Student Spotlight: Ada Heller

Ada Heller, 2020 River of Words Category IV Winner

In this 2020 interview with River of Words, Ada talks about losing track of time when writing and how her love for science helped inspire her poem "Connections." The theme of connecting comes across again as she describes a watershed, a place where humans are connected and create a community.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to watch a video of Ada reading her poem, the 2020 River of Words Category IV Winner!

Meet Ada:

Q: What is your current age? 

I’m 17.


Q: Tell me a little bit about how you got into writing.

I’ve kinda always written.  Ever since I was really little I’ve been writing poetry. But I really started writing a lot when I was in middle school and I took a creative writing class. It was an elective. That was the best class I’ve ever been in. I had so much fun. Our teacher would give us a prompt and we would free write in class and then every Friday we would share our work. I almost always wrote poetry. 


Q: What’s your process like? How do you go about writing a poem? 

I guess when I do get an idea, I have to drop everything and write about it or else it’s gone. After I’ve written a poem I leave it alone for a while before I do any editing.  


Q: What do you enjoy the most about writing? 

I like how you can lose track of time when you’re writing. You sit down with your paper and you start going and you look up and an hour’s passed. That’s the best feeling in the world for me. It’s about the time with myself and the time with words and being able to lay them all out. 


Q: Let’s talk about your piece “Connections.” It’s a little bit about the natural world and a little bit about being human. What inspired you to write it? 

I love science as well as writing. It’s always been so interesting to me how science can break things down into little pieces. But when you look at something as big as the sunset, something that evokes emotion, it’s hard to remember that they are light waves.




Q. You say: 

“I look into the sky / and wonder / how the sun manages / to hit everything / just right” 

I remember sitting in my car looking at the sunset from my rear view mirror. I feel like all the way it all comes together is magical almost.  


Q: One of my favorite lines is 

“When I die / I’ll sink into the soil / Be eaten by all the things I’ve eaten / Become the dirt for all to walk upon”

I feel like this line is so unafraid. 

It’s humbling to remember, as we go about our lives, not that none of this matters, but that we are going to give back to those we’ve trot on. We’ll be eaten by the things we’ve eaten. 


Q: What is your favorite line?

My favorite line is about the collection of molecules that happen to be your heart. It’s interesting to think that something so important, that runs us, it’s just sort of an accident. 


Q: How did you find out about River of Words? 

My English teacher shared you with me. 


Q: What role has River of Words played in your life? 

It’s really cool that someone is listening and reading the words that I wrote. 


Q: Here at River of Words we talk a lot about Watersheds: about getting to know them, about observing them and conserving them. What does the word watershed mean to you? 

It’s kind of a meeting place between two sources. Maybe it’s just a cool way to talk about how we’re all connected. Like a community. 


Q: What is some advice you’d give another young person about writing/creating art? 

I’d tell them to keep writing even if it’s terrible. If you have a really good idea, just keep going. You’ll probably write something in there that won’t be terrible and you can compile those. 


Q: What is your advice for a young person who wants to be more involved in taking care of their environment or get to know their local watershed? 

Even small steps count. They matter. Maybe picking up trash on your daily walk can make a big impact for someone else. 


"Connections" by Ada Heller

I know
that when I die
I’ll sink into the soil
Be eaten by all the things I’ve eaten
Become the dirt for all to walk upon
I know that my thoughts are just neurons firing
That my heart is a collection of molecules that happen to beat
but sometimes
I look into the sky
and wonder
how the sun manages
to hit everything
just right
There’s no way
A universe without heaven
can paint pictures like that
with just light

Ada Heller, age 17

Lenexa, KS. United States

2020 Category IV Winner