YARN http://yareview.net The YA Review Network Mon, 22 Apr 2019 12:00:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 Suffocation http://yareview.net/2019/04/suffocation/ http://yareview.net/2019/04/suffocation/#respond Mon, 22 Apr 2019 12:00:41 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9544 Suffocation by Shirley Jones-Luke History is a weight that makes my back ache [...]]]>

“shackles” © Heather Katsoulis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/hlkljgk/3609695010/)

By Shirley Jones-Luke


Ideologies do not enlighten
just like a noose doesn’t loosen
swing high, strange fruit, carrying
bondage on wooden ships bound
for a world that was only new to Europeans

They sought a better life by ending the way
of life for natives who welcomed them with open
arms & taught the pilgrims how to survive
the wilderness, generosity can be a trap

History is a weight that makes my back ache,
my knees buckle from the strain of injustice,
because there is no life preserver for our pain.

Shirley Jones-Luke is a poet and a writer. Ms. Luke lives in Boston, Mass. She has an MA from UMass Boston and an MFA from Emerson College. Her work examines the Black Body through the lens of culture, gender, race and society. Shirley was a participant at Breadloaf, Tin House and VONA workshops during the summer of 2018.

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Oculus http://yareview.net/2019/04/oculus/ http://yareview.net/2019/04/oculus/#respond Mon, 15 Apr 2019 12:00:07 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9498 Oculus by teen writer, Cassidy Bishop My corneas have dissolved // My irises have melted // And my lenses have evaporated. [...]]]> By Cassidy Bishop

“Summer is on the way” © Sue Corbisez (https://www.flickr.com/photos/suec-creations/34707924945)


My corneas have dissolved
My irises have melted
And my lenses have evaporated.
For you are the sun
And you have made home inside my optics.
I can feel the cordiform flowers rise toward my eyes inside me
Wrapping ‘round my ribs
Growing and glowing with the light you’ve planted in my oculus.
My whole life
Has been focused on saving my withering eyes
But now that they are sunlit,
It feels as though
I should have let them go
A long time ago.

Cassidy Bishop is a 16-year-old aspiring poet dwelling in the city of Loveland, Colorado. There, she learned how to be inspired by nature, humanity, and visual art. She loves to paint, take photos, and of course, write–because of this versatility, she believes a poem and a painting have little difference and hopes to help you understand that poetry, just like painting, is an art.

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He dies, and I wait until the room realizes http://yareview.net/2019/04/he-dies-and-i-wait-until-the-room-realizes/ http://yareview.net/2019/04/he-dies-and-i-wait-until-the-room-realizes/#respond Mon, 08 Apr 2019 12:00:57 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9494 He dies, and I wait until the room realizes by teen writer, Abigail Sylvor Greenberg And she invites us through // Euphemic brown lips // To say our goodbyes [...]]]> By Abigail Sylvor Greenberg

He dies, and I wait until the room realizes

My Zeyde dies when I ask my screen-lit mom
How he’s doing. She flexes
Her Sunday-night-grease knuckles
Over her keyboard,
Pitches up her “Umm,” and stretches “not great” until it
Snaps on the final consonant. He dies, though he is
Eating skirt steak at the table
In his grey sweatpants, out on Long Island.

He dies and I wait until the room realizes. Not even a day goes by.

And then it is all paisley ceiling, floors,
All dots and circles, photon beads under my wet eyelids, loud-like.
Drinking Long Island water out of a dixie cup. A woman with a turtleneck
Under her dress, explaining the rituals all our ancestors did as easy as
Washing their hands.

Stone By Stone © Taber Andrew Bain (https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewbain/1599749297/)

She thinks we just became Jewish
Because we needed some way to watch him die.
And she invites us through
Euphemic brown lips
To say our goodbyes in an offshooting parlour,
Where someone decided he ought to go down-under in full cowboy attire.
for Willie Nelson CDs my dad didn’t burn in time,
pacing in and out of my room on Sunday night
asking for an apparatus,
a recollection.
wondering if he could do a little more to sing his father off
with the cracker-voice of a fifty-six year old Queens boy.

Cousin David and I hang back like “Nah,” he says,
Or “Naw,” if I am being exact about the region of Long Island
Washed onto his throat.
“I wanna remember Pop eating his steak and yelling
At the dogs. That was his favorite food you know, a whole
Steak. He hated it when we cut it for him.”
He twirls his E-Cig in stump fingers,
Frenetic, but doesn’t hit it.

My Zeyde dies gorged on mythic “favorite foods”:
Pickles, monogut, shlag—ten ton whipped cream—from Peter Luger’s steakhouse. My mom
Blushes and glances at the rabbi during choked orations,
She will be called insincere by a perfumed Aunt Carole.
I will scoff.

We will labor over what, among it, he really liked to eat at all.
I once watched him eat 3-day old
rainbow cake and fluoresce louder than
the hospital light above his head.
he once told me he hadn’t had anything good to eat in ten years,
not since my Bubbe died.
Shall we add rainbow cake to the list too, crying on the bima? How about vodka and ginger ale?

He dies when we unpack plastic-wrapped turkey sausages from fruit baskets
Replete with gold-foil pears,
And wonder which of my father’s siblings we can give them to,
To slice. Ours is not a house of separate sinks and margarine. But we call
It a Kosher home because we know it is.
because my dad is still holding onto paper plates with
bacon, shoved into a childhood fridge, oil-speckled with
the smugness of a workaround.
and he’s still mad about how
his parents pulped a joke into the sacrosanct.

Why is there a photo of Aunt Beth in the montage
That plays below the racks of sympathy-coats at the funeral?
Aunt Beth alone, in a lobster bib and size 2 corduroys,
Wagging her tongue at the camera.

And we all laugh the soggy laughs
Of people trying to reconcile their sadness
Like finger-cars clasped in-out in a parking lot.

Aunt Beth is always the first
To pontificate on family. Like we’ll toss 3pm footballs
over her kitchen island, deft. Subsisting on kinetic dinner
before sunset even lets a holiday begin, the way the good book says it should.

My Zeyde dies
and I wonder when faith became so dichotomous.
when we scraped the binary onto our plates
in sauce residue, redoing biblical calligraphy to assert
that it would be either black hats and sideburn curls, peot, and women
illicitly dipping toes over thresholds while men mumble-prayed, mechitzah
Or nothing.

When we lowballed the price of faith, because ritual seemed like fool’s gold,
Not worth email bickering about in the will
—Not like dribbles of construction money were.
We hoped everything could seem banal, without tearing
Into doleful rag for wearing.

He dies then. Yelling at the dogs and fumbling for his
Flip phone between the couch cushions
While we are pouring Doctor Brown’s Diet Black Cherry
Into cups that buckle like overstretched hands,
Spiking with vodka and cheersing to working hard and not being a hypocrite.

