Category Archives: Poetry

THE POET X LAUNCHES (part 2)

The Poet X

Oh friends! How I have been looking forward to this day! We have a book launch to celebrate. Stop what you are doing right now. I’ve got an interview for you to read and book that must be added to your collection. Elizabeth Acevedo’s, THE POET X, is waiting at a bookstore near you. And boy, do we need this book. Acevedo’s novel-in-verse tackles the heart of finding your voice, your power, your place in this world, while challenging preconceived notions, ideas, beliefs . . .  and I am just scratching the surface in this summary. THE POET X is entering this world while teens across the country (and beyond) are finding their own voices and using that powerful energy for change. What timing.

 

Here’s how Harper Collins sums up THE POET X.

 Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.”

 THE POET X received a star review from Kirkus, saying “It’s about how the power that we find in other peoples’ stories is a power we can claim for ourselves. That we, ourselves, can become the storytellers.

And it’s about how acknowledging and expressing hard personal truths—truths rooted in pain, fury, exhaustion—can lead us to hope and joy and wonder and optimism.”download

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Elizabeth about her book, about this rising voice, the importance of girls of color seeing their own stories on bookshelves. Friends, grab your coffee, you are going to want to savor every word of what Elizabeth has to say. And then RUN to the bookstore and grab a copy of her debut novel-in-verse. This book will move you.

Now, without further adieu, my special conversation with Elizabeth Acevedo, author, slam poet, and woman extraordinaire.

 

ENJOY!

Anna Crowley Redding

 Anna –  One of the powerful things that struck me about THE POET X is your main character, Xiomara Batista, and her struggle to find her voice and thus, her own path, her own journey, her own place in this world. I started thinking about your readers and how that core truth might move them. Do you think about that, too? What do you hope they take from your pages and from Xiomara’s words?

Elizabeth – I definitely want my readers to feel that that their voice matters and that their unique story is important. It’s easy to feel small in this world, and a reminder that you can be your own narrator, and hero, is definitely a theme I hope comes through.

Anna –  Your book is hitting the shelves at a time when young people, teenagers in particular, are reacting to powerful events in our country. They, too, are finding their voice and learning the incredible value it has. What would you say to these teens?

Elizabeth – “Go on! Y’all have the answers.” I really am inspired by the young people I’ve seen in Florida, and the teens I saw protesting in Baltimore and Ferguson before them, and the teens I saw at the Women’s March. Time and again I’m reminded that it’s young people who have led most major movements in this country and it will be young people who will leads us, this country, this world, towards a more empathetic and fuller future.

Anna – Ibi Zoboi, author of American Street, had this to say about THE POET X: “Acevedo has amplified the voices of girls en el barrio who are equal parts goddess, saint, warrior, and hero.” Tell me what it’s like to read that sentence and to add your powerful book to the shelves of young girls and girls of color in particular?

Elizabeth – I loved reading that sentence by Ibi. I think she gets the world in a different level than many readers, firstly because we are friends, but also because we have similar ideas about getting girls of color from the hood into books and showing their full complexity. We both understand that young women from urban areas contain multitudes beyond how they’ve been represented in literature to date. I hope to continuing writing stories that celebrate those many sides.

Anna –  Is there hope that the world is actually changing? We have #metoo, #ownvoices, #blacklivesmatter, #neveragain and . . . on the movie/entertainment front, we have The Black Panther! Is there hope for more diverse books in publishing for children and young adults? And more voices, period. A more authentic view and experience of the actual diverse world we live in?

Elizabeth – I think the publishing industry is beginning to realize that stories from marginalized backgrounds are necessary for the future readers of our country. I think they are responding to the demand that those stories be published, I just hope that they also remember this is not a trend; it’s an ongoing effort to equalize publishing and reflect the many cultural experiences that make up this nation.

Anna –  What would you say to young writers, who are lucky enough to get a copy of your book!

Elizabeth – I hope you enjoy!

Anna – Lastly, if you could hop a plane right now, and sit next to yourself as a junior in English lit class . . . what would you whisper into the ear of your younger self?

Elizabeth – There is no blueprint. There is no one path. No one can tell you how to be the woman you want to became. You must make her up. And you are brilliant and bold enough to do so.


Emu’s Debuts author Anna Crowley Redding‘s GOOGLE IT: A History of Google comes out August 2018 from Feiwel & Friends.

