Write on

Ellen Hopkins

Photo By David Robert

This Carson City resident is a lot of things, but most of them have something to do with writing. These days, she’s mostly promoting the Juniper Creek Writers Conference (July 14-16, Western Nevada Community College in Carson City) and her novel, Burned, which is her follow-up to the critically acclaimed young adult, verse-novel Crank. Those who want to take advantage of the special offer Hopkins made for the writers conference should call 849-1637.

Let’s talk about your writers conference. How long has this been going on?

This will be our fourth year. You know, our idea was to have an event that would especially appeal to local writers—to have an affordable event that was an alternative to some of the pricier events.

Who’s giving the keynote speech?

The keynote speech is Tamim Ansary, who is an Afghan-American memoirist. There’s also a poetry reading [Friday night]. Headlining that is Lola Haskins, who is from the University of Florida. A fine poet. There’s also a wine tasting and some food. Actually, that event Friday evening is free and open to the public, thanks to a grant from Nevada Humanities. After that, there are two days of workshops, lectures, panel discussions. There’s a first-page panel discussion, in which people have submitted first pages of work, and [we discuss] to see if an editor would be interested after the first page. There will be two agents and two editors on that panel. Then Saturday evening, there’s a barbecue and a musical performance that’s included in the price of the conference. There will be a book sale and author signing. So Saturday is stuffed full. There’s also a stargazing party up at the WNCC observatory.

Sounds like fun. What are some of the seminars going to be?

There’s writing dialogue; there’s authorial interference; there’s voice; there’s scenes, scene-building, setting. There are poetry workshops, things specifically designed for children’s writers. There’s a very intensive screenplay workshop. It’s across the board.

You’ve had some other pretty exciting news with regard to your second novel.

Right, yeah. Burned, which has been out since April, has been nominated for a National Book Award, which is a pretty huge deal, as well.

Is there any award bigger than the National Book Award?

In children’s writing, the Newberry is big, but the National Book Award is, across the board for all writers, probably the biggest award there is.

Your writing style in these books is pretty unusual.

Yeah, I write in verse. People hear the word “poetry,” and it kind of scares them. But it’s narrative verse, so it tells a story. One poem leads right into the next, like a chapter. Like chapter into chapter. It’s not like rhymed and metered poetry; it’s definitely storytelling. I guess every word has to count when you write this way. That’s for sure. There’s no extraneous descriptions that don’t need to be there and things like that. So it’s a challenge. That and also the poetry is a style I kind of invented. Some of the poems break down into two poems or two voices. There’s concrete poetry, which is poetry shaped like what you’re writing about. So there’s a lot of unique design as well. That’s actually the hardest part about writing this way.

Is there anything you want to add?

Just that I’d like to see some support by local writers. Right now, for the conference, about 75 percent of the registrants are from out of state. It’s quite unusual. So I’d like to see some local writers come.

How much is it?

It’s $225, but I’ll extend the early registration discount, which [makes it] $175.