Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan: 2019 National Book Festival

Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Monica Valentine:
Good morning. My name is Monica
Valentine and I work in the Library of Congress. I want to welcome you to the 19th Annual National
Book Festival brought to you by the Library of Congress. This festival is free of
charge thanks to the generosity of donors large and small. If you wish to make a donation
please do so on the festival app under the word donate
on the app’s homepage. We appreciate your support for this great celebration
of books and reading. We hope this day inspires
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of the Library of Congress, your very own national library. You can visit us in
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library’s brand new National Book Festival Presents series
which will extend the reach of the festival with
more exciting book events at the library starting
next month. Please check loc dot gov for
updates on all the programs for children as well as adults
and ticketing for each one. We welcome your questions at
the end of the presentation but if you have one for the
author please make it brief and to the point. You are giving us
your permission to use it for the webcast. And finally, I ask that you
please turn off your cell phones and make sure you enjoy
the rest of your day. Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan
have a few things in common. They’re both poets,
educators, and activists. Together they’ve
combined their talents to bring us “Watch Us Rise”. Their book is the critically
acclaimed socially-conscious tale of Jasmine and Chelsea,
teenagers who find their voices when they form a
women’s rights club in their New York
City high school. Ellen is the author of
two poetry collections, “Crowned” and “Hemisphere”. She’s also the cofounder
of the girlstory collective and is a board member for
the I, Too, Arts Collective. Renee is the New York
Times best-selling author of “Piecing Me Together” which received the 2018
Coretta Scott King Author Award and was the 2018
Newberry Honor Book. She’s also the author of
“Harlem’s Little Blackbird”, “The Story of Florence
Mills”, “This Side of Home” and her newest book
“Some Places More than Others” due
out September 3rd. Renee is the founder
and executive director of the I, Too, Arts Collective. Please welcome Ellen Hagen
and Renee Watson to share more with us about Watch
Us Rise [applause].>>Renee Watson: Good morning. Thank you for being
here with us today. I’m Renee.>>Ellen Hagen: I’m Ellen.>>Renee Watson: And we’re
going to read from Watch Us Rise which she gave such a
beautiful introduction of. Watch Us Rise is about
Jasmine and Chelsea. I wrote Jasmine’s chapters,
Ellen wrote Chelsea’s and they’re best friends. They go to a school that
is all about student voice, and we believe in you, and the
principal is always saying, we want to hear what you think. You matter, your voices matter. But when the girls start to
rise up and share their voices, the principal tries
to shut them down. So, it’s all about the girls
rising up and taking up space and not being afraid to
speak out and to speak up.>>Ellen Hagen: And
the book really centers on this friendship and how young
people can rise up together. It’s poetry and blog posts
are within the story and to, this morning we’re going to
share a little bit of some of the chapters and
the poems with you all.>>Renee Watson: So, this is a
black poster, Jasmine writes. And it’s called “What It
Be Like On Being a Girl.” It be like men telling
you to smile when you’re all out of sunshine. Like your mouth being
more familiar with saying yes than no. It be like hiding sometimes
wrapped in puffy coats, too-loose dress, nothing
clinging or low-cut. It be like wanting to
be seen and not wanting to be seen all at once. Like knowing you
have the right answer but letting him speak anyway. It be like second-guessing
your know-how like fact-checking
your own truth. It be like older women
telling you how to get a man, even if they don’t have a man,
even if you don’t want a man. It be like learning how to play
hard to get, how to entice, how to be sweet honey always. It be like being told
you’re too sweet, too loose, too woman, and not enough girl. Too girl and not enough woman. It be like knowing all the world
is expecting you to be nurturer when maybe you want to hunt. It be like a wild
flame trying to burn, burn while everyone else
