Ellen Hopkins

Interviewed by Meagan Black

Ellen Hopkins is a life-long writer who exploded onto the New York Times’ bestseller list in 2004 with Crank, a novel written in free verse that was loosely based on her daughter’s real struggles with “the monster”—crystal meth. Verse novels and “difficult” subjects have become her trademark over the past fifteen years; since Crank, she has published twelve more YA novels in verse, tackling topics from suicide to sex trafficking to eating disorders, and three adult novels, two of which are also in verse.

Ellen lives on 1.25 acres of Nevada hills overlooking Washoe Lake, on her website, and—for about a hundred days each year—on the road. She is also currently raising three grandchildren under twelve, but was kind enough to make time for this interview over email.

Though your big splash was Crank, you actually published over 20 nonfiction books for children before your first novel in verse (and YA bestseller) came out, and before that you were a freelance journalist. How did you make the move from writing articles to writing books? And what was it like when your very first book came out?

Some of the articles I wrote as a freelancer required heavy research, and through that, the subject matter drew me to write about it deeper. I’ve always loved flight, so writing about air racing made me think about the history of flight through man’s love of competition. Who was first into the sky? Who was the first woman into the sky? How did they fly? (Kites and balloons, in case you’re interested.)

First book to now, every time I see a cover with my name on it, there’s an immense sense of satisfaction.

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André Picard

Globe and Mail business journalist Andre Picard poses in the Montreal offices on September 6, 2012. For Promotions (Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail)

Interviewed by Vanessa Hrvatin

André Picard is a health reporter and columnist at the Globe and Mail where he has worked for 30 years. Over this time, he has established himself as a leader in the field of health journalism, being named Canada’s first “public health hero” by the Canadian Public Health Association. He has won many prestigious awards, including a National Newspaper Award—Canada’s top journalism prize—for column writing. Mr. Picard has also written several non-fiction books, his most recent Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada set to hit bookstores in April.

When I spoke to Mr. Picard, he was in Quebec City covering the recent mosque attack. I managed to catch him at a quiet moment where he filled me on his long-standing career as a health reporter.

Was being a journalist always what you wanted to do?

No, not at all. I actually studied accounting. I only got involved in my student newspaper because I’m a big music fan, so I ended up being a record reviewer—that’s how my stellar career began. But the funny thing is because I was a business student I sort of got drawn further and further into the paper because student newspapers always have money problems. So I got drawn in in an odd fashion and never became an accountant.

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Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

bio-photoInterviewed by Matthew Kok.

It was a big night for Emerson Poetry Project—Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib was performing. As a first-year student at Emerson college, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this big important writer, or what to expect from the night of poetry ahead, or what to expect from a poem.

He walked up to the mic, and for the rest of the night we were traveling. That’s how I ended up being pulled into Hanif’s work. He took the music in our lives, the images of them—a dorm bunk, the sky from an airplane seat—and proved their relationship, its intimacy. He brought us his own stories, and they became ours.

At the end of the night, Hanif walked to the middle of the crowd. As we huddled around him, intimate, shoulder-to-shoulder, his life opened itself up to us. Through his writing and slam poetry, Hanif’s life and influence has continued to open itself up to me. As Bobby Crawford, then-MC of the Emerson Poetry Project said about Hanif four years ago, “No one is doing it like him right now.”

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s life began in Columbus, Ohio. You can read his poetry collection, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, from Button Poetry / Exploding Pinecone Press. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, other journals. His essays and music criticism has been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, and the New York Times. He has been nominated for the Pushcart prize, and his poem “Hestia” won the 2014 Capital University poetry prize. He is a Callaloo Creative Writing Fellow, an interviewer at Union Station Magazine, and a poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine. He is a member of the poetry collective Echo Hotel with poet/essayist Eve Ewing. Additionally, he is a columnist at MTV News, where he writes about music, and fights to get Room Raiders back on the air. He talked to me about exploring genre, branching out of slam, bridge-building, and survival strategies in dark times.

I think I remember you saying you got started writing a little bit later in life?

I started writing poems around 2012. I had been writing music criticism freelance for a while, since like 2009, and I kind of got a little tired of it and wanted to branch out into other things. Poetry was the natural leap for me because I was so interested in analyzing lyrics, picking through language on a larger, more artistic scale. So, poetry kind of afforded a really good opportunity to just expand on that.

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