Interview with Maranda Russell

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Maranda Russell is the author of Not Afraid to be Real and Ode to Icky. You can find out more information about Marand Russell on her website.

Cats or Dogs?
 Definitely cats! I have five cats of my own right now (Captain Jack, Einstein, Spyder Fli, Po Poe Mao and Ichabod). I don’t have any dogs.
Matt Damon or Matthew Mcconaughey?
 Honestly, couldn’t care less. My favorite male actor is Johnny Depp.
Twilight or The Hunger Games?
I like both, but the storyline and acting are both better in The Hunger Games. I would choose Harry Potter over both of them though.
Can you tell us about your newest book, Not Afraid to Be Real: A Poetry Collection?
 I wanted to write a poetry collection that is full of real emotion and deep thoughts that would really affect a person. I wanted to make it accessible to anyone, even if they don’t happen to be a poetry fan. I chose to divide the book into five sections (love & romance, everyday life, grief & loss, inspiration and funny & weird) because I wanted to cover what I consider the basic experiences of the human life. Although the book is geared for young adults, even older audiences have really related to the book so far.
What is it about poetry that draws you in?
The artistry of it and the ability to tell something in so few words that affects the reader on a deep level. I read and write prose too, but I always find poetry more affective, realistic and thought-provoking.
Can you tell us a short poem by one of your favorite poets? Sure, I think one of my favorite poems ever is “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe. The poem isn’t extremely long or extremely short, but I find the first few lines to be the most meaningful to me personally, so here are the first 8 lines:
From childhood’s hour I have not been
 As others were – I have not seen
 As others saw – I could not bring
 My passions from a common spring.
 From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow, I could not awaken
 My heart to joy at the same tone;
 And all I lov’d, I lov’d alone.
Why do you think it is important for young adults to read poetry?
 Because it is a way to get even the most reluctant readers to taste the pleasures of great literature. Also, there is just something so magical about taking a handful of words and turning them into something that sticks with people long after they read or hear it.
Poetry tends to be one of the hardest aspects of English classes in schools. How do you think teachers can make it easier for students to understand poetry?
For one thing, choose poets and poems that deal with issues teens can relate to and try to pick poems that are simple to understand. It is ok to throw in some of the more literary, ambiguous stuff, but make sure that isn’t all you teach. Also, introduce your students to contemporary poets that write for their age group. Young adult novels-in-verse are a great way to introduce poetry too (stuff by Sonya Sones, Karen Hesse, Nikki Grimes, etc.)
What are you going to work on next? I have several more picture books to be released in the next few years. As for writing, right now I am working on a memoir geared more for adults. I do have enough poems for another YA poetry book, so if “Not Afraid to Be Real” does well, I might release another collection.
Are you strictly interested in just working on poetry, or can we expect a young adult novel or series from you in the future? Anything is possible. I write a little bit of everything, so you never really know.
What is currently in your To-Be-Read pile? Since it is close to Halloween, lately I have been on a scary or paranormal kick. I like to read real-life ghost stories more than made up ones though. I find it much scarier to know that the story may actually be real.