“I don’t know if I can tell people anything about poetry that poetry can’t tell them itself. I try as hard as I can to get poems in front of people because they do the work. It’s not me....I can say, ‘Hey, poetry’s great. Anybody can write it. It’s cheap to manufacture. All you need is a pencil and a piece of paper. It’s amazing.’ But that’s not going to convince them to do it.”—Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka, author of Map to the Stars, in the Indianapolis Star

Dustin Lance Black +++

“I always tell my screenwriting students to pay attention if there’s a personal story you can tell from the heart that addresses what you feel are the missteps of the moment and of tomorrow. That’s something that can be helpful, but not told in a political way, told in a personal way. I had the story of me and my mom over decades, and my family over generations, and my relationship with my childhood church over many decades, all of which in their own way tie into this lesson that there is a higher plane than politics. That defines the book.”—Screenwriter and activist Dustin Lance Black, author of the memoir Mama’s Boy: A Story from Our Americas, in W Magazine


Judith Viorst “Practically everything that I've written that is funny or joyful, I’ve probably lived through first with tears—and crying and bitching and moaning and carrying on. I mean, I am not your merry little lady bouncing chucklingly through life. But eventually I pull myself together. I’m hoping that I'm now doing it at a quicker pace.”—Legendary children’s author Judith Viorst (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day),whose latest book of verse is Nearing Ninety: And Other Comedies of Late Life, on NPR


“I remember the first time I wrote down the name ‘Hadia.’ I was 18 years old and wanted to write about a woman that could be me, my sister, or one of my cousins. Before that, I had only created culturally ambiguous characters, like Cory, Cody, or Charlie. I was mimicking what I was reading at that time. Characters that weren’t Muslim, because I had never read about Muslims in stories and felt as though they didn’t exist in them. Like there was no space for them. That was what prompted me to write this book: not a story or a theme, but a character that I could relate to.”—Fatima Farheen Mizra, author of A Place for Us,at Qantara.de

Megan Labrise is the editor at large and the co-host of the Kirkus podcast, Fully Booked. The photo of Judith Viorst above is by Debbie Wagner; the photo of Dustin Lance Black is by Raul Romo.