Monday, April 02, 2012

5Q Poet Interview Series: Jill Corcoran

Our 5Q Poet Interview series for National Poetry Month continues with Jill Corcoran. Gradate student Lindsey Chesser offers this interview (plus) with Jill.

Jill Corcoran has a BA in English from Stanford University and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the University of Chicago. Through her own company, she began her career in marketing before making her way in to literature. In March 2009 she joined Herman Agency and then became a book agent in 2010. As an agent, she focuses on high concept Young Adult and Middle Grade Thrillers, Mystery, Romance, Romantic Comedies, and Adventure manuscripts.

Corcoran wears many hats in the world of children’s literature. Not only is she a book agent but she is also an award-winning author and anthologist. As an author, Corcoran has won awards such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for her novel TWIN SISTER: I AM NOT YOU. She was also awarded for her poetry collection, SINK YOUR TEETH INTO POETRY, which won the SCBWI Los Angeles Writer’s Day Poetry Award.

For more information about her projects and work with Herman Agency, visit her Facebook or blogsite:

DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD, due to be released Fall 2012, is a collection of biographical and inspirational poems by 30 poets compiled “to inform, inspire, ignite middle graders to imagine, persevere and to act."

The 30 poets listed below were chosen not only for their inspirational poetry but for demonstrating throughout their careers the desire to motivate young people with their work. The poems within the book are about people who have been determined, inventive, and shown leadership characteristics. Kira Lynn from Kane Miller Books wrote on Facebook, “I can’t wait until the rest of the world gets to see it. You have done something amazing. So proud to be a part of it.” Writer Beck McDowell of Penguin Group (USA) commented on Facebook after seeing the cover of the book by illustrator J Beth Jepson, “I think it’s a great representation of the title. Congratulations!”

Authors included in the book:
Alan Katz
Alice Schertle
Bruce Coville
Carol Tanzman
Curtis Crisler
David L. Harrison
Denise Lewis Patrick
Elaine Magliaro
Ellen Hopkins
Georgia Heard
Hope Anita Smith
Hope Vestergaard
J. Patrick Lewis
Jacqui Robbins
Jane Yolen
Janet Wong
Jill Corcoran
Joan Bransfield Graham
Joyce Lee Wong
Joyce Sidman
Julia Durango
Kelly Fineman
Laura Purdie Salas
Lee Bennett Hopkins
Lisa Wheeler
Marilyn Singer
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Rose Horowitz
Stephanie Hemphill
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer


1. What was the inspiration or moving force that jumpstarted your current project, DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD?

My inspiration for DARE TO DREAM...CHANGE THE WORLD came during a car ride, listening to NPR cover the uprising of the Egyptian people against their oppressive government. I have been to Egypt twice and remember the extreme riches, and poverty, as well as needing to be escorted by gunmen with assault rifles to keep safe. I was overcome by the courage of the Egyptian people and amazed by the role of social networking to bring their dreams and actions instantly to the rest of the world. To me, the tweets were like poetry, capturing the essence of the people's hopes, fears, strength and determination. The title of this collection sprung into being during that car ride as well as the dream of a collection of poems by the best children's poets living today to share the spirit of dreaming + action = change and that each one of us can make the world just a little better.

Dare to Dream … Change the World pairs biographical and inspirational poems focusing on people who invented something, stood for something, said something, who defied the naysayers and not only changed their own lives, but the lives of people all over the world.

The poets included were chosen not only for their talent, but because they too have informed, inspired and engaged young people throughout their careers with both their actions and their words.

2. What are you hoping to inspire within readers through this anthology?

My hope is that the Dare to Dream…Change the World book and foundation can spark a paradigm shift from resigned to inspired.

3. Knowing you are a fan of humor, what emotional elements can be found in your new anthology?

I would not say the collection has laugh-out-loud humor as much as an element of surprise that will make the reader grin.

4. I understand that DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD has brought you to tears. What other works, yours or others, have had the same emotional impact on you?

WHAT IS GOODBYE? by Nikki Grimes is one of my favorite books and it does not matter how many times I read it, I tear up every time.

5. How will this book tie in to the foundation that we eagerly anticipate hearing about more fully? Can you tell us the goal of the foundation?

To promote literacy, innovation and altruism, I am creating the DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD FOUNDATION. The foundation will create an annual writing contest for 3rd through 8th graders where students will write a poem and a paragraph about someone who dared to dream, and changed the world. The winner of the contest will receive a generous donation of Usborne and Kane Miller books for either their school library or a school library of their choice. We also hope to create a free e-book annually of the top 30 entries, as well as have a blog with stories about people who are daring to dream and changing the world, updated by students from around the country.


by Jill Corcoran

Dreams whisper
Grow, cell by cell
Thought by thought
Larger and larger
Louder and louder
Pounding, kicking, wrestling,
To be free
To be.

Setting the Stage: Divide students into partners. Pass out to each student, one short article of a current social issue teenagers in our country or your own local area are facing. For example, bullying, suicide, increased gang affiliation and drug activity, self-mutilation, and high school dropout rates. Have students read and mark the text and then share with their partner. As a large group, discuss the articles and issues. 

Poetry Performance:
Read DARE TO DREAM…. by Jill Corcoran to the group the first time. Then, have students volunteer to read the poem using nonverbal cues/hand motions to accompany it. You might also have students volunteer to read it in a different voice or tone than you did. If available, have different teachers come and read the poem, acting out their interpretations. For example, one teacher might dress as a nerd with taped glasses and suspenders or as a gothic student all in black and treat the poem as if it is about bullying. Another group of teachers might approach it as a gang and one member desiring to be free and to be an individual. 

Just for Fun:
Playing on the “cocooned” opening line, have students use paper, poster, or canvas’ along with different paint colors to create a butterfly with their handprints. Discuss concepts like the following: no one can make them do anything, they are responsible for their own actions, their hands represent their actions, there is only one of them, and they are their own person. Encourage them to hang their butterflies at home as a reminder of these things. Students may write a sentence under the butterfly stating what the poem meant to them. They could collage around the butterfly with words or thoughts that describe or define the poem to the student.

Image credits:;
;Jill Corcoran; KaneMiller

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2012. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Charles Waters said...

What a great idea for an anthology. If anything it sounds to me that it's about hope, which we all need. VERY much looking forward to it!