wants to extinguish it. It be like being told it’s
okay to cry but it never be like rage unfiltered,
anger expressed. It be like trying so hard to
hold everything in, brilliance, emotion, waste, breathe
in always, never let out. It be like stomach cramps and
bloated belly, like cravings and moods that change
like spring days. It be like trusting the mirror
when it shows you your beauty. It be like trusting your heart
when it tells you who to love, who to walk away from. It be like knowing you
can always start again, but you can always
create and make something because you are made
for birthing. It be like meeting other
women, older and younger, living in no more breath. It be like the spirits are
inside you remaking you into something better and bolder
every time you say their names, read their poems,
learn their legacy. It be like knowing you are
what praying women had in mind when they travailed
for tomorrow. It be like knowing you
are a promise, a seed. It be like knowing that
without you planted and watered and nurtured, the
world can’t go on.>>We don’t last long
outside because it’s too hot. Harlem sun is blazing
down on us so we go inside and sit in the living room. The young artivists
have arrived, dad says. He calls us artivists because
we’re all growing into ourselves as artists and activists. Well that’s what he says. Chelsea is the poet,
Nadine is the singer and a pretty good DJ, too. Isaac is the visual artist,
I am the writer and actress. According to dad, art
is never just art. And since there is so much
going on in the world, we should be using our art to
say something, do something. So, when he asks, what have
you all been up to this summer? And we answer with shrugging
shoulders saying, I don’t know. He says, “You mean to tell me
you haven’t created anything this summer?” “Dad, are you seriously going to give us another summer
challenge,” I asked? It’s not the first
time dad has sent us out on a summer scavenger
hunt of the city but usually it’s a
little more thought out. Like the time he sent us
out with a map of Harlem and challenged us to
find historical landmarks and spaces essential to
the Harlem Renaissance. We had to take a photo in
front of each place as proof. And then, there was the
time he challenged us to go to movie theaters that
showed independent films. We had to share our
findings and write reviews. We’re used to him sending
us out with maps and lists of instructions but I
didn’t expect this today. “Let’s call it the Brown
Art Challenge,” Dad says. We all just looked
at him, blank stares. “I’m serious. Go out and find some
inspiration. Create some art in
response to what you see.” Chelsea is the first to agree
saying, “Where should we start?” And just like that the
four of us are sitting with dad plotting and planning.>>Ellen Hagen: “Advice
To Myself, From Chelsea to Chelsea”. Be reckless when
it matters most. Messy, incomplete, belly
laugh, love language. Be butterfly stroke in a pool
of freestylers, fast and loose. You don’t need all the
right moves all the time. You just need limbs wild. The equator, lava, ocean
floor, the neon of plankton. Be unexpected. The rope they lower to
save the other bodies, be your whole body. Every hiccup and out
of place, elastic girl. Be stretch moldable. Be funk flexible,
free fashionable, go on be hair natural. Try and do anything woman. What brave acts like
on your hips. Be cocky at school. Have a fresh mouth. Don’t let them tell
you what’s prim and proper, not your lady-like. Don’t be their lady-like. Their dress-up girl,
not their pretty. Don’t be their bottled,
saturated, died, squeezed, spanxed. Be guilded. Gold, papyrus, a
parakeets balk and flaunt. Show up uninvited. Know what naked feels like. Get the sweetness, be
the woman you love. Be tightrope and expanse. Stay hungry. Be a mouth that needs
to get fed, ask for it. Stay alert, lively, alive and
unfettered full on it all. Say yes when it matters. Be dragonfish, set
all the fires, be all the woman they
warned you against being. Be her anyway.>>Renee Watson: “This
Body, a Definition Poem”. Skin. Noun. One. Sensitive, dry, see doves
soap, oil of olay, shea butter. See middle school
pimples plumping up the night before picture
day, always on the chin or nose. Two. Dark, see, slave. See negro. See age seven. See yourself playing
on the playground when a white girl says you
must eat a lot of chocolate since your skin’s so brown. Hair. Noun. One. See assimilation. See smoke from the hot comb
crocheting the air burning a sacred incense. See your mama parting your
