Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 month ago

Friends & Fiction with Kwame Alexander

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

What an honor to welcome poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of 35 books, Kwame Alexander. Among many other accolades, Kwame has won a Caldecott Medal, the Newbery Medal, and the Coretta Scott King Award. A regular contributor and the poet ambassador for NPR’s Morning Edition and a highly sought-after speaker at schools and libraries across the globe, he joins us to talk about his many works of children's fiction andpoetry for kids and adults (including his Disney+ TV adaptation and writing collaboration with James Patterson), his activism, his influences and inspirations. 

Welcome to Friends and fiction for newyork times, bestselling authors, endless stories, novelists, mary Kayandrews. Kristen Harmel, Christie Woodson harvey and paddy CallaghanHenry R four longtime friends with more than 70 published books between themtogether. They host friends and fiction with author interviews and fascinatinginsider talk about publishing and writing to highlight and supportindependent bookstores. They discussed the books, they have written the booksthey're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books andyou're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Yeah. Hi everyone it is Wednesday nightat seven p.m. eastern and that means it's time for the happiest hour and thetime I look most forward to every single week. It's Friends and fiction.Welcome to our show. We have so much to look forward to tonight. I am pattyCallahan Henry, I'm mary Kay Andrews, I'm Christine Harmel and I'm KristieWoodson Harvey and this is friends and fiction for new york times, Bestsellingauthors, endless stories to support independent booksellers tonight. Youare the luckiest you get to meet Kwamie alexander, he raps, he writes poetry,he writes novels for adults and kids. He's won the Newbery award. He is suchan inspiration and we'll find out what inspires Kwamie and much more as youknow we started Friends and fiction to support independent bookstores andstarting with mary Kay's launch um last week for the next few weeks we'vepartnered with Warwick's and beautiful La Joya California is our featuredindependent bookseller through the end of october slash november 1st fourweeks is oldest continuously family owned and operated bookstore. So we seethem as an ideal partner for our mission and we're going to keepencouraging you to shop local and shop small by buying from Warwick all monthlong. We'll be offering you special opportunities along the way. They haveadded a whole slew of qualms books to their um, their friends and fictionpage. So it's easy one stop shopping and his books as well as ours. Makegreat gifts. All right. So you guys, I've finally done it. I have convincedthem to come join me in florida. It's only taken me a year and a half, butwe're doing it. Did you know that Christie patty mary Kay and meg areheaded to florida to join me. We have a string of four events together in lateoctober as part of mary Kay's patties and Christie's book tours. We'rehitting the road to celebrate the santa suit which just came out last weekpatties once upon a wardrobe which comes out october 19th and chrisChristie's christmas in Peachtree bluff and I am joining them as a moderatorslash evil interrogator. Um, we will be in the bus. What's that riding? We'dbetter be not convertible is all I know. Yeah, I'm picking you up in it, can'tyou tell. We will be in Saint Pete Tampa punta gorda and santa bell. Youcan find the information on each of our individual websites as well as ourfriends in fiction newsletter and website and it is a great four greatopportunities to catch all four of us together will florida ever be the same.I mean this is the first event when the five of us including May will betogether in person with each other at an event. I have been reading 19 monthsfor this, it's going to be honest. So it's big time and we're gonna have funspecial swag as per usual. So if you buy the three of our books that many ofthe events, you'll get a fun tote bag and actually a patties launch. Ibelieve you get a really special candle if you come to the paris market events.So that's gonna be really exciting. And then um patty has these adorable gifttags. If you buy a book for a gift, I've got some fun bookmarks, mary. Kayhas seed paper christmas ornaments and of course we're gonna make Kristen talkabout the forest, Vanishing stars and if by chance you have not purchasedyour copy now is the time and if you already have, you need to get one for afriend for christmas so that you and kristen we we think we're gonna let hermoderate. We have no idea what you are a bad, bad decision. I know she's goingto be the female equivalent of florida man. We don't know what will come outof them out anyway. We never know. Yeah.