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THE POET X LAUNCHES (part 1)

The Poet X

All the members of Emu’s Debuts are privileged today to help Elizabeth Acevedo celebrate the launch of her gorgeous debut, The Poet X from Harper Teen.  Read on to learn more about this book’s path to publication and the ways the story is bound to touch and enrich readers everywhere.


The Poet X Belongs On the Shelf in Every School – Ann Braden

Last night I had the privilege of finishing The Poet X. I sat there for a long time, holding all of its amazingness inside me and trying not to burst. It was so real, and it explored such timely issues in such a powerful way that it exposed them for all to see – and to feel.

Take this stanza from page 126:

“She knew since she was little,
the world would not sing her triumphs,
but she took all of the stereotypes
and put them in a chokehold
until they breathed out the truth.”

And what filled me up to the point of bursting was thinking about what this book could mean for our students who not only need to see themselves in books, but who need to be inspired to make their voices heard. I used to be a classroom teacher, and my heart is full of all the students who need this book. Our job is to get it into their hands.

This year’s the NCTE has chosen the powerful theme of “Raising Students Voice: Speaking Out for Equity and Justice.” As Franki Sibberson, the program chair of the 2018 annual convention, reminds us: “Our students’ voices matter. Their voices matter in our schools, our communities, and beyond. As teachers, we want our students to discover their own voices.… Our students deserve stories that impact who they are and who they can become.”

The Poet X is a book that needs to on the shelf in every school. It will show students that their voices matter, and it will show them how their own lives can change when they speak out.

As the main character Xiomara says:

“If my body was a Country Club soda bottle,
it’s one that has been shaken and dropped
and at any moment it’s gonna pop open
and surprise the whole damn world.”


ARCs and Electricity – Kat Shepherd

I have been eagerly awaiting the book birthday of Elizabeth Acevedo’s THE POET X for almost a year now, so I felt doubly lucky that not only did I get a sneak peek of an ARC of the book, I also got a chance to attend my first even poetry slam this past weekend, where Elizabeth was the featured performer.

 

For those who don’t know, ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy. These are early, unproofed copies of an author’s book that are sent out to librarians, teachers, and other reviewers to help build buzz around a book before it’s released. If you’ve ever followed groups like #bookvoyage or #bookexpedition on Twitter, you’re probably used to seeing kidlit folks excitedly tweeting about the latest ARCs making their way to mailboxes across the country. Having the chance for an early read already feels incredibly special, and THE POET X was everything I hoped for and more.

 

Xiomara, or X, is entering high school and working to make sense of the conflicting worlds that try to define her: childhood and adulthood, Dominican and American, skepticism and faith, self-love and shame. Poetry is what allows her to fit the pieces of herself together and share her voice with the world. So it was fitting that I got to get a glimpse into Xiomara’s real-life world just as I was reading her story.

Lightning Strike

Elizabeth Acevedo had been invited as the featured poet at a Macalester College poetry slam in St. Paul last Saturday. I already knew she was a phenomenal poet and speaker, but I had never seen her perform in person before. Have you ever felt that pull in your belly when you see someone do something that they were just absolutely born to do? That’s what it felt like seeing Elizabeth. She read poems, she told stories, she made goofy little asides, and she had us hanging on her every word. She was absolutely electrifying.

And the slam itself: undiluted and intense, with poets sharing their most vulnerable selves. Audience participation isn’t just encouraged; it’s absolutely vital. There are snaps, claps, hoots and hollers, peppered with the occasional hiss or cursing of the judges. It is organized chaos punctuated by moments of the sublime.There are poems with lines that cut into the deepest part of you and leave you struggling for breath. It’s the same rawness and urgency of emotion that is captured so beautifully in Acevedo’s novel.

 

THE POET X reminds of that art is a lifeline, and it’s also a heartline that connects us to one another. It allows us to be our most vulnerable and urgent selves, and still have faith that we will be loved.