He dies
Midway through blessing the wine. Midway through a
Million-course meal of weddings and bar mitzvahs,
Cutting bread and sipping scotch.

At no particular juncture, he unbuckles
The earth with the dip of a manicured toe.
From last week at the salon with Aunt Beth.

And us, we twirl our thingies, our accoutrements into consequence
Over meals we can remember till we can’t.
My dad winds around Aunt Beth’s
Obscenely tilted table,
Squeezing most anyone’s shoulders as he passes them,
With a guttural non-word like “Mmmmm”
Remember how much your Zeyde loved you? —A lot.
We clench and unclench hands to make muscle
Hoping to someday grip better, more assured, than we can now.

Abigail Sylvor Greenberg is a high school junior from Manhattan, NYC. Her work has been recognized regionally and nationally by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and has been published online in Paradox Mag, The Other Stories, and The Daphne Review. She also serves as the proud Editor-in-Chief of her school’s newspaper (and its sole reader). Outside of writing, she is passionate about public policy and the musica stylings of Brockhampton.

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Outtakes from “White Rose” http://yareview.net/2019/04/outtakes-from-white-rose/ http://yareview.net/2019/04/outtakes-from-white-rose/#respond Tue, 02 Apr 2019 12:00:14 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9608 Our very own poetry editor shares two outtakes from her debut YA novel-in-verse, "White Rose." Happy reading!]]> We are beyond thrilled to announce our own Kip Wilson’s debut YA historical novel in verse “White Rose.” Kip has generously offered to share some fabulous outtakes from the novel. As you’ll see below, the story is about bravery and struggle, as well as fear and hope. 


These outtakes from “White Rose” were written from Sophie Scholl’s brother Hans’s point of view. The majority of the published book is from Sophie’s point of view, but I originally drafted the story from three points of view: Sophie, Hans, and their friend, Christoph Probst. Hans still has some voice in the published book through the letters he sends home from the university and the front, but these two outtakes depict important moments in Hans’s life that Sophie wouldn’t have known.

“Nightmare” is about Hans’s time at the eastern front and includes references to anxiety and drug use under those conditions. “Shooting Stars” is about the relationship Hans had with another boy during his time in the Hitler Youth, which was a criminal offense at that time (and a good reason for Hans to keep it a secret). As with the poems from Sophie’s point of view in the published book, I used Hans’s letters and diaries to get a good understanding of his fears, hopes, and emotions, so I hope they come through here in his voice.


Another Alptraum wakes me,
and I wipe the sweat from my brow,
wonder which is worse
     the nightmare in my dreams
          or my waking hours.

All hours of the day and night
filled with terror:

Nothing’s easy here.
Someone pocketed
a handful of morphine
from the hospital,
we’re all under suspicion now.

Russian fever,
they call this melancholy,
making me waver
during the day, delirious

between my awe
     at this landscape’s enchanting spell

and the hammer of war pounding
     all around us.

Pop a pill
drag a cigarette
stop to take in each detail,

hints of creation
some buds growing strong,
others trampled
under soldiers’ boots.

Wandering the plains
     with Alex
     with Werner
     on horseback
     on foot
all I wish is to
     zoom back home
     retreat to my books
     share the knowledge
          I discover inside them
          with the world.

Shooting Stars

With everyone gathered at the campfire,
     singing songs
     telling stories
I tug his sleeve,
we sneak away, footfalls light,
along the dark, wooded path,
guided by moonlight
to the clearing by a small stream.

We halt,
electrified by our own rapid breaths
rising over the peaceful sounds of nature,
and when our mouths get closer,
exchanging air, it only takes
until our lips entwine,
hands fumbling at waistbands,
hardness pressing into each other
by the light of the moon.

Afterward, we lay side by side
on a large, flat rock fine as any bed,
gazing up at the stars in the sky,



in each other.

Kip Wilson is the author of “White Rose,” a YA novel-in-verse about anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl. Kip holds a Ph.D. in German Literature, is the poetry editor right here at YARN (Young Adult Review Network), and wrote her doctoral dissertation about the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. She’s lived in Germany, Austria, and Spain, and currently calls Boston home.

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4 Poems by Alexandra Peñaloza Alessandri http://yareview.net/2019/04/4-poems-by-alexandra-penaloza-alessandri/ http://yareview.net/2019/04/4-poems-by-alexandra-penaloza-alessandri/#comments Mon, 01 Apr 2019 12:00:39 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9482 Doing High School When You’re a Señorita by Alexandra Peñaloza Alessandri When you’re a señorita, // your dreams are cracked open // like granadillas [...]]]> By Alexandra Peñaloza Alessandri

Doing High School When You’re a Señorita

“DSC_0520 “ © aamylindholm (https://www.flickr.com/photos/aamylindholm/5916759999/)

When you’re a señorita,
your dreams are cracked open
like granadillas,
wet seeds spilling from
parted lips—
within the limits your
parents place, because
you’re not like the others
who collect sleepovers like seashells.

(You have a perfectly functioning bed,
your parents say. Why would you
want to sleep somewhere else?)

When you’re a señorita,
complaints are a currency
reserved for the brave. You’re
restricted to Sí señor, Sí señora,
and God-forbid you speak
the way your peers do—
your parents will slap the sass
so fast from your mouth.

(Cuidado, they say, eyes ablaze. Señoritas
don’t complain, don’t disdain.
Keep it up y ya verás.)

When you’re a señorita,
boyfriends are a language
your tongue doesn’t recognize,
even if the boy
three rows down in English class
is someone you wish
you could know better.

(¿Que es eso de novio? they say. Una señorita
doesn’t flaunt her body. She knows
it’ll attract sinvergüenzas.)

When you’re a señorita,
leaving home for college
is a dream that tastes
like summer ripened mangos
like guavas freshly-picked from trees.
But when you tell your parents this,
they cross themselves,
throw their hands in the air,
lament where they went wrong.

(Don’t even think about it, they say.
Señoritas don’t leave home
before they’re married.)

So when you’re a señorita
in high school,
you hide make-up in book bags,
hold hands in the hallway with the boy
who’ll never meet your parents. You
talk loud, laugh louder,
dream even louder still.
You sway your hips as you walk
shoulders squared, chin high,
eyes swallowing shadows.

Your parents aren’t there to stop you,
so you collect your dreams
like spilled seeds,
until the moment
you can scatter them free.

I Don’t Know

I don’t know
what you were thinking,
what made you decide
to marry, to have a child
well past your health.
Did you not know
I would need you,
that teaching me grammar
and history
and literature
would not be enough?
That I would dream of
of father-daughter dances,
of being Papi’s little girl?

But you are none of that to me—
you’re hurricanes and tsunamis,
broken dishes and promises.
You’re the hail in my storm,
pelting me into submission.
You are screams into pillows,
slammed doors and angry tears
tracking down my cheeks.