Mhm. Okay, I will bring, I'm bringingthe road trip snacks but before wait, who's in charge of wine? I think that'sI mean it's a home game for me. So I'll bring the white. I I feel likechristmas is kind of our wine expert anyway, so like it makes them, did yousay? Well I know we're wine expert, it's going to be some industrialstrength pre gaming. I can just tell you that. I mean I didn't show up atthe events and then game with us, we'll pre game and then you're talking Yeah,like explore. I introduce our extraordinary guests, we have somesuper exciting news because our beloved mary Kay andrews hit number 10, crispy. Huh? Uh Christy. How how didyou even, Her son just turned 10 jink. I'm just not good. I got all thenumbers so that whatever number she hit, I would have the right one. Actuallywe'll just heard 10. So it's a happy question. Not actually have a bannerthat says happy 10, I'll take a picture of it for you so that you can post itbecause I really feel like that's pretty pertinent right now. Pretty good.Yes, Well we're really proud of you. Thank you, you guys. Um well you're alla part of the success of the santa soup. You know we went we went away on awriter's retreat to mm tight on Tybee island in november almost a year ago wetalked about christmas books. I said I was not going to write one. Then Idrove home when I got the idea and I started texting. So you all are a greatpart of that. And I think so much of it has to do with our amazing friends andfiction community uh on tour last week and so many of our folks came to myevents told, told me what friends, Excuse me. The dogs excited, excitedabout you Kathy k Yeah. So many friends and fiction members came to my events,told me what what Wednesday nights meant to them. And so I'm just so, sovery grateful for everybody who, who bought the book wrote about the book,checked it out of the library, pre ordered it. And if you didn't buy mybook, dammit, do not see the hashtag. Oh yeah mary. Kay, we are so excitedfor you and I knew it. I mean I go steal the momentum, those fears andswallow of wine left. You're gonna have to get some more. I'm gonna check thewine. Butler. I want you to ask mr M A. F. C. If he'll bring me up. He's usedto this meat texting saying wine. You could bring it to us by the way. It'slike, yeah, but we're not that far from that technology. Just like shoot itthrough the skin, Transport the wine. Okay, I want to in20 he's the man to introduce our guest Kwame Alexander, The New York Times,best selling author of 35 books including his newest light for theworld to see but also rebound swing booked the crossover and the poetrycollection out of wonder. Quami is a big nothing. I mean he does it alland I'm really kind of envious. He's a poet and educator, a publisher andauthor. He's received numerous awards including the critic scott King, authorhonor the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, three, the NaacP Image Awardnominations and the 2017 inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. I was there whenhe got that. Oh that was his middle grade novel. The crossover won theNewbery Medal and his novel booked was long listed for the national book Award.Quami founded the publishing imprint diversify in 2018 and during that yearhe also opened the Barbara Alexander Memorial Library and Help Clinic inGhana with Leap for Ghana, which is an international literacy program. He cofounded Quami is also a writer and executive producer on the crossover tvseries based on his best selling novel coming Soon to Disney Plus he's also aregular contributor to NPR's Morning Edition. And he lives in London whereit is very late right now. We're so...

...sorry Kwamie with his family. So we'reso excited to have them. Mm Hey, he's awake. We are so gratefulyou came even though it's Now past midnight where you are the things youdo for your friends. It's writing fiction. It's it's one, it's new yorkTimes. Bestselling. Congratulations. Yeah, yeah, it's all good. I feel likewe should break into that song. The things we do for love. It's Wednesdaynight if we don't sing off kids, okay, we're so excited. You are here, call methe last time I saw you was right before the world shut down at theSavannah Book Festival. Wow, that was the last time we saw each other. Yes,three years ago for you. Yeah. And that crazy. Cool. Yeah. Well, I am going toget us started. So in 2018, I love telling you about yourself while you'rehere. So just bear with me in 2018 you had swing rebound and the right thingcome out. What about jazz? What about basketball? And what about writingamong your many other books and your huge list of poetry and novels. Butright now, I want you to tell us a bit about rebound as it is a prequel to theCross over Your Newbery Award winner and tv show on Disney Plus, before wedive into some of your other works. So rebound was written because studentswere asking me for a sequel to the crossover. You want to find out whathappened to the brothers in the story. Yeah, I was like, I can't write asequel. I don't know what it's going to be, but I got this idea that maybe Iwould write a prequel. So I had, I had a contract from my publisher and thebook was due like in January of 2016 and and by like september, I hadn'tfinished it and you know it too well. And then by likejanuary, I hadn't finished it, I'm gonna have it done by april, I promisein april, I didn't have finished. And so by like june the publisher was like,quami, you gotta turn this book in and I was like, and, and of course I hadwon the Newbery Medal, which is like the most distinguished contribution toamerican literature for Children. So I was like, I won the Newbery Medal, giveme a break. We sold a million books. Give me abreak, but it was only so long used that. So, I I love too much used up thenewberry. You very good will. Yeah, Thank you. So, they were like AugustAugust 31, we need the book. So, so, I'm working on the book. I'm poundingaway, go on a Disney cruise with my kid in august beginning of august to Alaska.Did that Christie Alaska. Vancouver. Yeah, it was awesome, awesome. So thenI come back from Vancouver and I go to um, what's that town starts? It's thefirst syllable is Bell Bill in Washington Belhaven, Bill BellinghamBellingham. So I go to Bellingham to stay at this place called the Chrysalis,which is where I would go every summer to stay for a week, I'm working on it.I'm working on it. So it's like August 17th I'm almost finished. I get I gethome back to herndon Virginia and my dad says you gotta come home, yourmom's not doing well. So I drive three hours south to Virginia beach when Iget to my mom's house, the ambulances there mm And she's in the ambulance.And my sisters and my dad are all standing around. My mom said she wantsme to ride to the hospital with her. I'm like are you all right? And she'slike uh I don't know. You know she's been in and out of the hospital and weget to the hospital, she's in she's in the uh Intensive care unit and she'slike August 25 and The books due on the 31st and so on the and so we're in thehospital and I'm sitting with her and I'm working on the book. I'm sitting ina chair. She's sleeping the next day she wakes up, I talked to her a littlebit, she sleeps. Her brother comes, she talks to him, I'm sitting in this chairin the hospital. I haven't gone home. I'm working on the book because it'sdue in like four days...

