Anna's poem "Through Open Eyes" is featured in Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing, available on Amazon here.
How did you get your idea for "Through Open Eyes"?
"Through Open Eyes" is a poem about the different problems that the world is facing and how so few people seem to really care or are passionate about helping. They include, among other things: Global Warming, child soldiers in Africa, terrorism, and poverty. I volunteer for a variety of different organizations and grew up with social worker parents. I’ve become real passionate about helping the world in as many ways as I can. This poem was a way for me to express my message and hopefully inspire others to help the world as well. My personal inspiration for the poem was the Black Eyed Peas' song “Where is the Love?” I wrote my poem with a rhyme scheme and beat that reminds me of rap and comes off as a little angry. I was inspired by the idea and just sat down and wrote a bunch of different couplets, each about a different problem, then rearranged them in a multitude of different ways until it just felt right.
Have you been writing for a long time? What do you like about writing?
I wrote some as a kid, but not much. When I truly took on writing as a hobby was in the 7th grade when we had a huge unit on poetry that I loved. I entered a local poetry contest that year with a poem I wrote entitled “The Color of Peace.” I went to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference the summer after 8th grade where I was inspired to pursue writing a bit more. My love of theatre then lead me to playwriting, which seemed to come fairly naturally to me. When I see a story, I naturally see it on the stage. Writing, especially poetry, gives me a way to express myself, but only when I write personally. Then there are times when I write from a view completely different from my own, about things I may have never even experienced. This type of writing attracts me the same way acting does. It gives me an opportunity to take on a character completely different from myself and explore emotions I don’t feel on a daily basis. This fascinates me.
What does it mean to you to have your piece included in this book?
When I think about being published in this book, I’m reminded of my first attendance to the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference. I talked to an agent, simply for the experience, knowing very well I was not going to get far with the poems I had written at 13. The agent told me poetry was incredibly hard to get published, and others have also been discouraging. Well, here I am, with a poem published in a book! I was ecstatic when I was notified that my poem was chosen to win honorable mention and be published in Dancing With The Pen.
Do you have any advice for other writers, or for other young people going after their dreams?
Don’t give up and don’t put your true dreams aside for more “practical” ones. Especially with writing, it’s easy to put your more artsy or impractical dreams aside to concentrate on school or related interests. I didn’t always spend much time on writing, or even acting for that matter. Science was my more practical interest, so once I got into high school, that pursuit came first. I can tell you that I have never once regretted taking the time to attend a writers conference or write a play, but I do sometimes regret not putting time aside each week to work on my play or write a poem. Life is just going to get more and more busy as you get older. Take advantage of the time you have and follow any dreams you may have.
Can you share a few of your favorite books or authors?
I will give the “cliché” answer of J.K. Rowling and Tolkien. Growing up, those were definitely my favorites as well as Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a pretty big Ray Bradbury fan. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference a few times, which were priceless experiences. Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone has also been a very inspirational book for me. The autobiographical story of a child soldier from Africa is what inspired my senior project to build a school in Sierra Leone, which has lead to my desire to join the Peace Corps after I get my Bachelor's degree.
What inspires you?
Lots of things actually. I have an array of interests, so I find interesting things to write about from many different places. I’ve written about my family, about problems in the world that interest me, about my emotions, and about experiences I have never had. In fact, the original poem I won Honorable Mention for was not suitable for a book for young students, but was inspired by a random set of words pulled from a magazine. The play I’m currently writing was inspired by a lesson on WWI I learned in school. The world is full of inspiration, it just takes someone to recognize it and write it down.
What are you working on now? What’s next for you?
I haven’t been working on as much poetry lately, but I have been doing more stage writing. It can be pretty hard finding scenes and monologues for youth to perform, so I’ve been writing some stuff for my acting class. I just wrote a scene that everyone seemed to love. I’m also trying to work on my one-act play. It’s still in the planning stages, but I’m getting pretty close to being ready to write it out.
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