Betsy Franco July 16 2008
Betsy Franco is the author of over fifty books, including the popular series Poem of the Week and the newer series My Very Own Poetry Collection. Ms. Franco, who earned a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University and an M. Ed. from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has taught elementary through high school. She and her husband have three sons and live in Palo Alto, California.
Words From Betsy
I've found that poetry really hits the spot for young readers, including reluctant readers of all ages. The economy of words and the white space of poetry are psychological pluses for struggling, balking readers. When it comes to writing their own poetry, I encourage students to "tell their stories" through poetry-to say what they need to say. Most students can muster the attention span needed to read or write a short poem, especially when I explain that there won't be any judgment placed on their words. I allow them to tweak poetry forms or turn an assignment on its head, to suit their "insides."
In addition, I find my mathematically and scientifically-themed poetry appeals to the logical thinkers who aren't necessarily attracted to reading and writing.
My teen poetry collections have e proven extremely successful with reluctant readers (See You Hear Me? poems and writing by teenage boys, Things I Have to Tell You, poems and writing by teenage girls) because teens respond to and relate to their peers. Even boys in juvenile hall couldn't keep from reading the anthologies.
My process is a bit magical. An idea may flit through my head on a walk, while swimming, while visiting the elementary school I visit every morning, while speaking at a high school, or during a high school play. For example, a crow cawing overhead became Birdsongs, a backwards counting book-5 years later. One poem I wrote, "One Hundred Wishes Make a Dreamer," set off the idea for a book of one hundred poems about the number 100 (Counting Our Way to the 100th Day!). I make a folder and add poems and ideas to it until the material is rich enough and ready to be worked on fulltime. Sometimes my first drafts are fairly ugly, but I know I can work with the language and the ideas to give each poem the energy and life it needs.
I love to stretch my mind, my imagination, the genres, the poetry forms.
Advice to emerging poets? Read a lot, but find your own "story" to tell. You definitely have a story-everyone does. If you want to be a writer, or an artist of any kind, it's possible. Every generation has its writers, artists, musicians, dancers, actors,... You'll just need to be as creative about building a career as you are about your art.