Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Serious Interpretation

My sixteen-year-old son chose the "Humorous Interpretation" category to compete in for the speech competition - - so, before judging the SERIOUS Interpretation category for the first time on Saturday, I felt like I was familiar with the category.

Except I wasn't.

I had watched my son prepare his interpretation of THE CANDY SHOP WAR by Brandon Mull.

It's a fun book with fun characters, and to watch my son present it - - was FUN! (Which as I mentioned in yesterday's post, he took FIRST place in his category!) I'm a mom... bragging is sometimes required.

The idea is to select one or more scenes from the book that represent the book and then deliver it in a compelling way. Competitors are judged on their poise, quality and use of voice, physical expression and especially the ability to interpret characters correctly and consistently, using full body movement.

So, then, fast forward to the SERIOUS Interpretation category. I had six young women competing in the round I judged (there are multiple rounds with different judges).

And, interestingly enough, two of the young women in this round selected the same book for interpretation.

IMPULSE by Ellen Hopkins.

To be honest with you, I've looked at the book several times on the shelf at Borders, and each time I've decided not to purchase the book. One reason is topic (too depressing), and the other reason is style. The text looks like one long poem - written in verse.

But, to hear two very different young women present the verse verbally - it blew me away. And, now I need to read the entire book.

It was interesting, the first young woman appeared as though she had practiced her presentation a lot, but she was very nervous, and so many of the words came out monotone. She stood very still for most of her delivery, but tried to move to emphasize the moments she thought were most important. I didn't hear many of her words because they got lost in the monotony, none-the-less, she did a fine job.

I had no warning that two ladies were interpretting the same book.

When the next young woman got up and spoke the same opening words AGGRESIVELY and with physical movements, I didn't even recognize the words... until she got to the four last lines. At that point she had already reached into my chest and ripped out my heart.

I had to keep control of my facial expressions and emotions because the first competitor was watching me closely, probably comparing my reactions to the ones she received earlier from me.

But frankly, I wanted to cry. Or yell. Or pound my fist on the table and say, "Oh. My!"

Sometimes, it is all about the delivery. The spoken word can transform the meaning and the emotion behind the written word.

Here are the words that both competitors opened with from the book IMPULSE (pages 3 and 4):


you could turn off
the questions, turn
off the voices,
turn off all sound.


to close out
the ugliness, close
out the filthiness,
close out all light.


to cast away
yesterday, to cast
away memory,
cast away all jeopardy.


you could somehow stop
the uncertainty, somehow
stop the loathing,
somehow stop the pain.


on your impulse,
swallow the bottle,
cut a little deeper,
put the gun to your chest.

...To hear these words uttered from the mouths of two very different young women, made me want to do something...

1. Buy the book
2. Reach out to teenagers
3. Talk with my own teenagers around the dinner table

Have you been moved by the spoken word? Do you think the spoken word can change the meaning of the written word or merely enhance it?

Come back tomorrow for the review of the competitor I awarded the first place ranking to in this category - - and the book that I now want to select for my next Book Club Book! If you love books as much as I do - be sure to friend me on goodreads.com! :)


  1. WOW! Pretty powerful! As a mother of two teenagers, I totally feel ya. I haven't checked out Impulse myself. I'm kind of like you...too depressing. But it sure sounds like it mirrors a lot of horror stories I hear as a mom. How lucky those kids were to have you for a judge;)

  2. Give Ellen Hopkins a try, Margo! Impulse is one of my faves!