||Mattie Stepanek was born with a rare form of
muscular dystrophy, a disease that steadily weakens one's
muscles. His words, however, reach out to the world with
tremendous power. Many of his poems deal with life, death and
challenges he has faced. They can be found in two best-selling
books, Heartsongs and Journey Through Heartsongs
(vsp Books/Hyperion). Mattie is also the Muscular Dystrophy
Association's 2002 National Goodwill Ambassador and his third
book comes out this spring. Get the story behind a winner who
just won't quit.
TFK: What do you like about writing?
Mattie is a familiar face in the fight
against muscular dystrophy. Here he greets First Lady
Laura Bush at the Children's National Medical Center in
Mattie: It's a great way of
expressing yourself in a way others can understand so that
they can get through the same situation if it's
TFK: What do
you hope people will learn from your poetry?
is a gift. We have to make the best of it and do what we're
meant to do. I hope they will learn to remember to play after
every storm. We all have life storms and we need to celebrate
that we get through them, instead of mourning and being ready
to be crushed by the next one.
TFK: What do you tell kids who think poetry is too
tough to understand?
Mattie: It's not, it's your inner
feelings, it's your life experiences. And those who still
think it's tough after that, then try this: describe a tree,
using all five senses without general words, like green, leaf
branch or twig, or anything like that.
TFK: Do you think you'll ever run out of things to
Mattie: Of course not. I'm always
talking. People say that on the inside I'm calm and peaceful
like a lake, and on the outside, I'm like a babbling brook,
always running on about things to say.
TFK: When you're not busy writing, do you enjoy
reading? If so, what do you like to read?
read the classics like Treasure Island. My favorite
book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird. Right now
I'm reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm on
The Two Towers right now. They're really exciting; it's
like Harry Potter on a higher degree. I just think it's
fascinating the way people used to believe things.
TFK: Tell us
about your upcoming book.
focused on hope, hope through heartsongs. Because of what just
happened to our country, I hope that people will read it and
get a sense of new feelings and not just cower back and have
it ruin their entire life. But not face it angrily. We cannot
win this war on terrorism with bombs, we have to win it with