would you share an example of this from your book?

My story spins on this idea of the character wondering, “Am I living or dying?” while simultaneously watching her father die. So, this idea of death and what it means to die is echoed a lot through my book, especially through the last half. Although, I very rarely talk about it outright. I use a lot of symbolism. One poem says death is like finishing a really good book. Another compares terminal illness and death to waiting in an airport and then getting on a plane. The very last poem is left up to the reader as to whether it is another metaphor for dying, or simply something that truly happened, and it’s about crossing a bridge.

Your debut is a prose novel. How was the experience of working on this book different from writing prose fiction? What made you turn to poetry as the backbone of how you tell a story?

Writing a verse novel felt harder to me. First of all, the number of words I could get onto the page in an hour was totally different. When I’m writing prose, I can do 1000 easy. With a verse novel, my max was about 400. After that, I would feel so drained mentally, that I just couldn’t do anymore. It was also different in how the story was told. While there were still scenes, I had to tell them in glimpses. Each poem feels more like telling a story through snapshots. A certain feeling or symbol or focus for each poem all adding up to a greater whole and story. It was hard to train my brain to think in snapshots instead of narration, if that makes sense. It still took several rounds of revision to realize that I didn’t need so many poems for one scene. That I was still trying to narrate some things, instead of just giving a glimpse.

That makes perfect sense. My brain tends to think in those snapshots. Even when I’m writing in prose, it’s scene by scene. The narration, the glue between moments, comes later.

Most of the middle grade and YA verse novels I have read are contemporary or historical. I’d love to see a fantasy or science fiction novel-in-verse for kids. Do you think the form is flexible enough to stretch into other genres of fiction? Why or why not?

That’s a good question! I think it definitely could, but probably with limitations. I don’t know if you could do a real epic or high fantasy that needs a ton of world building because I think that would either bog down the poetry, or not be effectively communicated. But I think a light fantasy or a contemporary fantasy with familiar characters like werewolves, vampires, fairy tale characters, etc. could definitely be done well. So I say, Yes…with limits.

Imagine one of your favorite poets has just written his or her first verse novel for children or teens. Which poet is it? Why do you think this person would be a great fit for a kidlit novel-in-verse? Any guesses as to what the book might be about?

I have lots of favorite poets. But when I think about which one could write a great novel in verse for kids, I’m going to have to go with Maya Angelou. I just think MG lit is all about finding hope and starting to figure out how the world works. I think those themes and ideas are really exemplified in some of her poetry. I can totally see an MG character saying, “I rise, I rise, I rise.” Or, “Nobody, but nobody, can make it out here alone.”

As to what it would be about, I think it would follow in the tradition of Nikki Grimes and Janice N. Harrington. a beautiful, family-centered story with a black main character finding their voice.

I’m excited to read your prose novel, Amanda — and happy to have  you in the verse novelist community too.

Amanda Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming, with a library right out her back gate (which accounts a lot for how she turned out.) She attended Brigham Young University, where she earned her bachelor’s in chemistry. From there, Amanda has lived all over the country with her husband and family. She now resides in central California, where she enjoys homeschooling her children, gardening, working with refugees, and, of course, writing. She is represented by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown and has a debut novel  being published in 2018.

We wrap up my series of National Poetry Month interviews with verse novelists on Sunday. Holly Thompson will be here to talk about her MG verse novel, FALLING INTO THE DRAGON’S MOUTH.

Here is the full list of posts:

4/3 Jeannine Atkins, STONE MIRRORS: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis (Find the post here.)

4/6 Caroline Starr Rose, BLUE BIRDS (Find the post here.)

4/10 Leza Lowitz, UP FROM THE SEA (Find the post here.)

4/13 Shari Green, MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS (Find the post here.)

4/17 Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu, SOMEWHERE AMONG (Find the post here.)

4/20 Ellie Terry, FORGET ME NOT (Find the post here.)

4/24 Margarita Engle, MORNING STAR HORSE and FOREST WORLD (Find the post here.)

4/25 Tamera Will Wissinger, GONE CAMPING (Find the post here.)

4/27 Debut novelist Amanda Rawson-Hill (Find the post here.)

