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February 2018

Dear Readers,

I'm knee-deep in work on a new manuscript right now, with little time to write a newsletter. Instead, I'm posting a few pages from my new novel, Between the Lines, published by Nancy Paulsen Books, which comes out this month. Enjoy the sneak peek and take care till next time!

Between the LinesTYRONE BITTINGS

“Ya'll got no idea, but you're in for something deep. Trust me,” I tell Mr. Ward's class.

Mr. Ward invited me to help kick off Open Mic Friday with his new crew. I'm totally pumped to do it, especially since I can't hang so much this year. I've got some schedule conflicts, since I've decided to go for a J.C.—that's junior college, for those of you who don't know the lingo—I need to kick up my grades in math, in science, in history, in … well, in pretty much every subject but English. Time to man up, if I'm gonna chase my dreams, as my homey Wesley Bad-Boy Boone would say.

“Ya'll heard a little bit about Open Mic already, right? Well, last year, we had it for the first time. It all started when Teach did this lesson about The Harlem Renaissance. To me and my homey, Wesley, the lesson was all blah-blah-blah until Teach started reading poetry. Sorry, Teach, but it's true.

“Anyway, Teach read this one poem that made me think of rap, which I know something about, seeing as how I gots mad rhyming skills, myself, and know how to tell a story with a beat, you feel me? So I asked Mr. Ward if I could read one of my raps. A couple other kids had poems they wanted to read, too. So Mr. Ward started this regular Open Mic poetry reading in class, and next thing we know, kids from all over the school are practically busting down the door to get in on the action.”

“A slight exaggeration,” says Mr. Ward.

“Well, okay. But a lot of kids were getting passes to come to our room whenever we were doing Open Mic, and that ain't no lie.

“What I loved best about it was getting to know everybody. I mean, before Open Mic, we were all in our own separate little groups, thinking we were so different from each other. But when people started sharing who they were through their poetry, turned out we were more alike then we were different. Black, White, Puerto Rican—it didn't matter. Truth is truth, and everybody bleeds red.”

“The kids in that class? They are all my peeps, now. And they helped me believe in myself, in my dreams of what I could be. Bet you didn't know poetry could do all that, huh? 

“Ya'll should look around the room, check out the people you're sitting next to. You might think you know who some of them are, what they're about? You've got no clue. By the end of a semester doing Open Mic, you will.

“I'll be popping in, now and then, if it's okay with Teach.” I flash him a look that says, Don't embarrass me, now. He doesn't.

“As long as you get a pass from your other class,” said Mr. Ward. Teach ain't up for no outlaw action. Step up to him, you'd best step right.

“Cool. Okay. Let's get this thing started! Who wants to go first? I'd read one of my poems, but I don't want to show you up.”

Everybody laughs, which is exactly what I wanted.

“No, I'm just kidding. I'll get the ball rolling. After that, the mic's all yours.”

“Oh! And one more thing: At the end of the semester, there's gonna be a poetry slam: Team Boyz against Team Girlz, so get ready for a little competition. And you know the boyz are gonna crush it. It's throw down time, people!”


Author at Work

All for now.

Until next time,
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Nikki Grimes

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