Christine Heppermann: ‘Read with inflection and emotion but not affectation.’

By Maryann Yin Comment

Christine HeppermannHappy National Poetry Month! All throughout April, we spoke with poets about working in this digital age. To end our month-long celebration, we interviewed writer Christine Heppermann.

Heppermann (pictured, via) worked as a columnist and reviewer for The Horn Book from 1996 until 2013. In addition to poetry, she also writes nonfiction and fiction for young readers. Check out the highlights from our interview below…

Q: How did you publish your first book of poetry?
A: By ignoring the word on the street that says poetry for teens doesn’t sell and that, if you want it to sell, it has to be in the form of a verse novel. I had a group of poems that I believed strongly should be published as a thematic collection, not turned into a verse novel. Happily, I found an agent, Tina Wexler, who agreed with me, and Tina found an editor, Martha Mihalick at Greenwillow, who agreed with both of us. Thus, Poisoned Apples was born.

Q: Has the internet changed the way you interact withreaders?
A: I didn’t have readers before the internet, at least not readers for my poems. I was a book reviewer and columnist back in those dark ages, after which it became much easier for people to tell me whether they liked or hated what I had to say. So they told me.

Q: Any tips for reading poetry out loud?
A: No poetry voice! Read with inflection and emotion but not affectation. Listen to Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac; he’ll show you how it’s done.

Q: What advice can you share for aspiring poets?
A: There will come a point–probably multiple points–when you think you aren’t any good and should give up. Don’t listen to yourself.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: Poisoned Apples comes out this fall, and I’m looking forward to doing readings to promote it. My friend Ron Koertge and I have been writing a chapter book series for young readers, Backyard Witch. The first installment of that will be published (by Greenwillow) in 2015. I’m also working on a collection of poems inspired by my Catholic upbringing. This one will probably turn into a verse novel–or not.