4/30 Holly Thompson, FALLING INTO THE DRAGON’S MOUTH (Find the post here.)

You can find a list of National Poetry Month blog projects at Jama’s Alphabet Soup. And check out this great list of recommended MG verse novels from educator Cassie Thomas at the blog Teachers Who Read.

NPM 2017: 5 Questions (+1) for the Verse Novelist, Featuring Tamera Will Wissinger

It’s the last week of National Poetry Month. I’ve got three more author interviews lined up for us. They’re part of my NPM17 series on verse novelists.

I met Tamera Will Wissinger last year, at the 2016 ALA conference. We were both in the audience–and both of us were totally fangirling–when Marilyn Singer  hosted a wonderful reading by kidlit poets.

I’m a big fan of Tamera’s debut novel-in-verse, Gone Fishing. And I’m thrilled to welcome her to my blog today.

Tell us about the most recent verse novel. What is it about the story and characters that led you to write the book as poetry?

Gone Camping is a companion book to my first verse novel, Gone Fishing. I enjoyed that process of poetry story telling so much that I decided to try again. For me it was trickier writing a follow up than the original. The story line, setting, and characters needed to be familiar but not the same – a delicate balance. The poetry aspect was actually easier than getting the story line just right. Since forms are fixed, it’s a matter of selecting those styles that best help tell the story.

Does your story spin on one central event and how it impacts the characters in the book? If so, how did you incorporate poetic elements such as metaphor and symbolism to show the echoes of that event through the novel? Would you share an example of this from your book?

There are actually two central events – the setting and plotline are built around a camping trip, and there is also an emotional arc of one of the character’s fear of staying overnight in the tent. Incorporating poetry elements seemed like a natural way to echo the fears that Lucy has from early in the story. I like to use repetitions, refrains, and strong rhythm and end rhyme to drive home those fears, and how Lucy overcomes her fears. One example is in a poem called “To Noises in the Night”. In it Lucy talks directly to Spookiness, Shadows, and Strange Noises, which is personification. Since the whole poem is done in this way it’s a poem of address. I also threw in anaphora, the repetition of a phrase, because it echoes a chant from a favorite story from my childhood. (More on that below.)

TO NOISES IN THE NIGHT 

Poem of Address

Spookiness, Shadows, Strange Noises: Beware.
I’m not so little or easy to scare.

Spookiness, Shadows, Strange Noises: Behave.
I am ferocious: I’m Lucy the Brave.

My shield is this pillow, my sword – this flashlight.
Spookiness, Shadows, Strange Noises: GOODNIGHT.

Illustrations by Matthew Cordell.

 

Have you ever written a full or partial draft of one of your verse novels in prose (or vice versa), only to decide to switch? How did you go about making that change? What were some of your clues that you needed to rethink the form?

Yes. I have a full prose novel that I’m rewriting as a verse novel. The topic is sort of heavy for young readers and the prose also felt heavy, so I’m hoping that the switch will give it balance. It’s more free verse than I usually use, so it’s very liberating to give it a try.

I see a similarity between the poems in novels-in-verse and dramatic monologues. Each poem in a verse novel has a character communicating his or her emotions and observations. There is often a realization or shift in thinking that happens in both monologues and in a verse novel’s poems. What do you think about the overlap between a speech for the stage and a poem in a verse novel?

It’s interesting and not something I had thought of before, but I like it and think it makes sense. I have tended to think about musical theater – a sister to dramatic monologues – for my inspiration. If you look at the sample poem above, there is a link to a certain L. Frank Baum-based musical film chant from the 1930s involving Lions and Tigers and…(oh my!)

Most of the middle grade and YA verse novels I have read are contemporary or historical. I’d love to see a fantasy or science fiction novel-in-verse for kids. Do you think the form is flexible enough to stretch into other genres of fiction? Why or why not?

Yes! I would love to see the form expand to any genre that authors and readers may be interested in writing and reading. It’s probably not that simple, though. Since prose is the standard storytelling format and other forms such as poetry or epistolary add a literary constraint beyond sentences, paragraphs and chapters, it’s not something that everyone is interested in writing. Also, fantasy and sci-fi have the world building aspect which is another constraint that is more integral to the story for those particular genres, than a format choice. If someone does take on all those challenges, though, I will eagerly read it and I bet there are many others who will, too.