...and the next morning she has a strokeand then she can't she can't function she can't move. So so I'm feeding hergiving her the straws so she can set the water and she but she can't talk.And so she's sleeping and resting and and then I'm sitting in the chair andworking on the book because it's due in three days. And and then the next daythey had to put on a breathing machine and and I'm just freaking out because Idon't know what's going on. But I know I got this book to you about this thisthis this boy who was dealing with the death of his father and he's trying tofigure out how to rebound in his life from that. And so I, my sisters come and the doctors tell usthere's nothing else they can do. And they say, you know, you're you need tomake a decision. And my sisters and I decided we're going to take her home toher house because when her mother was sick, she took her home so that her momcould die at home. So okay, we take her home the next morning, august 30th and in her house sort of dealing withhospice and just getting things in order. And so my sisters are doing somestuff and I'm working on the book and I finish it and my agent was like, whyare you pressed to finish your book? Your publisher will understand. I'mlike, no, I got to finish this book. Yeah. So I press send and turn inrebound. And at 8:30 p. m. that night she passes away and I realize that Ineeded to write and finish this book so that I could tell the story about thisboy who was having to rebound from the most devastating thing in his lifebecause I was now about to have to do that wow. This was a situation wherethe writing was this therapeutic and cathartic and and needed to happen. Umand so that's where that's, that's how that book came to be. Wow. Maybe yourmom, maybe your mom will do to finish it because the mother will make her sonand uh oh let's know that from personal experience. I can still we can will ason to do what we tell them to do. Yeah, it's it's but it's been, it's been likethat my whole life mary. Kay. Like she's been the one pushing me forward.The women in my life from my mom to my grandmother's to my aunt to my my wives.Can I see my wives? You need to, you can yes, that's another question to mydaughters. So yeah, the women, you know, the full potential of a nation cannotbe realized unless the full potential of its women is realized. Thank youSomebody beautiful, somebody's baby. Somebody's hashtag that man. You backthat okay, so now Kwamie this is a hard thing to do. How do I switch gears, howdo I follow that kind of a thing you talk about, You know, swing. Um Iunderstand that you have said it was the hardest book you ever had to write.It's about jazz music and baseball and love and social justice and you'veincorporated all these amazing poetry styles, fevers across sticks, Haiku andthe pacing of like a soccer match. How did you pull that off? And also don'tlet me forget, I want to ask you about the intersection about the place wherejazz and baseball intersect. So, first of all, I thank you for the question, Isay that about every book, that it was the hardest book that I ever I wouldn'tBetty I'm with you, saying about everyone. So true. Yeah. I also say itwas the best book I ever wrote after every book. So that's my thing. Um andof course, sometimes I'll get sidetracked and forget the question,what was the question I was asking you how you pulled off all these incrediblydiverse forms of poetry and prose in your novel? Swing Gotcha. So, first ofall, I had a great co writer who wrote with it with me, her name was mary randHess, and we wrote that book together. Um it was it was difficult to writebecause of the ending and spending all this time with this character and andand being able to to write a story...