hair bringing iron to knap. Hold your ear, baby, she tells
you so she can press Africa out. When black girls
ask, is it real? Say yes. When white girls
ask, can I touch it, say no. Two. See natural. Reference Angela Davis,
Dorothy Pittman Hughes [assumed spelling] comb yours out,
twist yours like black licorice like the lynching rope used
on your ancestor’s necks. Let it hang free. Hips. Noun. One. Reference Lucille
Clifton [assumed spelling] and every other big girl who
knows how to work a hula hoop. See Beyonce. Dance like her in the mirror. Don’t be afraid of
all your powers, too. You will not fit in most places. Do not bend, squeeze,
contort yourself. Be big, brown girl. Big, wide, smile. Big, wild hair, Big
wondrous hips, brown girl. Be.>>Ellen Hagen: To the
ags in the subway that try to tell me how to
change my body. My body is a tornado. Nor’easter. The eye of every storm. Yes my body a cacophony. Song, hydrant of
butterflies collective. Not meant to be revised
or edited, just exactly right
the way it is. My body is a rallying,
an assembling. It cannot be shot
down or silenced. Won’t be. We live holy
and raucous in our skin. We are not made of fruit. There’s nothing sweet about me. My body is a hurricane. Natural earth moving
and shaking. We who don’t shut up or down
other girls and the kinds of noise our bodies make. We are protest of bones and
will not be shushed or quieted. We’ve got our hands and
mouths and teeth and breasts and blood all the way up and
shining and blistering on up and into the great
big blazing sky. Rage against the myth of beauty. Love the way you look always. Love your wild hair and lungs. Love your hips and each thigh. Love your crooked
teeth, wide smile. See your face in the mirror. See the way your nose erupts. Call your face a
beautiful carnival. Don’t ever read beauty
magazines alone. Who are beauty magazines
for anyway? Trust and know who you are. Being a teenager
really sucks sometimes. Sometimes quitting
is the only way to figure out what comes next.>>Renee Watson: We walk
into Rubies and Jeans, a store that opened
about six months ago. It’s got a high-end feel to it
but the prices are reasonable. There’s a mix of casual
and dressy clothes and the atmosphere makes you
feel like you’re shopping in the classy, trendy boutique
even though it’s a chain store. Chelsea goes straight
to the escalator. “The clearance racks are
down here,” she says. Nadine and I follow her and
when we get off Chelsea walks over to the rack under
the 40% off sign. She pulls a bunch of tops
and jeans off the rack and tosses them over her arm. Nadine is looking through
the bins of jewelry picking out rings and bracelets. “I’m going to try these on. I’ll be right back,”
Chelsea says. “Ok.” I roam around the
store looking through the sea of clothes and see a section
far back on the right side of the room with a sign
that says plus sizes. I didn’t even know this store
had clothes that would fit me. I walk over to the
plus size section, wondering why my sizes have
to be in a special section of the store and not mixed
in with the other sizes. There is a definite divide. As if a shirt with a 3x tag will
contaminate the other clothes. I looked through the clothes. There’s not much to choose from. Just two racks compared
to a whole store full of options for thinner girls. Just as I pick up a
sweater to try on, I see the advertisement
on the wall. A model with full cheeks
and curvy hips is standing with that half-smile, half-serious look
that models give. In a room full of fat people,
she’d be considered thin. The caption under
her half-smiling, half-serious face says
Rubies and Jeans Plus because every girl
deserves to look beautiful. A store clerk sees me and says, “Not finding what
you’re looking for? We’ve got a bigger selection
of plus sizes online. Free return if it doesn’t fit.” She gives me a sympathetic
smile and walks away. Online? Why can’t I try on
the clothes here in the store? And why are there
only two racks hidden in the way back of the store? I read the ad again. Rubies and Jeans Plus,
because every girls deserves to look beautiful. I think about the word deserves
and wonder what they mean by it. How about, I am beautiful
the way I am? For a moment, just a
moment, I think about taking out my black sharpie marker
and rewriting the statement because every girl is beautiful. Because every body is beautiful. And then I think about
crossing out the word beautiful because what does
