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!