...about a uh a character who you fall inlove with and you hope your reader falls in love with. Um and so, so itwas challenging in that regard. But I love mixing it up. I love writing, Ilove hybrids. I love writing in different, you know, forms, you know, Ithink the forms sometimes um is dictated by, you know, the plot by thecharacter by the voice where you where you are, what you're trying to conveyto the reader. And so, so I am. And you know, when I started writing novels inverse, I knew I just wasn't going to write, you know, books that toldstories uh through poems that we're all sort of free verse or rhyming or justone thing I needed to be able to have a little bit of, you know, fun anddiversity and and and and excitement so that I could engage readers. And Ifound that being able to write a list poem and then a haiku and then uh youknow, and then a free verse poem. And then, you know, so I found that thatsort of helped with the engagement of telling the story. Where did you getthe confidence? Uh, I'm intrigued with, right. No, as as somebody who's, youknow, played with self doubts, I love that. You just decide, well, now I'mgonna do haiku and now I'll throw in some rap and now I'll throw him how,because who else has done that? Has anybody else done that? I'm inspired bya lot of different poets like Langston Hughes who was who was a musical music,blues, jazz inspired his writing. Right? Um I think so the confidence comes fromthis brings it full circle from my mom. Uh, when I was three years old, welived in upstate upstate, we lived in um uh, the upper west side upstate onthe upper west side in new york of Manhattan. And so I went to a schoolcalled Riverside, uh a daycare. And so my favorite book as a three year oldwas was fox in socks by doctors. Yeah. Sox nox bucks. Fox in socks, socksinbox. Love this book, I memorized it. I knew it from front to end. I wantedto read it constantly. And so one day at Riverside, the, at the end of schoolI wanted to impress my mom who was coming to pick me up. So I built ahouse out of wooden blocks. Well this kid in my class came and knocked overmy blocks Christie. And so I went up with the only weapon room, I went up tohim, my weapons which were my words and I said those were my blocks that youflipped lest you want a quick payback, better fix my quick block stack. Oh,you bet carter. And so when my mother came to school,the teachers were like mrs alexander, we have a problem, your son is arrogant,he makes the other kids with his words and my mom said thank you, we teach himto use his words. So I think very early age that words were powerful, Theycould transform me and I need to be able to use my words. So I feltconfident about using words about making words dance on the page from avery early age even when I couldn't articulate it right now. Talk to meabout the intersection of jazz and baseball and I I my husband and sonplayed baseball, my grandson playing. I have a love of baseball and anappreciation not much knowledge for jazz and I kind of have an idea wherethat but I would love for you to talk about where those two things intersectin swing. Well think about it like this maryKennedy. You got saxophonist, trumpet player, percussionist, pianist, singer, vibraphonist, you got the picture, got the catcher,the first base, you got the shortstop. You got all these people who are onthis stage on this field and they each have a role and they eachhave a responsibility and at some point...

...each one of them is going to be able tosolo, it's going to be able to shine and everybody else, everybody else isgoing to step back and let them do their thing because they're working forthe benefit of the whole tune idea mary Kay is that jazz is a metaphor fordemocracy. Jazz is how we really need to treat each other right dang medropping the truth man, you're is that not what happened on the baseballdiamond. Yeah, well you know one thing I was thinking about is to me and I'mnot I don't follow any other sport. But to me baseball has this majestic rhythmto it once you get in that rhythm, if a player gets in a rhythm of a game, likea picture gets in a rhythm or a batter gets in a rhythm venice poetry, right?Yeah, poetry in motion. But you know, two qualities point. It only works whenwe're working together. That's such a great metaphor. Amazing. Speaking ofworking together, you have the co authored, you co authored that book,you co authored the book about Muhammad ali with James Patterson and you coauthored a book of poetry with our friend this ex south Carolina Poetlaureate, Marjory Wentworth called out of Wonder. So for this discussion Ithought we'd bring you a little surprised and have marjorie pop on andask you a question, brother, I love that. Okay, let meinterview march for those who don't know her. I don't know who doesn't knowher. But Marjory Wentworth is the former poet laureate of south Carolinaand a dear dear friend, she is the new york times best selling author out ofWonder poem celebrating poets with swami alexander. She is the co writerof we are charleston tragedy and triumph at Mother Emanuel and that isone powerful book with her Frasier and dr Bernard powers and taking a stand,the evolution of human rights with juan Mendez? She teaches courses in writingpoetry, social justice and one of my favorites banned books at the Collegeof charleston Marjorie. Welcome my friends. So good to be here. Thanks forhaving me. Okay, so tell us about out of wonder and then ask Kwamie almostanything you want to ask him. All right, well that's dangerous. But no, I'm onlykidding. Um So out of wonder poem celebrating poets we wrote with anotherpoet, friend chris cold early. And uh the idea was to pick the poets that wereally love to read and find a way to bring those two younger readers becauseoften the poems that you get in textbooks when you're a little kid arewritten hundreds of years ago and they're really difficult to navigate.So we put this book together and we were really fortunate our publisherchose this amazing illustrator, ECU a Homes and we wrote poems that eitherimitated the style of the poet we loved or poems that pay tribute to them werein their voice. And we tried to really think of a wide range of poets, youknow, we honor all kinds of poets. Um going back to the sufi mystic poet rumito contemporary poets like Nikki Giovanni and Billy Collins. So it wasreally a really fun project and you know, teachers and students love it. So so anyway, um it was really fun funproject for us. Kwamie. Right, so my question for Kwamie is and um I have alot, but this one is uh, is the one that's top of mind. So you once gave apresentation somewhere where we were together and you said it was sort ofbased on the idea of just say yes, right? I mean you said yes when you gotthe invite to God and you said, you know, so how with all that's happenedto you and all that comes at you, how do you keep the spirit of just say yes,but you must have to say no to so many things. How do you make those decisionsnow? Because I really can't imagine how much comes at you. Well, I said so Iwas gonna say no to being on friends for fiction because I was so busy, buta certain person texted me every day...

