Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Q&A with Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo, photo by Bethany Thomas
Elizabeth Acevedo is the author of the new young adult novel in verse The Poet X. Her other work includes the poetry collection Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Poet X and for your character Xiomara? 

A: When I was a teenager, I participated in youth poetry slams and I loved how freeing it felt to write poems and then perform them on stage. My weekly poetry club meetings were such an empowering space and I wanted to capture some of that on these pages.

Xiomara is a very different kind of poet and young person than I was, but I came up with her by thinking of what it means for a young girl of color, who is struggling with silence, to have to learn how to speak up in every aspect of her life.

Q: What impact has poetry had on your own life, and what do you hope readers take away from the story? 

A: I’ve been a poet for many years and have been lucky enough to bring poetry to different classrooms and universities throughout the country. I hope readers take away a message of empathy and love and the power of language to encourage both. 

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way? 

A: I always knew where the novel was going in terms of the final scenes, but not how I would get there. So, the destination was always clear but the GPS route was a turn-by-turn decision.

In general, I don’t outline even if I do have a general sense of where the story needs to go. This kind of writing allowed for a lot of surprising moments, which is one of the things I look forward to when I write: the moments of creative delight at solving a problem of my own making. 

Q: Have you been influenced by any particular poets? 

A: One of my favorite poets is Lucille Clifton; her spare but poignant language has been a huge influence. A contemporary poet I am a big fan of is Natalie Diaz. Her work was a huge inspiration for my own first poetry manuscript.

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: My second novel! It’s in prose and we are aiming to release it in 2019. I can’t wait for folks to dig into this new story! 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I have more information about my writing and upcoming events and projects on my website.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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