Imagine one of your favorite poets has just written his or her first verse novel for children or teens. Which poet is it? Why do you think this person would be a great fit for a kidlit novel-in-verse? Any guesses as to what the book might be about?

Ooh, this is fun! I would choose Samuel Taylor Coleridge because he has a strong grasp of poetic storytelling and he also understands poetic forms: “What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole, / It’s body brevity, and wit its soul.” I would guess it might be a ballad of some sort, maybe about something or someone at sea, with a boat, maybe fish…

Thank you for including me in your National Poetry Month verse novelist feature, Laura. What fun!

Thank you, Tamera. It was fun to catch up with you!

Tamera Will Wissinger writes poetry and stories for children. She earned her B.A. degree in English from Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls, and her M.F.A. degree in Writing from Hamline University. She is the author of GONE FISHING: A Novel in Verse, GONE CAMPING: A Novel in Verse, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers) THIS OLD BAND and THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO GOBBLED A SKINK (Sky Pony Press).

My series of National Poetry Month interviews with verse novelists continues on Thursday with Amanda Rawson-Hill, who will tell us about her debut verse novel!

Here is the full list of posts:

4/3 Jeannine Atkins, STONE MIRRORS: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis (Find the post here.)

4/6 Caroline Starr Rose, BLUE BIRDS (Find the post here.)

4/10 Leza Lowitz, UP FROM THE SEA (Find the post here.)

4/13 Shari Green, MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS (Find the post here.)

4/17 Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu, SOMEWHERE AMONG (Find the post here.)

4/20 Ellie Terry, FORGET ME NOT (Find the post here.)

4/24 Margarita Engle, MORNING STAR HORSE and FOREST WORLD (Find the post here.)

4/25 Tamera Will Wissinger, GONE CAMPING (Find the post here.)

4/27 Debut novelist Amanda Rawson-Hill (Find the post here.)

4/30 Holly Thompson, FALLING INTO THE DRAGON’S MOUTH (Find the post here.)

You can find a list of National Poetry Month blog projects at Jama’s Alphabet Soup. And check out this great list of recommended MG verse novels from educator Cassie Thomas at the blog Teachers Who Read.

NPM 2017: 5 Questions for the Verse Novelist, Featuring Margarita Engle

It’s the last week of National Poetry Month. I’ve got four great author interviews lined up for us. They’re part of my NPM17 series on verse novelists.

The community of authors who write novels-in-verse for children and teens is a small, supportive one. One of the widely published verse novelists who gives tireless support to newer authors is Margarita Engle.

I’ve been a fan of Margarita’s historical verse novels for many years and we’ve done several interviews together. (We talked about SILVER PEOPLE at my old blog.) I was thrilled when Margarita wrote a blurb for my own debut verse novel.

Welcome, Margarita.

Tell us about your verse novels publishing in 2017. What is it about the stories and characters that led you to write these books as poetry?

My newest verse novel is Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero (HBE Publishers), which will soon be followed by Forest World (Atheneum).  Both are middle grade. The first is historical magical realism, while the second takes place in Cuba in 2015, a time of change. I wrote both in verse simply because poetry makes me happy.  For years, I have struggled to pinpoint the source of my preference for verse novels, and in the end, I realized that it is not a complicated decision.  I choose poetry for the sheer beauty and comfort of rhythmic language. Even when I write about a sad topic, I can feel happy if the vessel for my sorrow is verse.

Why do you think verse pairs so well with historical narratives?

I realized long ago that poetry allows me to distill complex historical situations down to their emotional essence. What did it feel like to live in a particular time and place? Most of my verse novels have been historical, and most have been about Cuba, but Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero actually follows a young refugee girl from the island to an unusual school in San Diego, California, where Spanish American War orphans became known as the Raja Yoga Cuban Kids. By using first person and present tense, I hope to offer young readers a sort of time travel experience, eliminating the distance found in academic history books.

Morning Star Horse is published by an innovative small press which has made it available in a choice of English, Spanish, or bilingual editions.

Forest World is an environmental-themed verse novel about the reunion of estranged siblings in rural Cuba, during the summer of 2015.  The boy grew up in Miami, and doesn’t even know he has a sister. Once they get to know each other, they end up having adventures, in an effort to save endangered species.