...for a year. Quiet man, you gotta comeon, you gotta come on, you gotta come on, you gotta come on will remainnameless mary Alice Moreau. But the deal is, the thing is I think sometimesmarjorie in order to say yes to yourself, you got to say no to otherpeople. So I try to say yes to myself sometimes, sometimes that works in inmy best interest, you know, when I need to say no to someone else, but I got tosay yes to myself first and foremost, okay, oh man, we all need to hear that,right, that's great, I love that. And then Kwamie when you realize that youhave to say no to someone and you're saying yes to yourself. The second partof that is not feeling guilty for that. Exactly yet. So I haven't figured thatpart out yet. Yeah. Sometimes I feel like I feel so guilty and think aboutit so much that I'm like if I had just done it, it would have been easier.Maybe it's like a muscle. Like you keep exercising your muscles. I don't know.I'm sorry. No, no. It's like when, when you're, they say if you're on a planewith a child and the plane's going down, you've got to put the oxygen mask onyourself before you put it on. Yeah. It's kind of like that. I mean ifyou're not taking care of what you need, how can you really do all this otherstuff? Right. Yeah, that's a good point margin. I'm curious because I rememberwhen you were writing this and I was at a big function where you guys read fromit And do you and I remember asking you this and I don't remember the answer,Do you have a favorite poem in the book? March? Oh, I, I love all of them.They're also different. I mean the variety is what makes it, it's kind ofamazing. I love all of them. And it's really fun to go into schools and sharepoems that Chris and Kwamie wrote and then the kids don't know the differenceby the way they think that we did the art. You know, no matter how many timesyou tell them. Uh um, so no, I love them all. I love them all for differentreasons. Well marge, you're so sweet for stopping in. Thanks. My uh, that'smy dog parking. I hope so. Quami. I love okay, bye bye. So Kwamie marjorie mentioned you sayingyes to an invite to Ghana, which I think was something that it sounds likereally changed your life. So I would love to ask you about that. I know youco founded the leap fergana initiative which I think you co founded aftervisiting concho. Is that, is that the name of the village? A village in theeastern region of Ghana. Can you tell us a little bit about that initiative?So the idea was um, I had gone to participate in a ceremony where afriend of mine was becoming the queen mother of a village and she just wantedto be there with her to, to document it. And so I went, fell in love with theplace discovered it's a small village in rural Ghana in the eastern region inthe bush. Um, and it's about 200 kids that go to the school that has no walls,no ceiling and no, no books. They have any books. And so so I made it my sortof mission to get them some books. And so I went back a couple times with somefriends, colleagues took about 5000 books that I had donated and built awanted to build a library. So we don't have any money. So I turned the closetinto a library like I turned a closet into a library. We built shells, youknow me and some of the men in the village and our friends and then cameback maybe the next year. And our our closet library was sort of like astorage closet. You know, I really don't need When I was like we got toreally build a library here. So over the course of a couple years we raisedabout 40 grand and and and hired a librarian in the States who designed itand then the men in the village, we're gonna build it. And so around 20 17 itwas supposed to be complete and I have been seeing pictures of it. Um it's progress but I hadn't been backto see. And then I took 18 teachers and librarians from the states with me forthe unveiling of the library. And we get to Ghana, everyone checks into thehotel. I go to the village which is about 2.5 hours away from across thecapital of Ghana where everyone was...

...staying. And I get there and Thelibrary, there's no ceiling on it, there's no floors, there's no furniture,it's like 40% done now because I put all these people over to Ghana to seethis library that was going to be done. And and we ended up having a library twopoint oh or, or uh what did I call it was sort of a beta or, or you know inprogress. So we had a ribbon cutting to, to announce that it's in progress andso we saved it a little bit but I was still frustrated and afterwards Italked to some of the elders and the in the village and I said, what's up? Why?Why didn't you all finish the library? And they said it's no bother, it's noworry, it will be done. Kwamie, it will be done. And I said no, no, it's notdone now, it's $40,000 and it will be done. And so I said, well did you notwant the library? You do not want this, this temple of books, this place of, oflearning and imagination, like didn't you want that? And he said,yeah. And I said, he said, I just looked athim and he said, you know, we could have used a health clinic. Oh wow. He'ssort of in that moment christian where I realized that I asked them what theywanted, I sort of went in there with my sort of Western good intentions andtell them this is what you need. Yeah. And and so over the next year um Iworked very closely and a year later we opened the Barbara e alexander Libraryand health clinic that is incredible. Harbor your mother? Barbara, yourmother? Oh my gosh! I feel like we keep coming back to your mom tonight. I lovethis. I was talking on her, she sounds incredible, she sounds incredible. Shemust be so proud, she must have been so proud. But you know, one of the thingsI've read that you've said, which I think you just kind of addressed is Irealized you cannot expect to teach a child to read if they are not well, youcan't go into a community and dictate what they need. You have to find outwhat they need. And I love that you found out what they needed and you tookaction. You did something about it and not just did something about it, but Ithink it sounds like it shifted the way you thought forever, which I think isreally profound. Um, and in a way, I feel like you're writing follows thatsame pattern. They give us something, we need to feed our souls and kind ofgive us a reason to become better, more deep thinking people. So, I wanted toask you this. Um, you've won all these awards, you've won the Newbery whichallowed you to extend your deadline for more months than any of us could. Yeah, I got a new career goal, yep. So,I want to ask you though, you've done all of these things that are just thesemassive literary successes, would you say that you're striving for somethingbigger or broader than that in general, Is there is there sort of a life goalyou have now, having seen what you've seen and knowing what, you know, andrealizing the influence you might have? Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's ablessing and and I guess maybe it's it's a curse. Um, but I literallybelieve, did I have the capacity to change the world one word at a time? SoI am on this mission two to help young people imagine a better world. I'mtrying to, you know, you know, Nikki Giovanni was my professor in collegeand she told me, you know, you know, you're too didactic, you know? And soI've I've spent a great and I disagree with her, she was right, but I disagreewith, I spent a great deal of my life trying to to remedy that desire to wantto beat you over the head with this message. And I think I finally figuredout how to how to be entertaining, how to be interesting and and still beinspiring and empowering. And so that is my that is my goal with my writing.And and so yeah, I want I want I want to I want to do I want to help usbecome better human beings through the literature, that's my goal, I feel as if not only better, but yourwork and for me, especially in the poetry, it's not just about beingbetter human beings, but more whole Yeah, that's a good point. Yeah. Wellthe wholeness hit the center of your...

