|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