I don’t know
why your tongue is
frozen against affection,
why it’s unable to unfurl into
te quieros,
why te amo remains absent
from your vocabulary.
Are you as broken as I feel?

I don’t know
the nuances of your story,
though God knows
I’ve asked. So I
sift through the sand
in search of your truths,
try to loosen the I-hate-yous
from my lips.

First Date

love © Francesco Sciuto (https://www.flickr.com/photos/147758644@N06/35816102916/)

tap, flap,
my chest,

(If I’m still,
my heartbeat echoes
across the universe.)

flays, flies
into tangled
notes, like
an orchestra
lacking its
I try to
tease it back
into a concerto.

(Did you know,
when all pieces play
together, angels sing?)

you arrive,
eyes alight
with secrets,
my heart
joins the
a steady
of bongos
my ears.

(You speak,
but all I hear is the
sweet whisper of wings.)

So I
into this
our first date.

Still Feels Like Home

It’s been too long—
the edges of the
panoramic a
sepia snapshot in
Abuela’s scrapbook.
Fog obscures the Andes
while coffee fields and
steep slopes sleep
beneath a blue haze.
Cool dew settles on my
skin and I breathe


and long

fill my lungs
with mountain air
and wonder:

Was this ever mine?

Morning sun strips the haze,
fills the space
between sleep and
wakefulness. Parrots
fly out from cedars in pairs
while a soft breeze
through the guaduales
near the field where the
boys are already playing fútbol.
Their movements flawless,
muscles gleaming with sweat

and my lips
stretch into a smile.
I tilt my face
greet the sun the way I
once did. Only now,
my Spanish sticks to



the roof of my mouth
like arequipe.
It’s all so unfamiliar

and yet
(and yet!)
this still feels like home.

Alexandra Peñaloza Alessandri is a Colombian-American poet, children’s author, and professor at Broward College, where she teaches composition, creative writing, and literature. Her work has appeared recently in The Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, The YA Review Network, and Atlanta Review.

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The 2019 Season Begins — and News http://yareview.net/2019/03/the-2019-season-begins-and-news/ http://yareview.net/2019/03/the-2019-season-begins-and-news/#respond Tue, 26 Mar 2019 12:00:30 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9664

“Spring Thaw” © Laura Williams McCaffrey


And so begins the 2019 season

Some of us still aren’t seeing many glimpses of spring — but it has to turn up soon. April is right around the corner, and so is our 2019 season.

This year has brought big changes for a number of YARN folks. Kerri, our Founder and Essays Editor, released her historical novel for adults “The Kennedy Debutante,” and Kip, our Poetry Editor, will release her historical YA novel-in-verse “White Rose.”

We’ve been thrilled to offer a pop-up story this winter “The Writer,” and to post a fantastic interview with Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan about their new YA novel “Watch Us Rise.” Renée and Ellen also offered a couple of spectacular outtakes. If you haven’t had a chance to read these yet, please do!

We’re offering a shorter season this spring, but it’s full of delicious reads. Nina LaCour is working on answering some questions for us, and we’ll share that interview with you soon. We loved her novel “We Are Okay,” now out in paperback!

Now for some sad news. Because of the many changes in our busy lives, we have to announce that YARN is going on an indefinite hiatus. We all love the work — and especially the stories, poems, and essays you send us — but we don’t currently have what it takes to commit to continuing after this season. We offer some goodbyes-for-now:

From Laura McCaffrey: I was so honored to join this team of open-hearted editors and writers. I’ve loved all that our submitters so generously and bravely offered to us. I’ve adored working on the stories we’ve published here. Like Kip and Kerri, I’ll miss this. I recently read Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus,” and, like the characters in that novel, I often find myself with other rêveurs, appearing and disappearing to create a little magic. I hope to run into many of you elsewhere.

From Kip Wilson: I’m now on my fifth season at YARN and have loved working with our poets and readers, so I will really miss reading new submissions this year. If the opportunity arises to break our hiatus, I will be all for it! And if not, I hope to see many of you in the poetry-related interwebs in the years to come.

From Kerry Maher: YARN changed my life when I launched it with a few good friends close a decade ago — not only did it make me an editor and entrepreneur, it made me a better and more open-hearted writer. I’ve learned so much from reading submissions by aspiring teens and famous authors alike, as well as from the amazing crew of editors and readers I’ve had the privilege of working with.  I’m so grateful to Diana, Kip, and Laura for taking the journal over these past few years when I need to semi-retire. And three cheers for YOU, READERS, for it’s you who have made YARN worth the effort since 2010. I really can’t thank you enough.

Don’t disappear quite yet, dear readers. You’ll find plenty here through April and May.


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The Writer http://yareview.net/2019/02/the-writer/ http://yareview.net/2019/02/the-writer/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2019 13:00:00 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9639 A February pop-up — a story of love and writing by Daniel Craig Roche.


2008 was the year the number sixteen appeared on my birthday cake. A flame flickered above the number one and another danced on top of the number six. I couldn’t think of a decent wish, but everyone stared at me.

My friend Kathy sat across from me, her beautiful but sad eyes squinting at me from the other side of her thick glasses. Without saying a word, she forced me to make a wish that mattered, so I took in a deep, meaningless breath and blew the candles out. Small strings of smoke rose into the air and disappeared, much like the years those candles represented.

After the party, everyone left and Kathy stopped to talk to me before walking home. “What did you wish for?” she asked.

I wished for her to be happy, but of course she couldn’t know that. Her sad eyes would erupt into tears if she knew how I saw her.

“If I tell you, it won’t come true.”

That seemed to satisfy her. She wished me a happy birthday and walked home.



“Orionid Meteor Shower is Underway” © Jeff Sullivan http://www.flickr.com

My dad took me into the yard to watch the meteor shower that night. He let me drink a beer with him while tiny sparks of light streaked across the sky. The dark blue looked like the plate I ate my birthday cake on. It surrounded the moon in a cloudy mist that disappeared where the stars took over. Everything looked so big, making me feel small yet somehow important.

“You should take a picture,” Dad told me. His voice sounded distant even though he sat right next to me. “This is a big day. You’ll want to remember it.”

I snapped a picture with my phone. When I looked at it, everything seemed wrong. The stars weren’t there, and the moon lost its surrounding clouds of dark blue and purple. The picture looked more like a flashlight submerged in murky water than it did a vast universe harboring unknown worlds.

“It doesn’t even look like the same sky,” I said.

Dad sipped his drink. “A picture never does justice to the real thing.” He inhaled through his nose and I watched his chest expand. “Breathe deep,” he said. “Take a sip of your beer. Let your senses do the remembering for you.”

