Elizabeth Acevedo on Discovering the Shape Each Story Needs
In Conversation with Courtney Balestier on the WMFA Podcast
Writing can be lonely work; WMFA counters that with conversation. It’s a show about creativity and craft, where writer and host Courtney Balestier talks shop with some of today’s best writers and examines the issues we face when we do creative work. The mission of WMFA is to explore why we writers do what we do, so that we can do it with more intention, and how we do what we do, so that we can do it better.
In this episode, Elizabeth Acevedo talks with Courtney about her latest book, Clap When You Land, creating character while working in verse, discovering the container that each story needs, and the “secret projects” she has as an author.
From the episode:
Elizabeth Acevedo: It’s difficult to find a character. You’re mining for a character in all of the language that you have and all the ideas you have. You can’t just sit down in the way that prose would allow you to describe what a character looks like and their setting. You don’t have enough real estate for that. This is the plot of land you have. This physical constraint of people can’t sit with verse for more than a few hundred pages and you can’t you can’t ornament the language. You can’t have too much or people will feel bogged down, and so you have to be so specific of every moment that I show this character or that there’s dialogue or that a piece of setting is described is precious and it has to be purposeful. So for me, it feels like it distills a story to the most essential pieces. Who is this? Why do they matter? What happens?
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Elizabeth Acevedo is the author of The Poet X—which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and the Walter Award—as well as With the Fire on High and Clap When You Land. She is a National Poetry Slam champion and holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland. Acevedo lives with her partner in Washington, DC.