...work. Yeah, absolutely. Well, speakingof being better human beings and more whole. I love the transition there. Wehave to talk about light from the world to steal. Yeah, thank you. 1000 wordson race and hope. It has been called a rap session on race and a lyricalresponse to the struggle of Black lives, but it is also about the power ofcollective hope. So, can you tell us about this beautiful volume and theinspiration behind it? I mean, you pretty much just did you say you pretty much gave us asummary of the book? I like where do I go from there? What inspired it? Whatinspired it? I mean Light for the world to see a 1000 wordson race and hope. I mean in a in a real con, I guess a concrete answer to thatquestion. What inspired it would be. Um during the lockdown. Yeah. Um, inparticular the spring of 20 20. Um, I just felt like perhaps I don'tknow if you all feel this, that you know, so my goal, my mission is tochange the world one word at a time. Yeah. And I felt like maybe wordsaren't gonna work anymore. Like our words like uh Christy, how are wordsgonna stop bullets. Yeah. Like how are how are how is poetry going to change averdict? Like what, what, what is the point of what I'm doing? Mm If thesethings in our world are still happening, if if I have to worry about my nephewslife being wiped away from this earth, like like sand in a wind store, what'sto win a poetry? And so I went through that phase where I'm just not gonnaright because it's not doing anything. And and then I remember um comingacross this poem, this quote from Toni Morrison. This is precisely the timewhen artists go to work. There is no time for despair. No place for selfpity. No need for silence. No room for fear. We speak. We write, we dolanguage. That is how civilizations heal. Amen brother. I felt like I justwent to church and I read that and I was like, I got it right. I got itright. And so I wrote like for the world to see, that's amazing. See nowthat's the answer I was looking for. I mean nailed it, translate it. Ithappens a lot. I need to translate a lot for them. It's kind of part of mymission here job that is so powerful. I just usually if we can dig down to theinspiration, especially with you man, We can get to the good stuff. So ourviewers also love to dive in with us and we have loads of live questions andthere's no way we're going to get to them all. Um, but mary Kay, could youpull one? My friends, you're muted. You're needed. MK muted. She's talkingto herself. She's having a dog working walks were barking so muted myself. Um,somebody is asking Kwamie, what do you like to read? I like that. Oh, I read everything. So you know, Iread, you know, love poems by my bed. You know, I'm reading, uh, I read audio,I listened to novels, audio as audiobooks on my walks because you know,London is a walking city. I just seven mile walks today. So I'm walking,walking high Park and Regent's Park and oh and so I'm listening to audiobooks.So, but today I was uh, I walk to sloane square to pick up someeyeglasses. Cool, let's see. Uh, yeah. Uh, this is like, this is like yourthird eye wear change during the show. I really, yeah, I love a good costumechange son. I'm here for it. Namely Tucci glasses. Okay, lock on theStanley Tucci glam. Today. What's on...

