What exactly does it mean to be a ’26-year overnight success’? How do we get through challenges of rejections both in our writing and at our day job? We get into all of it and so much more with today’s guest Kwame Alexander.
Kwame is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 28 books, including “Swing”, “Solo”, and “Rebound”, the follow-up to his Newbery medal-winning middle-grade novel, “The Crossover”. Some of his other works include “Booked”, a National Book Award Nominee.
This conversation is full of wisdom and transparency as we discuss Kwame’s “26-year overnight success” and the challenges of writing-related rejections, being laid-off from a job, the daily personal woes of being a human being, in particular, being an African American man and how it challenges the view of humanity and of the world. Further into the conversation, we dive into Kwame’s journey writing “Rebound” and how it reflected his own journey writing that story and at the same time, learning to rebound in life while his mother was in the hospital. We talk about the inspiration that we need to keep us going through the challenging times of a writer’s journey, managing writing around day-time jobs, and writing groups. We go into detail about his newest novel “Swing” and what it’s like to work with a co-author.
Books and resources:
Collection of poems by Mary Oliver
20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
On Writing by Stephen King
Enter our contest to win an 8-minute interview that will air at the end of Suzie Townsend’s upcoming 88 Cups of Tea podcast episode by clicking here!
Check out these highlights:
- We navigate through Kwame’s earlier years as a young reader and storyteller
- We touch on the power of poetry and how Kwame uses it to inspire readers
- We discuss Kwame’s “26-year overnight success” and the challenges of writing-related rejections and being laid-off from a job
- We discuss the daily personal woes of being a human being, in particular, being an African American man and how it challenges the view of humanity and of the world
- Kwame’s journey writing “Rebound” reflected his own journey learning to rebound in life while his mother was in the hospital. Learn how writing “Rebound” helped him cope and heal.
- How to allow the Universe to conspire to give you what you want, need, and desire
- Why it’s crucial to keep little “bottles of inspiration” to keep you going, especially through the toughest of times, and to keep the fire burning for your love of writing
- We discuss relationships and how that either cramps our artistry or helps to make us thrive
- Learn how Kwame managed to write around this day-time jobs
- Kwame walks us through the backstory of “Swing” and what it’s like to work with a co-author
- All about writing groups
- We also discuss one of our listener’s questions:
- Can Kwame talk about Versify and how he selects manuscripts? What is he looking for?
“The way you become a good writer is by reading, by borrowing and stealing styles and words, and then making it your own. That’s how you find your voice.”
“We want to do more of what we’re doing. Waking up each day, saying ‘yes’ to what’s possible in life, hugging life, embracing it, and trying to make the world a better place.”
“I’m a 26-year overnight success.”
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Learn More About “Swing”
When America is not so beautiful, or right, or just, it can be hard to know what to do. Best friends Walt and Noah decide to use their voices to grow more good in the world, but first they’ve got to find cool.
Walt is convinced junior year is their year, and he has a plan to help them woo the girls of their dreams and become amazing athletes. Never mind that he and Noah failed to make the high school baseball team yet again, and Noah’s love interest since third grade, Sam, has him firmly in the friend zone. Noah soon finds himself navigating the worlds of jazz, batting cages, the strange advice of Walt’s Dairy Queen-employed cousin, as well as Walt’s own perceptions of what is actually cool. Status quo seems inevitable until Noah stumbles on a stash of old love letters. Each page contains the words he’s always wanted to say to Sam, and he begins secretly creating artwork using the lines that speak his heart. But when his private artwork becomes public, Noah has a decision to make: continue his life in the dugout and possibly lose the girl forever, or take a swing and make his voice heard?
At the same time, numerous American flags are being left around town. While some think it’s a harmless prank and others see it as a form of peaceful protest, Noah can’t shake the feeling something bigger is happening to his community. Especially after he witnesses events that hint divides and prejudices run deeper than he realized.
As the personal and social tensions increase around them, Noah and Walt must decide what is really true when it comes to love, friendship, sacrifice, and fate.
New York Times bestselling authors Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (Solo) tell a lyrical story about hope, courage, and love that will speak to anyone who’s struggled to find their voice.
Learn More About Kwame Alexander
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 28 books, including SWING, SOLO, and REBOUND, the follow-up to his, NEWBERY medal-winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER. Some of his other works include BOOKED, a NATIONAL BOOK AWARD Nominee, THE PLAYBOOK: 52 RULES TO HELP YOU AIM, SHOOT, AND SCORE IN THIS GAME OF LIFE, and the picture books, OUT OF WONDER, SURF’S UP, and THE UNDEFEATED.
A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Prize, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, and the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. He believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people around the world through THE WRITE THING, his K-12 Writing Workshop. The 2018 NEA Read Across America Ambassador, Kwame is the founder of VERSIFY, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the host and producer of the literary variety/talk show, Bookish, which airs on Facebook Watch. He’s led cultural exchange delegations to Brazil, Italy, Singapore, and Ghana, where he built the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded.