Lee Bennett Hopkins Scholarship Recipient Genielysse Reyes Finds Validation as a Poet

Jul 14, 2023 | Scholarship Stories

Genielysse Reyes attended this year’s Crafting Novels in Verse Workshop and Retreat with support from our Lee Bennett Hopkins Scholarship for poetry writers.

Genielysse’s Story

Genielysse Reyes is a Filipino American children’s book author and artist from San Diego and currently living in Providence. She holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University, where she was a proud Lee and Low & Friends scholarship recipient. In the past few years, she received the 2021 NESCBWI Windows and Mirrors Award, an invitation to create with the ICA Boston Art Lab, and the 2023 Lee Bennett Hopkins Scholarship for poetry writers from the Highlights Foundation. A lover of show-tunes and open mics, she aims to create heartfelt stories filled with rhythm, truth, and a dash of Fil-Am magic. When not creating, she is probably giving a well-versed lecture on animated movies to someone somewhere.

She had a wonderful time at the workshop, her first Highlights Foundation experience:
“On the first night of our Crafting Novels in Verse retreat at the Highlights Campus, when it was my turn to introduce myself, I confessed that I had been struggling with imposter syndrome in regards to my writing and my poetry. I hoped to call myself a poet because I grew up as a songwriter and I took part in various open mics. And a few years ago, I wrote my first middle grade novel in verse, which led me to my literary agent and the NESCBWI Windows and Mirrors Award. I told my cohort about my slow journey through the publishing industry, and I told them how I felt stuck, and how I wondered if I was good enough.”

“And then, when Highlights gave me the Lee Bennett Hopkins Scholarship, which is specifically awarded to poetry writers, I took a step back. My self doubt faltered. I was recognized as a poet, as a verse novelist, and I could not be happier. A beautiful community like Highlights welcomed me and validated my poetry for young people. I am confident in my work, and I’m so ready to write.”

She continues, “The workshop was full of so many gems. Through the presentations done wonderfully by Rajani LaRocca, Chris Baron, and Cordelia Jensen, I got to be part of conversations of why verse novels are so needed and so effective for children’s storytelling. We discussed strategies for pacing, flow, rhythm, and how to push through writer’s block and revisions. During my 1:1 critique with Chris, I learned how to strengthen my protagonist’s voice, which has unlocked so many epiphanies for my first draft.”

Meanwhile, our verse novel cohort exchanged many nuggets of knowledge and perspectives. We created a space where we learned the value of our own voices, and we celebrated each other’s voices, too. We learned not only “how” to story, but “why” we story. That was so important to me.”

“I am so revved up to use what I learned about my craft and voice on my current and future manuscripts. My books champion stories of young Filipino American characters who take the courage to be artists, save themselves, embrace their intersectionalities, and thrive.”

S'more photo
Genielysse Reyes
art coop draving

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