4.5 years ago, I met this dude named Kwame Alexander, and invited him to speak at a writing awards ceremony (pic 1), and he brought down the house, so we all knew he was a big deal, even if everyone else in the world didn't know it yet.
A year after that, he came back to show my students how to get published through his Book-in-a-Day program (pic 2). And when we celebrated those authors a few months later, I understood how powerful it was to see your words in a BOOK--not just on the web, and not just in print--but for someone to go to all that trouble of making your story a REAL DEAL BOOK.
A year after that, the good folks at Reach, Inc. invited me to coach their teens to write fun, inclusive stories for the kids they tutor, and I said--as Kwame teaches you to say, even when you have no idea (yet!) how to do it--YES! Oh, and can we make books?!?
A year after that, after those first four Reach books and their awesome authors confirmed that real publication is about something bigger -- it's about being a powerful, respected, inspiring voice, often for those who need to hear it most (pics 3 and 4) -- Shout Mouse Press was officially born (pic 5 and 6), because it was clear we needed to bring this empowerment to more authors, and even more than that, we needed to bring their voices to more readers, because *we needed to be listening.*
Which brings us to TOMORROW, when that dude Kwame--now a Newbery Medal-winning, Coretta Scott King Award-winning, The New York Times Best Seller list-ing, world-traveling SUPERSTAR of an author / educator / inspirer (you HAVE read "The Crossover," right? pic 7) is coming back again, to celebrate Reach, Inc.'s newest authors--progeny authors, shall we say, of his own work--at their very own book launch (pic 8). That makes 12 books with Reach, and 18 books by unheard voices overall. This is beyond full-circle. This is a laying-on-of-hands, where one determined visionary reaches out to the next generation of determined visionaries who reaches out to the next. It will keep going. This is no circle, it's a chain, and it's a legacy, and tomorrow night, Kwame will meet some of his inspired descendant authors--Rochelle, Destiney, Naseem, Litzi, Darrin, Artrise, Makayla S, Remi, Taijah, Daijha, Ashley, and Makayla H (pic 9)--and folks, that there is a little big of magic.
I can't wait.