The sweet night air cooled my lungs but the beer tasted bitter. Maybe I didn’t like the taste as much as Dad. When he wasn’t looking, I dumped it out behind my chair.

Ditching my drink didn’t help. Something about the moment felt wrong. Holding the phone in my hand, I saw an image on the screen peering out from a three-inch window. Another spark flew underneath the moon, and I was glad my beer was empty.



2008 was also the year I learned how to drive. Dad handed me the keys one Saturday morning and told me to drive him to the diner. It became a ritual for the next six months. The endless pavement rolled underneath the car’s white hood. Dad and I enjoyed breakfast alone some Saturdays, but Kathy came for the ride most of the time. She started walking across the yard early almost every week just to meet us in the driveway. She still wore her thick reading glasses and she still needed to squint to see through them.

Kathy liked to quote book passages on our rides to the diner.

“Do you know who wrote that?” she’d ask from the back seat. I’d shrug my shoulders and notice her sitting back with her arms crossed. “You should read more,” she’d say. Kathy loved to tell me that, and she loved staring out the window afterwards, as though bored by my ignorance.

Books dominated Kathy’s life. Many people our age played video games or watched television. They looked at books as one might look at a chore. I wondered how books could be so bad when girls like Kathy ruined their eyes just to stare at them all day. “Reading is my escape,” she once told me. I could only guess what she meant by that, since she never let me visit her at home.

“Why do you need an escape?” I asked.

Her sad eyes welled up with tears, so I never asked again.

Making Kathy smile became a priority. Because of her, I worked extra hard in English class, writing happy stories and poems when the teacher gave me an assignment, and Kathy would listen to me read them then sit back with her arms crossed. She stared out the window in the classroom, much like she did on our Saturday morning car rides. I thought, one day I’ll get her to lean forward and watch me instead of the window. One day, I’ll be her escape.

Words were like particles to me back then, small things I could piece together to capture nature’s beauty. For me, writing was better than photography, because words floated around my head until the unseen hand of God put them in their proper order. I liked watching all those meaningless words come together into a sentence and form complex molecules with the twist of my pencil. The night sky went from an image on my phone to a vast universe that stretched onto the page like the shooting stars that fell on my birthday.



In 2009, I gave up writing about the universe because the words never fit together right. I stuck with all the cliché subjects, like teenage angst and love. I wrote about those things for fear of ruining the unknown world I cared about.

My English teacher asked us to write a description of someone we knew. Saturday morning came, and I chose to write about Kathy. She had her shoulder turned towards me most of the time, her eyes cast out the window. I made observations without her knowing it. Her hair looked blonde in places when the sun hit it, and sometimes the eyes behind her glasses shone with moist sadness. Some days they looked black and empty, but held my attention just the same. My words never captured how beautiful she looked, but my pencil captured who I thought she was — how I wanted her to be. We saw each other almost every day, and I still found her mysterious.

Kathy lived a couple houses down, so I saw her almost every day. She finally got laser surgery that reduced the thickness of the glasses she wore. She read everything I wrote and always leaned back in her seat and crossed her arms afterward.

“Starting to Write” © David Melchor Diaz http://www.flickr.com

“Write about me,” she told me one day. “I want to know how you see me.”

I never told her about my English assignment. She’d see it as an insult and scoff at me, making me wish I’d never chosen to write about her in the first place.

Because of Kathy, I thought teenage girls were the hardest people to please. She eventually grew agitated with me and stopped asking me to write about her. She even stopped coming to the diner with me and stopped sitting near me in class. She rarely left her house, which was odd, considering her need for constant escape. The sorrow in her eyes leaked into the rest of her body, her shoulders slouched and she walked around with her head down, staring at the ground as she made her way through the school’s halls.

I spotted her rummaging through her locker one day. “What’s your problem?” I asked.

“What’s yours?”

It wasn’t fair that she expected me to answer her question without answering mine first, so I did something terrible.

I walked away from her.

About a month went by and I wished she would talk to me again, but I was too shy to approach her again. One time I caught her attention and mistook her wide eyes as an invitation, but she returned her gaze to the window. I learned to stop watching her after that. She was impossible, so I gave up trying to make her happy.

Teenage boys are much simpler. We’re so easy to please. Take me, for instance. I just wanted to be with a girl and hold her hand.

I learned that younger girls didn’t like to talk about writing as much, so they were the ones I dated. They’d sit in my car with me while shooting stars zoomed through my body, then they’d lean in and kiss me. I refused to talk about writing with them.

One girl noticed my open notebook in the backseat of the car. “You write?” she asked. I placed my lips on hers before she could ask again.

Another girl took me by the hand and asked me to join her on the hood of my car. “Watch the stars with me, “she said.

I felt the churn of a twirling galaxy. The stars framed the black hole like a pair of thick reading glasses. The light stopped bending when she touched me. The moon was just a moon, and the clouds around it just gray wisps of cotton.

I couldn’t deny it any longer. I was in love, and not with the girl who lay next to me.

After that night, I tried writing about the universe again. The words flowed from me as though breathing out from my lungs. I scared myself and remembered why I stopped writing about it. Even if my tears dripped onto the paper, writing felt like taking something that didn’t belong to me, then screwing it up by piecing the wrong words together. Instead, I wrote about a smile I’d never witnessed stretched upon the face of a girl I thought I knew. The words looked pretty but none of it compared to a real smile. When I finally admitted that I could never write the sound of a young girl’s heart bursting with love, I put my pen and paper away.



Kathy walked across the yard one day because she read a book and the main character reminded her of me. She apologized for being so stubborn.

“I guess we have that in common,” I said. “I’m sorry, too.” I stuck my hand out for her to shake, but she shoved it aside and hugged me instead.

The shooting stars came back and wouldn’t go away. They persisted even when I felt her warm tears fall on my shoulder. I guess she was trying to ignore them, too.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

She nodded. “I am now.”

I don’t know what caused her to outgrow her awkward rebellion against me, but we both realized we could talk to each other about everything. We began spending every day together. Since she seemed so upfront and honest, I never asked her why she stopped talking to me. I was afraid to know.

Kathy was a mystery, and I decided that’s what I liked most about her.

In the fall of our senior year, we went to the cemetery and sat underneath a tree. We flung acorns into the bushes and talked about old times.

“You still brood a lot,” I told her. “I guess some things never change.”

She laughed at that. “Some things are best left untouched,” she said. “You changed, though. You were so different back then. I remember you always carried a notebook with you.”

I tried a smile, but the memories of having a pencil in my hand crept up on me. The black, star strewn world inside my head once forced my fingers into motion, endlessly plowing through the page with soft strokes of silver-gray. I missed it.

“You were always into writing,” Kathy carried on. “Do you still do it?”

“Not for a long time.” I tried forcing the memory of bitter beer from my head, but sparks lit across my black sky. “No one cares about writing, Kathy.”