that even mean? This is a clothing store. It’s just clothes. Wouldn’t that be a good ad? Rubies and Jeans,
it’s just clothes. Come try something
on [laughter]. I look back at the poster one
more time before walking away. I studied the girl’s body. She isn’t thin but she is
definitely not a big girl like me. I wonder why girls with bodies like mine can’t even model the
clothes that were made for us? Most times when I see body types
like mine on advertisements, they are on posters like
the one in the subway. Big body, sad face. Sometimes they are
the before picture and a weight-loss success story. But bodies like mine
aren’t often even seen with happy faces,
stylish clothes. I put the sweater
back on the rack. I don’t really need
anything anyway. I always waste money when
I’m shopping with Chelsea.>>Ellen Hagen: For New
Year’s Eve we all get together at my house. There’s a party happening at
Word Up that we’d all plan to go to and James’s parents
are out of town so he invited the
whole class there, too. But none of us really
wanted to go out. So, Isaac, Nadine and Jasmine
ended up piled on the bed and bean bags in my room and
the apartment was all ours. Pretty much my dream come true. To cheer Jasmine up
we made a playlist that included her
favorite songs. The best we’d ever created and
it included a bunch of songs that Jasmine’s dad used to love that we heard him
play all the time. We pulled out a bunch of
scarves, hats, and jackets and started to lip sync and
dance all around the apartment. Isaac stood up on our couch
and belted out Willie Nelson’s “Midnight Rider” in a way that made us all wonder how many
times he’d actually listened to the song to know every verse. And then Jasmine and Isaac did
the Bebe and Cece Winans duet and I basically had to bite
the inside of my cheek as hard as possible to stop myself
from saying anything out loud. Kiss her already, you idiot. It was pretty awesome
to be acting as wild as we were without any alcohol. I knew that at James’s house
everyone would be drunk at this point or at least tipsy. But Nadine was allergic and
Jasmine and I didn’t really like the taste of it and
Isaac had one too many drinks at a part over the summer
and threw up the whole night. So, he was taking
an indefinite break. This is how I know these
are my people, though. The ones who you can dance
around and act silly with. The ones who you can do
shots of soda with and laugh until it comes out of your nose. They’re also the ones
who you can cry with. By the end of the night,
Jasmine was in tears. We huddle around her and
tell her we’ll be there the whole way. We also decide to make
New Year’s resolutions. “Make them with I
statements,” Nadine says. You know, like I resolve
to each more spinach. “What,” Isaac asks? “Start with I resolve. You know, make it from
your point of view.” “No, I get that. I just don’t understand
why you’re resolving to eat more spinach.” Nadine punches Isaac in the
arm and we grab pens and paper. Jasmine writes, I
resolve to mourn, I resolve to heal,
I resolve to love. Nadine writes, yes, I do
resolve to eat more spinach because I do want to
grow healthy and strong. In your face Isaac. I resolve to practice guitar
and get some new DJ gigs. I resolve to pass
algebra, please. Isaac writes, I do solemnly
swear to blow up as an artist, make art that matters. And I write, I resolve
to say what I want, when I want, to whomever I want. My messages will be heard. I resolve to speak
louder and longer, make my voice bigger
and stronger. I resolve to be ocean
and sky revolving. I resolve to show up, show
off, show out, stay later, love harder, be there
when it matters. I resolve to be a
woman who wins. “Whoa,” Isaac says
after we read them all out loud, “I like these.” “I love them,” Jasmine says
quietly hugging her paper to her chest. “I think I needed tonight.” We all pile on top
of her to hug. Jasmine looks at
the paper again. “Isaac, do you think you
could do some quick sketches on these resolutions?” “What do you mean?” “Something that represents
women,” Jasmine says pulling
out her phone. “Oh yeah, what about the Venus
symbol for the female sex?” Nadine pulls an image
up on her phone now. I like the Venus symbol where
the middle section is a fist. We start to compare notes. We find a heart with the words
women plus power plus rights. And then a scale with the Venus and Mars symbols and
a big equal sign. We find the symbol with proud
feminist written inside it. Isaac starts to sketch. He changes it to womanist
and feminist rights. And then he makes a Wonder Woman
