Watch Us Rise — Outtakes

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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