“You care,” she said. “You always cared.” She flung another acorn and turned away from the woods. Her hand fell on my arm, and her sad eyes peered at me through the rim of her glasses. “I still want you to write about me. I want to know how you see me.”

Believe me, I wanted to write about her. I wanted to do everything for her, I just didn’t know how.

Kathy wasn’t like the younger girls, the ones who took me by the hand and asked me to sit on my hood with them. She was so much more. I wished I could find a way to tell her that.



That afternoon I contemplated love, because I didn’t know if I was in love with Kathy or with the way she made me view the world around me.

I did know that I enjoyed watching her play.

She climbed the tree like a little girl and swung her feet out from underneath a large branch. Her arms stretched out and plucked acorns from the leaves and tossed them down at me, then I caught a glimpse of laughter from behind her glasses. She climbed farther up as though nothing could ever hurt her, or maybe she believed I would always be there to catch her should she fall.

“Tree – Mendon” © Simple Joy’s http://www.flickr.com

I lay on my back and saw her move farther away from me, into the darkening sky where the colorful leaves swirled down to meet her. I heard her body moving with the wind, dancing with the leaves, and I wondered if I’d ever feel free enough to enjoy the world like she did in that moment.

Why couldn’t I learn how to surround the moon? If not for her, then for the shooting stars.

I didn’t lie to her about not writing, but I still kept a notebook in the back seat of my car. Every now and then I’d flip through the pages and imagine them filled with the universe, then a lump would rise in my throat. When I saw falling leaves, full moons or a pair of sad eyes, I felt a longing that would bring guilt along with it. All these beautiful things that could never belong to me.



A week after that afternoon in the cemetery, I could still close my eyes and see the leaves twirling through Kathy’s outstretched arms. My jealousy turned to anger when I saw all the things I loved moving with her — for her. She continued walking across my yard to meet me, and I would let her, despite her far-away stares, despite her crossed arms, and despite the ease with which she drew the entire universe into the palm of her hands.

She walked across my yard the day before Thanksgiving. She brought the year’s first snow with her. I watched the small flakes of white dance around her, much like the fall leaves in the cemetery. Everything moved when she moved. Seasons changed for her.

We sat in my car and our breath fogged the windows. She couldn’t stare outside anymore, only at me.

“I want you to write me,” Kathy said. Her arms were crossed to protect herself from the cold. I knew because she didn’t lean back in her seat. She leaned toward me, so I used my finger to write on the windshield.

Brooding, bossy, persistent.

She read the words and leaned closer. “I’m serious,” she said. “Write about me. What are you so scared of?”

“Nothing,” I said. “I just don’t care to write anymore. I don’t have anything good to say.” That was the first time I lied to her. My lips were thieves, stealing from the universe. It felt unnatural and awful. I remembered the snowflakes and the leaves, her joy when throwing acorns at me and how easily it all came to her.

I hated the way beauty moved with her, like she didn’t even try. Maybe Kathy deserved my dishonesty.

She held her phone out and pulled me toward her. “Don’t,” I said, then I heard the camera click. I blinked into her smiling face and waited for her to show me the picture.

“I’ll show you when you write about me,” she said.

I thought about what the picture might look like. If the colors would do justice to the real thing.

She fumbled with some buttons. “Which filter should I use?”

“Black and white,” I told her.

Her eyes scanned the picture as she scrolled through the samples.

“Black and white,” I said again.

She looked at me, and a sadness formed behind her glasses. “Fall leaves, summer grass. What good is a picture without colors?”

“Black sky. White stars, white moon. ”

She fumbled with some more buttons.

“Show me,” I said, growing agitated.

She used her finger to write on the windshield. ‘I’ll show you when you write about me.’ She signed her name underneath it and told me to do the same.

“You’re asking me to sign a contract with you?”

She placed her phone in her pocket and nodded. I don’t know why that picture felt so important. Maybe it was the smile on her face the moment she took it. I wanted to see her face that way again, aglow with joy and mischief, so I signed my name on the windshield, right next to hers. We had a deal.

Days passed and I still didn’t know what to write.



Gray clouds covered the blue sky and the cold wind blew snow across the grass. The haze of warm days removed itself from the air and painted a crisp picture of the stars above me. The air grew thin and cold when Kathy came to me a few days later.

“I still have that picture of us,” she said. “Did you write about me yet?”

“No,” I admitted.

She didn’t even flinch. “Let’s go back to the cemetery.”

By then the grass was stiff and it crunched beneath our feet. I wanted to lie down and freeze into the ground forever, then Kathy said, “Look.” She placed her phone in my hand and showed me the picture of her and me, black and white, sky, stars and moon. She left me standing there and walked toward our tree with her hair floating underneath a pink wool cap.

My eyes drew themselves to the palm of my hand, which held the picture of Kathy and me. I looked so far away with my jaw clenched tight, eyes dark. A hoodie cast a shadow along the sides of my face, hiding me from the world. Then there was Kathy, her white teeth contrasting with the eternal blackness in her eyes.

I wanted to crush the phone under my boot. All the shades of gray looked perfect. My face lost and agonized, but she made me beautiful. I thought of clouds, moon cotton of blue and purple. Then it started to rain. A cold drip rolled down the back of my neck, and another landed on Kathy’s phone, right underneath her grinning mouth. I could see its rounded edges, as eternal as the universe itself, then it tugged me back to that night with my dad, sipping beer and watching tiny sparks explode against the sky. In my mind I tasted the drink and loved the bitterness of it. Then I heard my dad’s voice, so far away in the wide open darkness.

‘A picture never does justice to the real thing.’

As I recalled the two candles from my sixteenth birthday, I realized the tiny dancing flames weren’t something that died away with a single breath. Fire isn’t something that had to end in smoke, it simply changed shape and floated away.

The rain came down harder. Kathy climbed the tree, laughing, her legs dangling. I paused, because I realized what she’d been trying to tell me. The stars, the leaves, snow and rain, even the fire, all raced towards the same place in time, because Kathy didn’t want me to simply write about her. She wanted to know how much I loved her.

Several frozen drops slid down my neck and woke me from my trance. It became clear that the tree carrying Kathy reached up toward the great sky that stretched over everything I knew and loved, and I could never let that escape from me again.

Another raindrop fell on the picture, but this one came from my eye, falling from the great big sky that lived inside my head. I slid the phone into my pocket.

“Kathy!” I ran to escape the falling rain and made my way over to her. “I want to write you,” I said. “I’m ready to show you how I see you!”

The wind picked up until cold bullets pelted against my skin. I raised my arms and lifted myself into the branches. My body wanted to be somewhere beautiful. The glow in Kathy’s face, the playful smile of her eyes, the relentless attention from the cold rain and the hollow roar of the wind. I had everything I needed but a pencil and paper. I would write from the universe in her eyes and describe the world exactly as she saw it. The oceans would breathe her name until she leaned into me with her arms uncrossed, waiting to fly above the trees. And if she never chose to love me I would still write for her everyday, because the night sky spread out inside of me and all my shooting stars fell for her.

