Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nikki Grimes: Poet Interview

Tai Chi MorningTalkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth ColemanBronx MasqueradeDanitra Brown Leaves TownSteppin' Out with Grandma MacA Pocketful of PoemsMy Man BlueShoe MagicWhen Daddy Prays

and more titles! Visit Nikki's fabulous website at:
Nikki Grimes is an award-winning writer and poet whose words inspire so many. She's brave and compelling in her writing and I count myself lucky to call her a friend! Her books are destined to be classics in children's literature.

Nikki Grimes

1. If you had to choose between writing novels or poetry from now on- which would you choose? Why?

That's an impossible question.  I could never give up poetry because that's my first love.  However, I'm able to explore storylines and characters in a novel in a way that I can't through poetry, so I will always find ways to do both.

 2. Your characters have such strong personalities. Do they reveal themselves as you write    about them or do you do a lot of pre-writing to figure them out first?

I am a character-driven writer, and most of my work begins with a character sketch.  I draw from that sketch as I develop my story, adding nuances as I go along.

 3.  All of your poems- whether free verse or rhyme-have a terrific sense of rhythm. How do you accomplish that? Do you think music has influenced that quality of your writing too?

I definitely credit my musical ear for the sense of rhythm in my poetry.  My father was a musician and, so I have that in me. Apart from my writing, I've explored music quite a bit, once even playing the violin, as my father did, though my real instrument is my voice.  When I'm writing poetry, I rely heavily on my ear for pitch, for flow, for rhythm.  For me, poetry is the place where words and music meet.

4.  Which is harder for you: the blank page or revision?

 Revision.  I am so nit-picky!  I'll rewrite something  twenty times, then go back and rewrite it again.  I make my editors crazy.  They're trying to drag my manuscript off to the printer, and I've still got my grubby fingers on it, screaming, "Wait!  Wait!  There's just one more thing!"  It's maddening.  But I do know when to stop: when I'm making changes, but not improvements.


 5. I know you have a very special book coming out this year titled WHAT IS GOODBYE?
Can you tell us a little bit about it?

For years, I've wanted to write a book for children tackling the subject of grief.  No, not the subject, per se, but the experience.  Most juvenile books in the market on this subject are about a child losing a pet, or losing a grandparent.  But, these days especially, many children are losing parents to Aids and cancer, and losing their contemporaries, some through violence.  Yet, few seem to know how to help these children process their grief. 

Generally, when there is a death in the family, the parents are so caught up in their own maelstrom of emotions, that the child is left to his/her own devices.  The common notion seems to be: If little Johnny doesn't act out, then little Johnny is fine.  Well, he isn't.  He's hurting on the inside, but doesn't have a handle on how to express that, especially since he's usually protecting his parents from witnessing his grief so as not to heap more on their already trembling shoulders.  So, what happens to little Johnny?  His feelings get sublimated, and may well turn into something twisted.

In the best case scenario, a child is taken to a grief counselor to sort these things out.  But how many children are lucky enough to end up in a counselor's office?  Meanwhile, the great majority of them are left to grapple with this monster all on their own.  Well, WHAT IS GOODBYE? is for those children. 

WHAT IS GOODBYE is, or I intend it to be, a tool to help children process grief on their own, if necessary.  I want them to understand that what they are feeling is normal, that their pain is legitimate, and that there is an end to it.  I want them to understand that a day spent without thinking of their loved one is not a betrayal.  I want them to know that it's okay to cry, and scream, and let it all out. 

I think this book may serve a secondary function, as well, which is to clue parents and teachers into the mindset of a child who is grieving, so that they can better help that child through the experience.  That is my hope.  That is my prayer.

Thank you so much for sharing with us!