Melanie Weiss is the author of the novel, Spoken — a book (for middle school and high school) that highlights the impact of spoken word poetry. Today I’m chatting with Melanie about her book, her love for spoken word poetry, and why YA is such a great fit for her writing. If you love poetry and are looking for books to fit a wide range of ages (from 5 and up), Melanie is the author to watch.
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I love the title “Spoken”! Why did you choose that title?
I tried out a few titles and eventually landed on The Spoken Word Club. About a month before I was set to publish my novel, my teen son said, “Mom, why don’t you just call it Spoken.” Smart kid! I think Spoken reflects the message of this book so well. While Spoken Word Club is a big part of the book, there is more to Roman’s journey than that.
Spoken word poetry has always fascinated me — the lyricism, the performance, all of it! Why do you think there’s so much power in spoken word poetry?
Because it comes from the heart. It is very brave and also very liberating to share so fearlessly with a group of people, many who are strangers, about our innermost thoughts and concerns.
What do you personally love about it?
I was so impressed and enthralled by the high school student poets I heard and their honesty about the joys and struggles in their lives. I recall the student who recited a poem about the police knocking down the family’s front door and the student with a poem about trying to tell his parents that he is gay. It inspired me to include some of the students’ real poems in my novel.
Why YA? Is there a reason why you were drawn to telling a teen’s story? Do you think you will ever write for other age groups?
I experimented with different genres and found that my voice and storylines fell easily into the young adult world. I love writing about teenagers as they discover their passions and begin to find their places in the world. They do so many honest and exciting things, like send someone a singing telegram during class on Valentine’s Day or ask a date to a homecoming dance in a bold and public way. I have written another Young Adult book, Crossing Lines, and just published a children’s book for ages 5-9, Oliver’s Birthday and the Robin’s Nest.
Are you working on anything new you’d like to share with us?
I am working with a narrator and turning Spoken into an audio book so that has been a very illuminating process. I am learning how hard it is to narrate a book, especially a book with poetry, just right. Spoken has so many characters in it. It is a challenge to relay all the different voices and poetry, but it is coming together quite well.
What do you hope readers gain from reading Spoken?
To keep learning and discovering and putting ourselves in new and sometimes uncomfortable situations. Roman started at a new high school interested in basketball and girls. When he discovered Spoken Word poetry, he allowed himself to become immersed in something unique and different and found not just a passion for poetry but that he was quite good at it. I am so excited that Spoken won a Readers’ Favorite Book Award for Young Adult – Social Issues.
Good news: From February 8 – February 15, the Spoken ebook only costs $0.99 on Amazon US and UK. Snag a discounted copy while it lasts! It’s also on Kindle Unlimited.
Meet Melanie Weiss
Melanie Weiss is a writer who lives in Oak Park, Illinois. She has published Crossing Lines (for ages 14+) and Spoken (for ages 12+), which received a 2019 Readers’ Favorite Book Award for Young Adult-Social Issues. She is the author of the children’s book, Oliver’s Birthday and the Robins Nest (for ages 5-9). For more information or to connect, visit melanie-weiss.com. You can also find her on Twitter.