“I want to write you,” I said again, my voice cracking while Kathy’s legs kept dangling. She found an acorn and plucked it from the tree, then flung it at me and laughed as the stars and the fire, the wind and the rain all closed in around us with the stroke of an invisible pencil, trapping us inside that perfect moment forever.

“Milky Way” © Chris Devers http://www.flickr.com


Daniel Craig Roche is a New England native with over thirty short stories, poems and memoirs published in both online and in print magazines, including “Ariel Chart” and “YARN.” His novel, “Corpse Lily,” is due for release in 2019 (Rhetoric Askew Publishing.) Learn more about him and his creative work at danielcraigroche.wordpress.com

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Interview with Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan, Authors of Watch Us Rise http://yareview.net/2019/02/interview-with-renee-watson-and-ellen-hagan-authors-of-watch-us-rise/ http://yareview.net/2019/02/interview-with-renee-watson-and-ellen-hagan-authors-of-watch-us-rise/#respond Wed, 13 Feb 2019 13:00:02 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9630 To continue to celebrate the release of Watch Us Rise, we were so pleased to offer an interview with Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Writing Process:
YARN: We’d really love to hear about the process of writing this unique book! How did you develop the story idea? How did you develop the concept for the blog of essays and poems?

RW: We knew we wanted to feature poetry in the book so as the story developed, we decided that it would be mandatory for all students to be in a school club and that each club would have to make blog posts. The blog really helped us shape the plot. We wanted to make sure no words were wasted, so even the comments section on the blog is crucial to the plot. The poems and essays the girls write are in direct response to what’s happening at their school, in their communities. The blog becomes a space for the girls to truly express how they feel. It’s the space they create to make their voices heard.

YARN: We’re so curious to hear how you worked together as writers. How was this process similar to and different from the ways you each usually work? Did you each choose your protagonist and stick in her point of view, or did you collaborate on both characters? How did each of your experiences with poetry inform your writing and your development of the characters?

EH: We truly wrote all of “Watch Us Rise” together. I wrote all of the chapters and poems from Chelsea’s voice and Renée wrote from Jasmine’s voice. It was absolutely a collaborative process – we created the timeline and storylines for our characters and wrote most of it in back to back desks in my living room. We would write chapters and then share with each other to provide feedback and next steps. It was such an incredible process — and made it feel much more like a dialogue. We really got to share ideas and plot points throughout — I loved the entire process. In terms of poetry, I really started out writing poems in middle and high school. It was a way to get my emotions out on the page, and for Chelsea, she uses poetry as a way to speak back to and challenge the world around her.

YARN: For each of you, what was your writing path? How did you first know you were “a writer,” someone who wanted and needed to write regularly? Once you knew, what did you do to make your dream a reality?

RW: I identified as a writer when I was very young. I knew I was a writer because even when given the opportunity to do something else, like play outside or go to the mall, I was content with my journal and a pen. I knew I was a writer because whenever something really good or really bad would happen, I’d want to write about it. By the time I was in eighth grade, I had written the spring production for my school. In high school, I was in journalism, wrote poetry for the literary magazine, and took writing workshops during school breaks and summer vacations. So in a way, I have always been a writer. Before any book deal or professional obligation to write, I wanted–needed–to write. Being a writer and an author are two different things. Once I realized that I wanted to get published, I took writing courses at The New School in New York City and that was life changing. I not only learned about the craft of storytelling, particularly for young people, but I met so many people who were pursuing the same dream. That was motivating and encouraging. We supported each other and shared resources, attended readings together and really immersed ourselves in the literary community. I think that, along with the courses, helped prepare me to be a published author.

EH: I also knew I was a writer from a very young age. I loved to tell stories and entered a writing contest in elementary school that was all about me and my best friend Sally, who was also my next door neighbor. I won the contest and remember feeling so proud that my words were being read. I have kept a journal since the 8th grade and have dozens of them that are full of poems, short stories and drafts of novels. They follow my entire life, and I always felt so comforted by words. They were a safety net for me, and a place where I could feel like myself. In high school, I auditioned for the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts and it changed everything for me. Kelly Norman Ellis was one of my teachers and she was living her life as a professional writer, so I wanted that life too. I got my BFA in acting at the University of Kentucky, and we got the chance to do experimental theatre and really write our own shows. I got the chance to do a solo show for my senior thesis and we also wrote a play called The Man Chronicles and debuted it in our black box series. To be able to collaborate with other artists and use my writing has always been essential. I went on to get my MFA at The New School and working with Sapphire, Dani Shapiro and Darcey Steinke helped to shape my vision for what I wanted my career to look like. It has been a long process for me, but I have tried to be steady and keep working toward building a community around me and staying focused on craft – figuring out the best ways to tell stories.

YARN: What advice might you give teens who feel that the writing assignments they have simply don’t allow them to express themselves most effectively? Maybe these assignments don’t address issues they really want to write about. Or maybe these assignments don’t allow them to write in ways they love to write. How might a young writer balance what’s required of them and pursue their writing passions when these don’t seem to align?

RW: I felt that way a lot in school and I think that’s why I always kept a journal and wrote poetry and plays on my own, without having an assignment from teachers. That’s the powerful thing about creative writing — you don’t need anyone to tell you what to write, you don’t need expensive tools to create. Just pen, paper, and imagination. I was always writing outside of what was assigned in class. And when it was appropriate, I made sure that school assignments included the voices of communities that were often overlooked.

YARN: What advice would you give young writers who’d like to #WriteLikeaGirl but aren’t quite sure what that means to them? How might they start to explore that aspect of who they are?

EH: I think the best advice would be to just start. If you can’t find your voice represented the way you want it to be, then start writing and finding a way to share that — starting your own blog, sharing it with your family and friends, on social media, at open mic events or talent shows. And if there are no events in your town or school, then start one! Find a crew of friends who are interested in sharing work and start a writing workshop. Ask a teacher to use their room after school, or a librarian to host a feminist book club or a space where people can gather and talk about what’s on their minds. You can also reach out to your public library or a local coffee house to see if you can partner with them. Try and find camps and programs where you can go to pursue your art — scholarships and contests — check out the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. You can chart your own path — and write your own stories. You just have to begin.

YARN: “Watch Us Rise” is so, so incredible in many ways. One of the things we loved was that the story offered an honest depiction of tough situations but also much that was positive — a vision of possibility for teens who’d like to create art, become activists, and form friendships and mentorships. Was this your intention? If so, why? If not, how did that aspect of the story become important as you wrote?