Forest World will initially be published in English in August, 2017, and will become available in Spanish the following year.

Have you ever written one of your verse novels in prose, only decide to switch?

For ten years, I struggled to write a traditional adult prose version of my first children’s verse novel, The Poet Slave of Cuba.  The clue that I needed to rethink the form came in the form of a knock on the head from my subject, Juan Francisco Manzano, who reached down from heaven to remind me that he was a poet, and needed his story told in poetry.  The clue that I needed to write about him for children instead of adults was the simple fact that only the first half of his autobiographical notes survived the era’s censorship.  In order to have his first person narrative as my primary source, I had to focus on his childhood and youth.

Many of your verse novels are written in more than one voice. How do you develop the vocabulary and the rhythm for each character? What methods did you use to differentiate the characters’ voices?

I often use many voices in young adult novels, but for middle grade ones I tend to limit the text to one or two voices.

Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero alternates between the free verse voice of a girl and the prose poem voice of a magical horse.

Forest World alternates between the free verse voices of two siblings. Because one grew up in the U.S. and the other in Cuba, their experiences are extremely different. The life style of the boy will be more familiar to American readers.  His sister has grown up without WiFi, a cell phone, dependable transportation, electricity, or adequate food rations, but she knows a lot more about nature, wilderness, agriculture, and art.

Most of the middle grade and YA verse novels I have read are contemporary or historical. I’d love to see a fantasy or science fiction novel-in-verse for kids. Do you think the form is flexible enough to stretch into other genres of fiction? 

Writing Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero was a wonderful experience that allowed me to return to my magical realistic Latin American roots.  When I was writing for adults in the 1990s, magic realism was at the heart of every story.  Of course, in Spanish it’s a much more beautiful term, lo real maravilloso, marvelous reality.  Gabriel García Márquez described it as Caribbean reality, because strange things happen during the daily lives of people who live in places that seem to be lost in time, with a natural blend of modern life, traditions, superstitions, and legends.

In Forest World, only the Cuban sister understands magical realism, and uses it in her art.  Her American brother has grown up with so many technological distractions that his view of the term magic would lean toward the dragons and trolls of video games, rather than the marvelous aspects of culture and nature.

Thanks for joining my National Poetry Month project, Margarita! 

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of verse novels such as The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN USA Award winner.  Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, Golden Kite Award, Walter Dean Myers Honor, and Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, among others.  Margarita’s books have received multiple Pura Belpré, Américas, International Latino, and Jane Addams Awards and Honors, the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and an International Reading Association Award.  Her picture book, Drum Dream Girl, received the Charlotte Zolotow Award.

Margarita’s 2017 verse novels are Forest World and Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero.  Her 2017 picture books are Bravo!, All the Way to Havana, and Miguel’s Brave Knight.  She lives in central California, where she enjoys helping her husband train his wilderness search and rescue dog. You can find her at www.margaritaengle.com

My series of National Poetry Month interviews with verse novelists continues tomorrow with Tamera Will Wissinger.  

Here is the full list of posts:

4/3 Jeannine Atkins, STONE MIRRORS: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis (Find the post here.)

4/6 Caroline Starr Rose, BLUE BIRDS (Find the post here.)

4/10 Leza Lowitz, UP FROM THE SEA (Find the post here.)

4/13 Shari Green, MACY McMILLAN AND THE RAINBOW GODDESS (Find the post here.)

4/17 Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu, SOMEWHERE AMONG (Find the post here.)

4/20 Ellie Terry, FORGET ME NOT (Find the post here.)

4/24 Margarita Engle, MORNING STAR HORSE and FOREST WORLD (Find the post here.)

4/25 Tamera Will Wissinger, GONE CAMPING (Find the post here.)

4/27 Debut novelist Amanda Rawson-Hill (Find the post here.)

4/30 Holly Thompson, FALLING INTO THE DRAGON’S MOUTH (Find the post here.)

You can find a list of National Poetry Month blog projects at Jama’s Alphabet Soup. And check out this great list of recommended MG verse novels from educator Cassie Thomas at the blog Teachers Who Read.