symbol with the words I resolve to show off my superpowers. Then we all start drawing
and writing resolutions. We start Jasmine’s playlist
from the beginning and I pull out all my art supplies. I write Women Join Us. Resolve to stand
up against sexism and women make all
the difference. We find that we can do a
poster with Rosie the Riveter. And then see a bunch where black
women and Latinos are shown. So, Isaac sketches all of our
faces and writes beneath it, all of us can do
it and do it well. We write the future is female
and he sketches faces all around it on a small
sheet of paper. On my last piece, I write,
Down With the Patriarchy in cursive handwriting. “I think I’ll hand this to
Principal Hays personally,” I say and start to
laugh hysterically. Maybe it’s all the Coke and
candy or maybe I just feel free and wild and like we’re about to
do something a little dangerous. “Wait, what are we
going to do with these,” Isaac asks sitting back
to look at all the scraps of paper lying on the floor. “I have an idea,” Jasmine says
holding up a paper that reads, I Resolve To Protest
and Rage Like a Girl.>>Renee Watson: “Walking the
Streets of New York City”, inspired by Henry Douglas
and the Black Panther Party. Hello, men New York City. This is a teenage girl
calling you again. A girl who walks past whistling
men on my way to school, on my way from school, to
and from everywhere I go. This is just to say
I am not an object to call back to you
like a yo-yo. Don’t tug at me, pull me close. My body is not yours
for taking, grabbing, slapping, commenting on. I am not the quench
for your thirst. Don’t tell me to smile. Don’t make my fatness
your fetish. Don’t tell me my
fatness is your disdain. My body is not yours
for taking, grabbing, slapping, commenting on. Let me walk in peace. Let my feet be graceful or not,
be high-heeled or combat boot. Let my face be in deep thought
or anger or laughter or just be. Let me be without trying to
make meaning of who I am. Don’t call me baby, ma, sexy. Don’t rename me. You can’t name what
you do not own. You do not own my body. My body is not yours. This body. My body is perfect and imperfect
and black and girl and big and thick hair and short legs
and scraped knee and healed scar and heart beating and hands
that hold and voice that bellows and feet that dance and the arms
that embrace in my mama’s eyes and my daddy’s smile
and my grandma’s hope. And my body is masterpiece
and my body is mine.>>Ellen Hagen: “Girlhood”. Noun. One. The state or time of being
a girl as in, when I was. As in, used to be
and not one anymore. As in, don’t tell me
who I am, how to act, what to say, who I’ll be. As in, an infusion of
cherry bomb, red bomb, lemon-lime explosion, sea of
honey bun, clip-on, bubble gum, soda pop, purple rainbow,
eyeshadow, lip gloss, blush, brush, unicorn, tye-died,
diamond crusted necklaces, scarves that shimmer, shine. The whole outrageous girlish, coquettish, sparkling
doll house. As in, girlhood you
make me race forward. Pop culture raining
down streamers of tutus and gloves with emojis. Heart necklaces to
best friends, lockets and lace and hold on tight. You make me see myself
tiarad and sculp-molded. Make me see myself
in ribboned bows. Two. “Girls Collectively”. The nation’s girlhood
as in Girl Scouts, girls of a certain
status, the girls twirled, the sorority girls, class
act girls, girls on fire, the smart girls,
the brainy girls, the bad girls, the good girls. As in, why does everything
anchor toward glitter? As in, you can’t mass-market us. Fit us in a bubble, feed
us chewing gum and lies. As in, we see the
way you watch us. As in, let us tell
you who we want to be. As in, back up. As in, you won’t forget us. As in, watch us shut it down. As in, watch us break it loose. As in, watch us rise.>>Renee Watson:
Thank you [applause].>>Monica Valentine: So, we have
a few minutes for questions. If anyone would like to ask
a question there are two mics in the aisle. You can come. Feel free to ask a question
and we can be in conversation with you for a little bit.>>So, I like your material. And I wonder did you always kind of express your thoughts
using poetry or prose or did it just kind of, you
wake up one day and said, I got a way to say
this [laughter].>>Monica Valentine:
Do you want to talk?>>Ellen Hagen: Sure. No, I think I’ve been, you know, I kept a journal
pretty seriously from the time I was seventh
grade and I was always thinking and I had some amazing
teachers who introduced me to Sonia Sanchez and