RW: We set out to write something realistic so that meant we needed to write about the everydayness of being a teenager—crushes, arguments with parents, angst with teachers. The tough themes, like Jasmine’s father having cancer and the tension at school, are there too because we know that life is often a combination of the bitter and the sweet happening right alongside each other. Even in turmoil—and sometimes because of it—we can rise. We can create, we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves. I don’t know if it was our intention to have this at work in the book but I know in our own lives, we’ve had to endure tough things while also being inspired to create and love. Maybe we instinctively drew on that for the characters in “Watch Us Rise.”

YARN: This book is an overtly intersectional feminist story. It offers political viewpoints, but it’s not a story in which characters seem to strictly follow one narrow political pathway. They have complex beliefs and behaviors. What choices do you think you made to ensure that the story had a defined political viewpoint revealed through the complexity of teens’ lives?

EH: We knew we wanted the story to be deeply rooted in the friendship between Chelsea and Jasmine. From there, we started to think about what they cared about and what was on their minds. We started to see them take shape – and poems about womanhood, beauty, family, race, identity and feminism (to name just a few), started to show up. Their voices kept getting louder and louder as they started to define what they believed in. I hope readers see that they are complicated, nuanced characters who are not perfect, and are struggling to find out how to be strong, independent women, as they are up against the machine of media telling them they are not enough. We wanted young women to see themselves as powerful and worthy of love and attention and healthy relationships in friendships and partnerships. To me, the political viewpoint is loving who you are and building a community around you who sees you — and loves you for who you are. And if those things are in place, you can really rise up and create the kind of world you want to live in.

YARN: 2018 has been called the second “Year of the Woman” thanks to much positive feminist activism and movements such as #MeToo. Did you draw inspiration from the cultural climate as you wrote? How do you hope the women of these movements and other women receive your book? What about men? Is there a message here for them, too?

EH: Yes, this book is definitely a response to the #MeToo movement. This is young women re-writing the narrative and putting themselves in the center of the story. In many ways it’s a message for young women to stand up for what they want — and that could mean talking back to the media, writing letters and starting campaigns to get more representation or disrupt the socially constructed ideas of beauty, or push back against racist and sexist stereotypes. And it is for everyone — not just for young women, but men too. We want them all to be in conversation with each other — to be telling stories and figuring out ways to dialogue and build together.

YARN: What challenges and possibilities did the choice of depicting the girls’ school blog pose you both as writers? Why integrate that format into the story? Had you considered any other formats?

RW: We thought the book would be less interesting if the girls just talked about writing poetry. The reader needed to see it. The blog became a tool to use to get Jasmine and Chelsea to dig deeper and let the reader in on what they are really feeling. The blog also helped the plot move forward. In the beginning, it’s a way of taking action. It’s using social media in a positive way. We wanted to show the possibility of what could happen in online spaces when teens use their voices for something good. The challenge was making sure the blog posts weren’t throw away pages, meaning, we wanted each blog post to move the plot forward in a meaningful way.

YARN: In the beginning of the story, you offer a quotation by Audre Lorde: “Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.” Why did you pick this quotation for the story, by this specific writer?

EH: I have always loved Audre Lorde. For me, she is one of the bravest writers I have ever come across. I am so moved and in awe of the truths she tells with her poems, and I wanted her voice to be one of the first ones we see. It acts as a bridge toward the kind of changes they want to see made. She is a voice that certainly guided me when I was a teenager, and I wanted the same for Chelsea and Jasmine.

YARN: What piece of this story or your writing process for the book most surprised each of you? What did you find yourself writing about or saying or learning that you didn’t know before you started or that you didn’t intend to write about or say?

RW: I’m surprised that Jasmine’s size became such a meaningful part of the story. In the beginning, when we were outlining, I thought more about Jasmine’s race and gender and was thinking about her character development that way. But with each scene I wrote, it became clear that there was something that was burning to be said about beauty and size. I love when stories take off and go in directions that were unplanned. Because of this, it was so fun to write the love story between Jasmine and Isaac. None of that was in my head at the start of writing Watch Us Rise. It all unfolded the more we worked on the story.

Other Books/YA stuff:
YARN: From this book and your other work, it’s clear you care about producing creative responses with communities of artists. What advice would you give those interested in getting involved with or starting communities of artists who work together and/or work to support each other?

RW: My advice is to have a listening heart and ask questions. It’s important to really listen to what the community needs and wants before coming in with an agenda. A leader can—and should—have a plan, a vision. But that vision should be a living thing that can be added on to, revised. I think that kind of leadership sets the tone for collaboration, conversation and a caring community. Gathering artists and asking them, What can we build together? is a good place to start.

YARN: Similarly, it’s clear you care about teens–particularly female teens–standing up for what they believe in and making active choices with those beliefs in mind. What advice would you give those interested in getting involved with a cause?

EH: I would say connect with the community around you. Start there. See if there are friends or teachers who are interested in the same causes and see what you can do collectively. Can you start a club, or find a meeting space? Do you want to raise awareness or funds, or both? Find a way to brainstorm your ideas and figure out a way to put them in motion. This could mean hosting an event or an open mic, a bake sale or a workshop. And then you could search for a local organization to partner with — or find ways to partner online if it’s national/international. You can start small with just a meeting or conversation and see where that leads you. Young people are doing incredible work all around the world — so it will be amazing to find ways of connecting and growing.

YARN: What are a few resources you’d suggest to writers who feel they want to grow, but they aren’t sure where they can get some help and support? (These might be books, articles, online classes, writing groups, blogs – whatever/whoever you think offers great support for writers.)

RW: These books have great prompts and have helped me get un-stuck: Writing from Personal Experience by Nancy Kelton and The Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen. I also learn a lot from Poets and Writers. I love their writing prompts as well as their database of writing programs, contests, and literary events.

EH: Here are a couple of books that are essential for me, and an amazing online resource for young writers. Also, check out the resources in the back of “Watch Us Rise.” They are amazing!

Writing Down the Bones & Wild Mind – Natalie Goldberg
Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

YARN: What writers or books would you say have influenced you most as a writer? What books helped you become a writer or helped you realize you wanted to be a writer?

House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
good woman by Lucille Clifton
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

EH: There are so many books that have changed and shaped my life. I chose 10 that were truly transformative for me when thinking about storytelling in both fiction and poetry – books that made me see the world new and fresh – that made me ache and question and believe. Books that portrayed whole and complicated women. Books I keep with me always.

Tougaloo Bluse – Kelly Norman Ellis
Loose Woman – Sandra Cisneros
Mama Day – Gloria Naylor
Corregidora – Gayl Jones
The Moon is Always Female – Marge Piercy
Sula – Toni Morrison
Listen Up: Spoken Word Poetry – edited by Zoe Anglessey
The Black Unicorn – Audre Lorde
Bastard Out of Carolina – Dorothy Allison
good woman – Lucille Clifton

YARN: Are there any titles and authors you’d like to give a ‘shout-out’ to? What should YARN readers look for in their bookstores and libraries?

RW: So many! I’ll share some new titles that will be out soon. I’m very excited about India Hill’s debut The Forgotten Girl (Fall 2019, Scholastic), Karyn Parson’s How High the Moon (March 2019, Little Brown & Co.), and Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes (October 2019, Highlights).

EH: Yes! The more I read, the more I write! I have two daughters (8 & 5), and when they were babies and toddlers, I struggled to find time to read — and my concentration was being sabotaged! But over the last few years, I have returned to reading on a steady basis. I joined a book club three years ago (now there are three of us and it’s amazing), and it has become a constant for me. My reading life has gotten stronger each year and I try and read within and outside of my preferred genre. The books below are just a few that I love and that have helped shape my own writing or my own ideas of storytelling.

Vessel – Parneshia Jones
the black maria – Aracelis Girmay
God’s Will for Monsters – Rachelle Cruz
Arrival – Cheryl Boyce-Taylor
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé – Morgan Parker
The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo
If They Should Come for Us – Fatimah Asghar
eleanor & park – Rainbow Rowell
Starshine & Clay – Kamilah Aisha Moon
Piecing Me Together – Renée Watson
Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
The Mothers – Brit Bennett



Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author, educator, and activist. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury, 2017) received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. Her children’s picture books and novels for teens have received several awards and international recognition. She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan. In the summer of 2016 Renée launched I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit committed to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts. She launched the #LangstonsLegacy Campaign to raise funds to lease the Harlem brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and created during the last twenty years of his life. Her hope is to preserve the legacy of Langston Hughes and build on it by providing programming for emerging writers. Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon and currently lives in New York City.

Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. She is the author of two poetry collection: Crowned and Hemisphere, and Watch Us Rise, an upcoming YA collaboration with Renée Watson with Bloomsbury set for publication in 2019. She has been on the po­etry faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan in their low-residency MFA program. Ellen is the Director of the Poetry & Theatre Departments at the DreamYard Project and directs their International Poetry Exchange Program with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. She co-leads the Alice Hoffman Young Writer’s Retreat at Adelphi University. A proud Kentucky writer, Ellen is a member of the Affrilachian Poets, Conjure Women, and is co-founder of the girlstory collective. She lives with her husband and daughters in New York City.

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Watch Us Rise — Outtakes http://yareview.net/2019/02/watch-us-rise-outtakes/ http://yareview.net/2019/02/watch-us-rise-outtakes/#respond Mon, 11 Feb 2019 13:00:44 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9618 We’re thrilled to help celebrate the publication of Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan’s fabulous new YA novel “Watch Us Rise.” Renée and Ellen were kind enough to share some outtakes from the novel with us. Take a look — and go find this book!

Scene about the first blog entry for “Write Like a Girl”

Jasmine asks, “What should our first post be about?”

I reach into my book bag, and pull out a handful of Seventeen Magazines. “These,” I say, pointing to the covers. There are about ten magazines spread across the table. One headline reads, “Get the Perfect Skin”, and another “The New Hook Up Rules”. There are at least three that have something to do with how to shop for the best jeans and “How to look Hot, Hot, Hot.”

“What do you want to do with these?” Ms. Lucas asks, becoming curious all of a sudden.

“I was thinking maybe we can do a counter issue or at least a blog post highlighting what’s problematic about articles like these,” I say. “I always see them in the grocery store and in bookstores and they always make me wanna throw up. And then a couple weeks ago I was running with James, James Bradford – he’s my partner in gym, anyway, we had this long conversation about it, and I don’t think I’m the only one that hates these kind of messages. So I want to change the game.”

Jasmine looks through one of the magazines. “None of the covers have a dark skinned person on them, and none of them are my shape. I get it. So, what do we want to say?”

“I don’t know exactly what to say, but we have to start strong—for branding purposes but also to get people to want to come back and read our blog and care about the issues we’re posting about.” I flip through a magazine. “Maybe we shouldn’t start off with a regular blog post—like, not an essay or article-type post. That might seem too boring. I can write a poem.”

“You should definitely write a poem,” Jasmine says.



An outtake from Jasmine’s original open mic performance

Look at me. No, no—don’t turn away. See all of this.  All this fat girl curve, this belly, these hips. See me. Don’t just look at my face and call me pretty. Take all of me in and call me by my name. Jasmine. A delicate flower I am, but delicate doesn’t only mean breakable and fragile. I am delicate as in exquisite. All the parts of me that you can and can’t see are intricately woven to create this one-of-a-kind masterpiece. This, me.

This me, housed in this big body that does not fit in tiny spaces, extra small shirts, skinny jeans. This big body that does not fit your expectation. I am not depressed or sad, no low self esteem here for you to pity. And maybe that is why you don’t see me. Does my confidence cancel out my fatness? Am I supposed to be quiet and shy, ashamed to eat in public, embarrassed of the jiggle and shake my body makes when I dance? Watch me dance.

Don’t look away. See this fat girl joy. This, me.



Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author, educator, and activist. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury, 2017) received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. Her children’s picture books and novels for teens have received several awards and international recognition. She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan. In the summer of 2016 Renée launched I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit committed to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts. She launched the #LangstonsLegacy Campaign to raise funds to lease the Harlem brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and created during the last twenty years of his life. Her hope is to preserve the legacy of Langston Hughes and build on it by providing programming for emerging writers. Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon and currently lives in New York City.

Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. She is the author of two poetry collection: Crowned and Hemisphere, and Watch Us Rise, an upcoming YA collaboration with Renée Watson with Bloomsbury set for publication in 2019. She has been on the po­etry faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan in their low-residency MFA program. Ellen is the Director of the Poetry & Theatre Departments at the DreamYard Project and directs their International Poetry Exchange Program with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. She co-leads the Alice Hoffman Young Writer’s Retreat at Adelphi University. A proud Kentucky writer, Ellen is a member of the Affrilachian Poets, Conjure Women, and is co-founder of the girlstory collective. She lives with her husband and daughters in New York City.

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Our Pushcart Prize Nominees http://yareview.net/2018/12/our-pushcart-prize-nominees/ http://yareview.net/2018/12/our-pushcart-prize-nominees/#respond Sun, 02 Dec 2018 13:00:39 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9550

Once again, we’re thrilled to announce our nominees for the Pushcart Prize Anthology. Each year, small presses nominate many wonderful stories and poems for publication in this distinguished anthology.

It’s always such a pleasure to reread our season’s stories, and it’s always so difficult to decide on a few to nominate. With these nominations we hope to see our YA writers represented alongside their peers who write for adults. 

Congratulations to our winners!


Short Fiction:


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