Today I'm really excited to be a part of the promotional tour for Poisoned Apples, a collection of poems written by Christine Heppermann. I have to admit to not doing so spectacularly in the one and only poetry class I took in college, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I found between the pages of this book and jumped at the opportunity (thank you, Hannah!) to ask Christine a few questions. I hope you all enjoy the interview, and don't forget to check the bottom of the post for all the details on how to win a copy!
Poisoned Apples is a collection of poems. What are one or two things readers who are perhaps a touch hesitant to tackle poetry should know about this book in order to convince them to step outside their comfort zones?
Think of the poems as mini-stories. That’s what poems are, really. One advantage of reading poetry over reading novels is that you can usually tell after only a few lines whether a particular poem appeals to you. If not, move on! There are a gazillion other models in the poetry showroom for you to test drive.
If this book had existed when you were younger, which of the poems do you think would have most resonated with your teenage self?
Many poems in the collection grew from memories of how I felt as a teenager. The one that hits closest to home, I think, is “BFF.” I was never the alpha friend, at least in my mind. I was shy and awkward and felt clueless about life much of the time, so I tended to gravitate toward friends who seemed confident. The downside was that in certain “friendships,” especially when I was a young teen, I let myself be pushed around. If someone had told me, as Jill tells the narrator in “BFF,” that she could teach me how to do my mascara so my eyes looked less squinty, I probably wouldn’t have responded, “That’s mean, you can’t say that to me.” I would have shrugged it off, maybe even been pathetically grateful.
The poems in this collection address the beauty myths perpetuated by many classic fairy tales. Is there one fairy tale in particular you most wanted write about or retell when the idea for this book popped into your head?
Before Poisoned Apples I was working on a novel-in-verse based on my favorite Grimms fairy tale, “Jorinda and Joringel.” Like “Hansel and Gretel,” it’s about a brother and sister who get lost in the woods and encounter a witch, only this witch turns Jorinda into a bird and carries her off to her castle. “Bird Girl” is a poem I initially wrote for that project—which I plan to get back to someday—and it imagines Jorinda enjoying her new body. What if she didn’t want to be rescued by Joringel (which is of course what happens in the end) and turned back into a girl? Why couldn’t she decide to stay the way she was?
If you were to write a poem about the process you went through with this book, from blank first page to published work, what would the title or first line of that poem be?
I might title that poem “Who Knew?” As in, who knew that a theme would emerge from the, I thought, random smattering of poems I started writing? Who knew they would evolve into a collection? Who knew I would find an agent and then an editor willing to take a chance on poetry? Poisoned Apples has been a series of lovely surprises for me. That could be a title, too, “Lovely Surprises,” though it’s a good bit sunnier than my usual tone!
What’s one question about Poisoned Apples you wish someone would ask you and how would you answer?
I wish someone would ask me how I came up with the idea for the poem “If Tampons Were for Guys.” Well, me, since you asked, I originally intended to write about how, before a girl gets her first period, she wonders what it will feel like and maybe even sneaks over to the feminine hygiene aisle while shopping with her mom to peruse the selection. Before writing I went to Target on a research fieldtrip. I was standing in front of all those pastel-colored boxes, thinking about marketing and how much we take it for granted. Pictures of flowers and pearls and sunsets, or whatever, for girls. How would the images change if companies decided to highlight the “men” in “menstruation?” And thus, as so often happens, my topic changed.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Christine!
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POISONED APPLES: POEMS FOR YOU, MY PRETTY
Every little girl goes through her princess phase, whether she wants to be Snow White or Cinderella, Belle or Ariel. But then we grow up. And life is not a fairy tale.
Christine Heppermann's collection of fifty poems puts the ideals of fairy tales right beside the life of the modern teenage girl. With piercing truths reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, this is a powerful and provocative book for every young woman. E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, calls it "a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that's caustic, funny, and heartbreaking."
Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.
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Christine Heppermann is a writer, poet, and critic. Her book of poetry for young adults, Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, will be published by Greenwillow Books in September, 2014. Poisoned Apples has been called "a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that's caustic, funny and heartbreaking" (E. Lockhart) and a "powerful and provocative exploration of body image, media, and love" (Rae Carson).
Christine's first book, City Chickens (Houghton Mifflin, 2012), is a nonfiction story about a shelter for abandoned and unwanted chickens in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In 2015 Greenwillow Books will publish the first book of the Backyard Witch Series, written by Christine and Ron Koertge. The middle-grade series follows three best friends and a mysterious visitor who appears for curious adventures just when they need her most.
Christine was a columnist and reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine from 1996 until 2013. Her poems are published in 5AM, The Magazine of Contemporary Poetry; Poems and Plays; Kite Tales; Nerve Cowboy; The Mas Tequila Review; and The Horn Book Magazine. Her reviews of children's and young adult books have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She has an MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University.
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Thanks to the amazing team at Harper/Greenwillow, I have one finished copy of Poisoned Apples to give away on the blog today. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US/Canada.
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Sept. 25 - Stephanie @ No BS Book Reviews - Interview
Sept. 26 - Katie @ MundieMoms - Review
Sept. 27 - Mary @ The Book Swarm - Guest Post & Review