Nikki Giovanni and people who I didn’t know, you could
write poems that talked about your body or how you felt or what was happening
in the world. And I think that
cracked something open for me at that age. And poetry felt like it
was healing and it felt like I could explore all my
emotions and how I was feeling in the real world in my journal. So, I’ve been, I mean, I’ve
been writing poems that sort of sound a little like
Chelsea for a long time. That felt like a
safe place for me.>>Renee Watson: Yes. I write poetry prose. I’ve always done
both and loved both. And I think that when we decided to write this book together we
wanted to blend those things. We worked a lot with young
people teaching them poetry. And we’ve mentored young girls. And so, we’ve seen young
people raise their voices and use poetry as a way to
kind of talk back to the world and to put their
stories on record. So, we wanted to honor the
young people that we work with by making sure poetry
was a part of the novel.>>Ellen Hagan: Yeah.>>Renee Watson: Thank
you for your question. Yes.>>I was curious if you
could talk a little bit about your process collaborating
and writing the book together?>>Ellen Hagen: Sure.>>Renee Watson: Sure. So, Ellen and I, guess we should
say we’re friends in real life. So, this collaboration
process also worked really well because we know each
other and trust each other and mutually respect
each other’s craft. So, when we decided to write
together it was easier for us to come up with what
to write about. And I would go to Ellen’s
house every time we wrote. We wrote the whole book together
sitting in the same room. We had a list of like scenes
that we wanted to write. I did all of Jasmine,
she did all of Chelsea. And so, we’d set a
timer, we’d write and then we’d face
each other and read. And like, you know,
share what I just wrote, she’d share and then we’d talk. Like, okay. Well if Jasmine just did that, Chelsea should do this
in the next chapter. We just kept building like that. There was very little
that we did on our own in separate spaces. We wrote the whole
book together.>>Ellen Hagan: And it’s funny
because there’s been a couple of people who’ve asked
us in interviews, what was the biggest fight about
or what did you most disagree? We’re like, nothing, I
don’t know, what we’re going to have for lunch [laughter]. I don’t know. I was like, we, I mean, I
think because we were — you know, actually we did say
one of our biggest struggles — sometimes we’d get
together and we’d talk for about an hour plus. And we’d be like we only have
another hour to write so. Because we were thinking about
the world and what was happening or we were talking about,
you know, jobs or work or what was happening
that we’d just read about or seen on the news. So, I think that was the
most special part of it is that we got to spend so much
time together that was work but it was also, you know,
we just like spending time with each other so, yeah.>>Renee Watson: Thank you.>>Hi. I just wanted to know
what like inspired you two to come together and write
a book like on this topic? Because I know it’s very like
up-and-coming like now but like, you know, what inspired
you, hey let’s write about girls rising up?>>Ellen Hagen: I think we’ve
been having this conversation for a long time. You know, we have, because we’ve
taught young people we are often in conversation with them
about what do they care about, what’s happening in the world? You know, we talk a lot about
how women are represented in the media, what they
look like on magazines, we taught a lot of
lessons that break down, what the media tells us
we’re supposed to be like and what our responses to it. So, I think this has been
something that has been sort of bubbling up for us. I have two daughters and
I’m always thinking about, what are the messages
out there and we wanted to create nuanced real
representations of girls, figuring out what they wanted
to say, and figuring out how to speak back to those
media representations.>>Renee Watson: Yeah. We had this idea in 2015. And really just practically
speaking didn’t have the time to write it for various reasons. So, it just happened that
once we started working on the book it was a national
conversation that was going on also so the timing
was perfect in that way. But we have definitely been
thinking about and talking about these issues for
our whole careers, I feel. We’ve always put girls at the
center of the conversation and we wanted to reflect, we wanted that to be