...the hat? God yes, you are today. Iwalked a small arms fire and I saw this store. Now tell me you all, you all arewriters, you're in the industry. You got to know, you gotta know tosh inbooks. Tell me, you know, Yeah, baby, I have them all over my coffee table. Sopassion. They got stores, we have stores. So I went to one of the storesin London today and they had this huge book about Muhammad Ali. You book,gorgeous photographs. It was £4,000 batty. Uh sure £1000. I was like, I'mso glad. Friends and fiction is paying me to be on there tonight, hon pleasetell all our other guests that we paid you a lot to come on. He's in the mail.Don't worry. Yeah, you bought it on Consignment Fiction. I didn't buy itbut they had another ali book that was about this size like, like 12 by 12 by12 and that was £100. So I bought that. I'm reading that. So I read a lot ofdifferent stuff. I leave it and I read a lot of Children's books, picturebooks and stuff. But yeah. Mhm That's awesome. That's so interesting. You'restill so into reading about Muhammad Ali, even after you've written a bookabout him. I know what's amazing. Yeah, I just watched the documentary that kimBurns did. Yes, It's just so inspiring. I was trying to get my son to come onand tell you how much he loved the book, but he won't do it. We'll do it. It'snervous. Well his name is Well, well we want to welcome Well just, just thisbirthday. I know, I know, tens of lucky number tonight. Right. Exactly. Okay. Ifeel like this has been one long, glorious writing tip. But we wouldreally love a writing tips from you. You see it's all leaning in your secretfeeling. I've gotten a lot of life tips tonight. Also more Miley like. No, butwhat we really want to know is how to win the Newbery award. So we can alsopush off our deadlines if you can help us out with that. That would be superwow, that's really interesting. Um Let's come back to that. Okay. Allright, Christy you want to follow live question I we're gonna store it's oranother. So um Barbara logic wants to know and I echo this, can you tell uswhat you're working on now or is it top secret? Oh no. Um Okay, so I leftHoughton mifflin hard court and then they got sold to harpercollins and thenI just did a new nine book deal Heaven Books kids andtwo for adults with Little Brown. Whoa, whoa. So I just turned in three ofthose books. What? And one of them and I say this about everybook I've written as mary Kay will remind you. Um This is the best bookI've ever written. Hands down. It is it is it is my it is my What does it call?What's that? That Latin one is my magnus opus. That's exactly what it is.Um and it is set in 1860. Oh fascinating. And and shall I read some of it to you? Yes.Yes. This will replace our writing tip. Yeah. Mhm. There was even a time manyseasons ago when our people were the sole supplier of the purest and mostvaluable golden world. The river was bedded with enough gold to make acentury of royal stools for the kings and 1000 shiny blade bracelets fortheir wives. Then came the waterfalls. Then came the wonderful, disguised asfriends and students of our way with only one lesson to learn how to stealour fortunes. But we fought them off. Protected are rich land. Our river, itflows to the east into the mighty proud which travels over 150 miles down tothe Cape where it drains into a vast blue unknown that we call the big C. Onthe rolling sides of the river are deep forest and farmland and villages and aboy of the same name. You see on the morning of your birth, 22 seasons agoyour mommy squatted at the edge of the...

...water and the river carried her eighthchild on its shoulder. At first breath it is true. I was there that you stopcrying as you floated off like a ship inching toward the horizon. The rivergrabbed you with an invisible cord wrapped around each moment of your dayheld you like a mother cradles. A baby pulled you like the moon Does the earthEver since you and the water had been bound river and sun wave and flutter.That is how you got your name. My grandson there was even a time is how myfather's father, nana MOC the village Storyteller begins most of his firesidetales always starting in the middle of a thought like we were to know whateven came before. Always speaking in slow, deliberate spurts about the past.Like it is a like it is like it lives in him like it still matters alwaysrepeating something and pausing at other times and with a toothy smilethat raises one eyebrow right before. The thing he knows we cannot wait tohear though he is nearly 80 now and seldom speaks when he does. I hang onto all of his words. The laws in between. And I remember the storieslike a pigeon remembers its way home. Thanks. I want me. I feel like I, Ijust feel like my, I just feel like I re experienced a new reiteration ofHamilton. I mean and you were saying you didn't want broadway Kwamie. That'swhat, that's what everybody out there is wondering themselves. When does thathappen? Mommy, That was the song. That was a poem. That was a trap. That was,that was a sermon. That was amazing. It doesn't have a title yet. Quami Thedoor of no return. It's about a 12 year old boy in 1860 who is an amazingswimmer and and that's all I'll tell you tour of no return. I love it. Waytoo Rita. Okay, we're gonna have to send you that check after all the way?Yeah, exactly. Chris Christie will give you our credit card and provisionsafter you give me my cash, awesome coin. Right? Good coin. Do you takefriends and fiction money? It's sort of like monopoly money less proposing toyou on here for me. But you have a lot of love intereststonight. There's been a lot of comments from viewers. Yes. Like a little scandalized.We don't get that mommy. I know what's us. Yeah. I have gotten zero marriageproposals on friends, infections. zero and that's, that's the only reason I dothis show. All right. Tommy and everyone else stick around because wehave one more thing to ask Tommy And of course I know y'all were freaking outwhen facebook and instagram were down on monday for so long, like 1000 years.We were freaking out too. So we want to remind you that we are always also liveon youtube. So run on over there right now or click over there and subscribe.So if it goes down again, you'll have a place to watch us and sign up for ournewsletter so that you'll always know what's going on. If that happens again.That's right. We also want to remind everybody to check our friends andfiction writer's block podcast will always post the links under theannouncements each time a new one drops. Do you like how I said that. How do youknow what you're talking about? Our podcast drops. Okay, it's a lot of funis totally different from this show. So if you like hanging out with us here,we hope you'll love being with us there every friday this past week Ron block,our rock star librarian. Talk to me about christmas novels including hellosanta suit number 10 new york times bestseller. The santa suit. And this week Ron and Patty talked toappropriately with Kwamie, visiting both poetry and novels. The author ofthe blockbuster serena Ron rash and you guys, what is there to say about thebook club? We love the Book Club. There are over 9000 members strong. It is runby lisa Harrison and Brenda Gartner and on sunday october 17th they'll becelebrating with Patty with a premium hub day brunch at one p.m. Eastern it'sgoing to be a preview of all things Once upon a wardrobe, which is going tobe our next huge bestseller. Here we are sure of it. And then on mondayoctober 25th they are talking to paige Crutcher about her new novel, Theorphan, which which just came out and of course that's a debut novel whichwere just so thrilled that they...

