Faculty emerita Marilyn Nelson's latest book for young adults, How I Discovered Poetry, was released last month by Dial.
In 50 unrhymed sonnets I look back at my life during the decade of the 1950s. In the first poems I am 4 years old; in the last, I am 14.
As the story progressed from inception to copy-edited version, what were the major changes?
At first I thought of it as a book "about the 1950s." Gradually I had to accept the fact that the book is more "about me" than it is about the decade. I didn't keep track of it, but I think it took about a year to write it.
What research was involved, and how did it affect the story’s development?
I read all copies of all popular magazines I found in special collections archives of the university library.
Without naming names, tell us who your first readers are.
Sometimes my poetry group, but more often my best friend.
What books do you love to teach or recommend to students?
I recommend Helen Frost's books to students.
During the January 2013 residency Emily Jenkins lectured on “How to Be Funny,” and one of her suggestions was to “use jolly words.” A good idea even if one isn’t trying to be funny. Do you have a favorite jolly word?