The Team Behind the Launch  – Christina Uss

The Poet X began its transformation from manuscript to ARC to full-fledged launching hardcover book when Elizabeth Acevedo signed with her agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, who then connected her with the book’s editor, Rosemary Brosnan at Harper Teen. Pre-published writers often agonize over how they’ll find an agent or editor, wondering if there’s some magical, mystical way to get noticed. In Elizabeth’s case, all the magic she needed was right there in her words. Her writing spoke so strongly to these two, they both knew they simply had to work with her on this book.open-a-book

Ammi-Joan Paquette explained how her part in the journey began:

“Liz and I had been in touch a few years before, and at that time she had sent me sample pages of another work she had in progress. Although that was a bit earlier in her writing journey, she definitely had the magic already! We kept in correspondence, and when she eventually sent me the manuscript for POET X, I was hooked. I knew this was what I had been waiting for. Pure magic.” The main character, Xiomara, particularly drew Paquette in: “Her voice rings through so clearly and vividly. From the earliest lines she is a living, breathing, multi-dimensional character, and her personality is exquisitely captured as she develops and grows across the course of the story.”

            Paquette submitted Xiomara’s story to editors she thought might make a good match, and The Poet X ended up selling at auction – an enviable situation when multiple editors/publishing houses all want to be the one to publish a work. “When that happens, the various editors each make their case for why they would provide the best home for the work. That’s what happened with POET X—it’s very exciting, but also a bit nerve-wracking, as you might imagine, for the author to suddenly be in a position to have to choose between such an array of excellent options. In this case, Rosemary Brosnan at Harper Teen was inarguably the top choice for POET X, and I can’t imagine a better home for Liz and Xiomara anywhere!

Rosemary Brosnan let Emu’s  Debuts know she agrees:

Everything about THE POET X drew me in and made me want to acquire it! The voice, the wonderful poetry, the story—everything about this book screamed to me, ‘You must publish!’ I was also quite taken with the Afro-Dominican main character, Xiomara, as she is someone we have not seen a great deal in YA literature. And Liz herself is a force; I watched videos of her performances after I read the manuscript, and I was completely bowled over. (See links below to catch your own glimpse of Elizabeth’s power onstage.)

        Like Paquette, Brosnan found Xiomara to be a unique character. “Some of the issues…in the story have been dealt with by other authors, but Xiomara is a truly memorable character, with her Dominican heritage, her love of poetry, her ultra-religious mother against whom she rebels.” She hopes all the book’s readers will leave its pages knowing “that poetry does not have to be obscure or written by dead white males! That poetry is fun!”


Savoring Poetry – Please Join the Challenge – Hayley Barrett

The Poet X is stunningly beautiful, inside and out.

I tried to read it—to sit quietly and read it—but I couldn’t. My voice wouldn’t cooperate. My ears wouldn’t cooperate. I should have expected as much. I’m predominantly an auditory learner, and my voice is sometimes the best tool I have to explore an idea. As I read The Poet X, my lips began to move. Eventually, I realized I was whispering and began to read aloud. Sweet, poetic relief!

To experience poetry silently, to only ever experience it like that, is to do it a disservice. Poetry does not care to be silenced or made to be less that all it truly is. Poems deserve to be read quietly, to be read out loud, to be shared with many voices. The Poet X certainly deserves that.

Throughout my education—which included an undergrad English major—only one teacher required me to memorize and recite poetry. I often chose the work of my favorite poet, Maxine Kumin. When I recited Kumin in class, I heard her voice and, perhaps as importantly, I heard my own. Savoring her words broadened my poetic palate and whetted my appetite for language. The experience nourished and strengthened me.

There are many videos of author Elizabeth AcevedoElizabeth Acevedo on her website and YouTube, including spoken word, two TEDx talks, and others. I encourage you to seek them out. In a recent one, she introduces The Poet X and talks about how she hopes her readers “hear a voice they’ve never heard.” If they read The Poet X aloud, one of the voices readers hear will be their own. I believe this experience will nourish and strengthen them. They may even discover their own poetic voice. I hope so.

As we celebrate her launch of The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo challenges each of us to identify a female poet, choose one of her poems, and commit it to memory. I didn’t retain the Kumin poems I memorized for Professor Briggs, but I can reclaim them. I accept the challenge.


The rest of the Emus plan to do the same! Will you accept the challenge with us? Please comment below and share the poems and female poets who help you hear a voice you’ve never heard.



The Emu’s Debuts nest is honored to count Elizabeth Acevedo as one of our own! Contributors to this Emu’s Debuts post include middle-grade authors debuting in 2018 Ann Braden , Christina Uss, and Kat Shepherd, and picture book author Hayley Barrett, debuting in 2019.


 

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Filed under Agents, ARCs, Launch, Poetry, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized, Voice