Kepler's Youth Programs Coordinator, Lisa Mitzel, reports on the November 6th event:
Teen poets, writers, and artists are alive in the Bay Area! After approximately 70 chairs were set up at Kepler's for the Betsy Franco and Tom Franco Poetry event, we soon found out that we needed over 30 more seats. As people entered through our doors, and more people kept coming in, it was amazing to see teenagers, parents, teachers, Betsy fans, and poetry buffs filling nearly half the store - standing room only - on Friday night.
Betsy was on-hand from the beginning, reaching out to meet early arrivers, especially speaking to teens - any teen! She smiled and asked their name, and nearly every time, her eyes and smile widened as she recognized their name from the submissions of poems she received for this wonderful event.
When Betsy began her talk, along side her son, Tom, who illustrated the book, Metamorphosis, Junior Year, she asked people to raise their hands on request: Who is a writer? Who is a dancer? Who is a singer? Who is an artist? Hands kept flying up after each question. It was apparent that creative people are here (on the Peninsula!) and want to get out and connect with other creative individuals.
After Betsy and Tom's talk on their process, presentation of slides of Toms illustrations, pictures of a younger Betsy in college, and a very young Tom in diapers holding a paintbrush, they encouraged everyone to follow their passion and hang out with other artists and writers. Then they introduced to the audience a reading of Betsys work from Metamorphosis, which two teenage girls from Paly High performed. Let me tell you, the performance was awesome. Like real actresses doing a scene from a play, the girls demonstrated characters with honesty and vulnerability and ping-ponged internal dialogue as a teenage girl experienced the highs and lows of an online relationship. Wow.
Next came the 6 teen poets who had submitted their work to Betsy. Bravo for these young adults as they put out their deepest pains and struggles. I laughed at the young man, who, as a little guy, attempted to ride his tricycle down the stairs, cringed when a girl described her "white" skin and how she was stereotyped by others, and I was nearly in tears as one boy read his poem about his father, completely uninvolved in his life. Without a doubt, this was a powerful night.
Certainly, there was a rush to buy books after the presentation and a long line of people waited to meet Tom and Betsy and get their books signed. As a new staff member at Kepler's, I was delighted to watch and hear the hum of voices and conversations as people talked about the fantastic evening, and how they are looking to Kepler's to provide more of this kind of literary-performance-spectacular event.
People lingered, laughed, and took pictures. And many showed much excitement for future teen and poetry events at Kepler's!