reflected in the book. Yes.>>Hi. What inspired you to, you
know, make a book about girls and then girls in color. Like, what was the
mindset you had?>>Renee Watson: Yes. So, the young girls that
I meet and work with, the girls in my family,
my nieces, I wanted them to feel seen and validated. Especially black girls who
sometimes aren’t a part of the feminist conversation,
who have all these expectations of what a strong girl is
and are you being too bossy, too angry black girl, is
your dark skin beautiful, is your hair texture
okay, all of that stuff. I wanted girls who look
like Jasmine who are big, or who are brown to
have somebody in a book that represents them, that
does not have low self-esteem, that isn’t trying
to change herself, that isn’t struggling
with, you know, feeling like she’s
not good enough. She surprised me. She’s very bold and brave in
ways that I’m not and in ways that I was not when
I was in high school. So, I really wanted young girls,
especially young black girls to have that representation
in Jasmine’s character.>>Monica Valentine: I
think we have five minutes.>>Renee Watson: Yeah. So, do these last two?>>Monica Valentine: Yeah.>>So, I teach eighth
grade reading and I teach eighth grade readers
I should say and I just want to say thank you because we
need books like Watch Us Rise and Piecing Me Together
and all the other books. We need those books
to feed our kids so that their brains can
grow in the right way to know what they need to
do and what they can do. So, I wanted to say thank
you because you have no idea. I have letters from kids that after reading your
books they feel empowered. And that, I’m getting like
teary and I don’t even do that. They feel empowered
especially my young women. Strong independent women
who don’t feel so strong and independent and then they
read your books and they are. So, I guess I do have a question and it’s a question
they would ask me is when is the next book
[laughter] coming out?>>Renee Watson:
Well the next book for me comes out on Tuesday.>>Ellen Hagen: Yeah. No, it’s pre-ordered, five copies for the
classroom library [laughter]. Yeah.>Ellen Hagen: I’ve a book of
poems coming out in fall of 2020 and then a middle grade
novel and verse called “Book of Questions” at the moment
from Bloomsberry in winter 2021. So, soonish.>>Renee Watson: Soonish.>>I will let them know because
that will be their question and then they’ll
look at me annoyed if I don’t have the
answer [laughter]. So, thank you.>>Renee Watson: Thank you.>>Monica Valentine: I think
we have time for this –>>Renee Watson: One last
question and then we’ll end.>>Thank you. I wanted to know how much of
these characters were based on yourselves as teenagers,
the girls you work with, or more of like an
idealized version of who you wished you were
and who you wanted to become?>>Ellen Hagan: I think, yes, sometimes Chelsea
was a little like me. A little over the top, a
little too much in your face. Yes, that was true for me
and still and maybe now. But I also, I think there’s
two students in particular who I teach, who I have
a close relationship with and see them navigating the
world of high school in ways that are both big and then
they’re vulnerable and they’re in your face and they’re, you
know, I wanted those two things to exist for Chelsea to be. She’s complicated, she
is figuring it out. She thinks she knows it all
and then she gets taken down. So, both things. A little bit based on me
and a little bit based on the young people I — and I can see it my
younger daughter too. My older is a little more
reserved but the younger one is. I’m nervous [laughter].>>Renee Watson: I think both, mostly the young
people I’ve worked with. Especially, we really
focus a lot on the boys in the book, too. I want to shout out Isaac
who I think is a good example for our young people of
what masculinity can be. What healthy dating can
look like and all of that. So, we thought a lot about
those characters, too. And I wanted boys to see
themselves in this book who are maybe more quiet
and who are the artists, not the basketball
player but still can be, you know, a popular kid. And so, yeah, we thought a lot
about the kids we work with and then the real-life
people that I know. Yeah, for sure.>>Monica Valentine:
Thank you so much.>>Ellen Hagen: Thank you all.>>Monica Valentine: For being
with us this morning [applause].>>Renee Watson: Thank you.>>Monica Valentine:
Enjoy the festival.

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