Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ellen Hopkins: Keep Your Eyes on the Real Prize

Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins is a poet and the award-winning author of eleven New York Times best-selling young adult novels-in-verse and three adult novels. Her twelfth YA is Traffik (McElderry Books, November, 2015) and her third adult novel, Tangled, was released spring 2015. She is a current an SCBWI Board member.

Ellen shares that 15 years ago, she was sitting in the audience like we are. She'd written and published 20 nonfiction titles, and tells us the drive behind writing CRANK, her novel in verse that broke out and made her career.

Maybe as a way to give meaning to her pain, and maybe as a way to prevent others from experiencing the same pain.

She wanted to reach readers, not get awards.

When Crank was published by Simon & Schuster in 2004 (with a very modest advance) Ellen had to figure out how to get the book into people's hands. She responded to every email and message she received from readers -- and still does. She plugged into the community on Myspace (the social media platform at the time), and when her 3rd YA novel in verse was publicized on their home page, it took off. It became a New York Times bestseller, which then led to the first two becoming best sellers as well.

She's telling us about how her journey has progressed, with success and travel and family and through it all, working on her books. Touring with great authors. Books doing well. Book challenges. Author challenges, too. writing, revising, copy edits, short stories, social media 2 hours of every day. Readers taking senior photos with her books and tattooing her words on their bodies.

And when things got really tough in her life, one of the things that got her through was the readers who kept contacting her and telling her how much her writing meant to them.

She challenges us to consider our current goals - is it awards, bestseller lists, or is it relationships with readers, teachers, librarians, editorial teams, and publishing houses.

If we can make a living from our art, that is living the dream.

But we need to remember our readers: they are why we are here.

Keep your eyes on the real prize. Making a positive difference in kids' lives with our books.

The audience gives Ellen a standing ovation!


  1. Oh, that would have been a speech to hear!

  2. Yes, that is real prize. <3 I would love to hear her speak.