Last week I had the pleasure of meeting one of my very favorite authors, Ellen Hopkins through the UCA writing department. She was such a pleasure to talk to and was incredibly sweet. I learned several things from meeting with her that I will keep with me. One thing I learned from her was how important it is to connect with and understand your readership. Several times throughout discussion and Q&A with her, the topic of how many diverse issues she tackles in her books and it was asked of her how she knows so much about so much. Her response was always the same: her readers. Not only does she have an incredible grasp on what it’s like to be a teenager, she actually asks teenagers for their experiences and ideas. She genuinely cares about her readers and that was obvious from the moment I met her.
Another thing I learned from her was how you can use your own experiences in your writing. Although I was already pretty familiar with this idea before meeting Ellen, she further drove this idea home. Her first YA novel, Crank, was entirely based on her own experiences with her daughter. Of course she changed things around a bit, but she used her life to write a powerful story. She also didn’t write her book to get famous; she wrote it for herself. She used writing to deal with life and it came out as a very real and vivid story that people noticed and wanted more of.
Finally, I learned that lyric and poetry can be used outside of their typical forms. The way that Ellen writes her books is beautiful and fairly unique in that the story is composed of poems and interesting forms of writing. This helps to make the story feel crazed and sporadic which is often exactly how her characters are feeling, too.
Happy writing and see you next week!
Lucky you! You stumbled upon my blog (or you’re my professor/classmates in which case you have to be here)!
This week in class we’ve been reading Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole (Link) which is a great read and I would recommend to anyone who is interested in entering into this field. What I found most helpful in the reading this week was learning specifically what cliches to avoid. I think we come across these common themes and ideas so much that even though we should recognize them as being cliches, it becomes difficult to think past them and be unique. We’ve all read the story that starts with the character waking up about 1,000 times, yet we write our own versions of this exact story. Having all these cliches listed has really been helpful in reminding me what to stay away from as well as forcing me to come up with my own unique ideas.
Because I’ve enjoyed reading Mary Kole’s book so much I decided to take a look at her blog as well (Link). Her most recent post (Link) deals with stating simple concepts or descriptions in complex ways. While sometimes this is fascinating, Kole states that this becomes dull and confusing very quickly when used excessively. In my own writing I sometimes find myself trying to dig deep and find complex language and interesting ways to say things when sometimes it is better to simply state them outright. With popular kidlit writers like John Green who tend to write with a strong and beautiful voice, I often feel inferior (which of course I am) and attempt to bridge this gap by over-complicating my language. This post was a great reminder to avoid this unnecessary tactic and stick to writing complexity into characters and plot rather than descriptions that should be simple.
Finally, this week in my own writing I have been reminded of the way that personal experience can help and hurt writing. Of course, the easiest thing to write is often personal experience and in some cases this can be a great thing. By using our own experiences, we weave in an element of realness and emotion. However, this can become dull and monotonous when we get stuck writing the same stories or themes over and over again. My goal this week is to take my own experiences and use them as a springboard for stories, rather than trying to write down everything that has happened to me word for word.
Happy writing and see you next week!