...selected as this month's Book club read.So don't miss out on the party because you guys who wants to miss out on aparty. I never, me never party pattern. So next week join us right here atseven p.m. As we welcomed Tasha alexander, a bestselling historicalmystery writer and her husband best selling author Andrew Grant, otherwiseknown as Andrew Child who has recently taken over the wildly popular JackReacher series from his brother lee child. And then in two weeks join us tomeet Alice Hoffman. Magic is a foot as we celebrate her. The book of Magic andthe release of Once upon a wardrobe. And if you're ever wondering about ourschedule, it is always on the website and on our facebook banner. Speaking ofthe santa suit and once upon a wardrobe and we weren't speaking of christmasand pete ST bluff, but we can speak of that. So the three of us um have newfall books out and coming out shortly and our friends at Oxford exchange havepartnered up with us to bring us a season's reading gift pack. So youactually get all three of these books, there's an option to add christians,the forest vanishing stars as well as any sort of friends and fiction merchwith better wine cups or t shirts, all sorts of good stuff. Something fun andnew that we're going to be announcing in a couple of weeks that you can addin there. So this is the ultimate holiday gift for someone you love orfor yourself or best of all. You can shop like I do one for me, one for you,one for me, one for you. So um, check that out on Oxford exchange or on ourwebsite under the merch link and don't forget about more wakes being our bookof the month and all of qualms books are there and they to look really greatwith a ribbon around them. Yes they do. So quami I know we talked a bit aboutyour history and I love how your mom showed up tonight. Yeah. I feel likeshe has been here with us and that she has influenced this entire evening andI'm loving that. But I want to ask you something that people ask me when Itell them how much I love poetry. How would you define poetry? Mm what I define poetry. I am. I wrote my first book of poetryin 1994. It's a book of love poems and I knew that I had to get out on tour topromote it. I didn't have a lot of money but I drove all around thecountry with a friend of mine is minivan went to Nashville, you knowChapel hill, we sold books Detroit, we sold books and subway stops, churches,community centers. Um, just selling books out of the trunkof his van and his, he was selling his visual, he was a painter, he wasselling his artwork and I was selling my poetry books ended up going toCalifornia to los Angeles and was um, I had like 4, 3 or 400 books in the backof my trunk and I had I was I was I went to a church and I was gonna besigning books in the gift shop at the end of church. So my hope was that I'dbe able to sell all my books and that wasn't gonna happen three or 400 books,nobody knew who I was, they were. And so the pastor was going to announce wehave a poet, he'll be in the audience, he'll be in front of the gift shopafter church and that was it. Nobody would, I mean maybe I sold five or sixbooks, I knew who I was. And so at the end of the sermon the pastor said wehave a poet who's visiting us today. Kwame alexander, would you like to comeup and share a poem? What? So it's this church like four or 500 people and so Igo up because I'm scared but I know you know my favorite word is yes, so I goup, I'm in the pulpit and I look out and see a sea of beautiful black womenin church hats and I proceed the book is love poems and their suggestive lovepoems. So I proceed I proceed to recite this poem, I have never been a slave yet. I know Iam whipped, I have never been to Canada yet. I hopeto cross your border. I have never traveled underground yet. The nightknows my journey. If I were a poet in love, I say that with you. I have foundthat new place where romance is just the beginning and freedom is our end.Complete silence until a woman in the back yelled hallelujah. I Sold 300books that I don't, I don't define...

...poetry. I just read it. I let it dowhat it's supposed to do and you feel what you're gonna feel and that's whatit's supposed to be. Maybe not. Well they mean song of Solomon. Come on.That's a pretty sexy. That's some sexy stuff. That's pretty spicy. True.That's a volley. You're amazing and we do notice you have another pair ofglasses on. So thank you so much for joining us. Anyway is over. I still gotsome glasses thing and not only that, but it is in the least one in themorning. There we know we have to let you go and thank you for sharing fromyour new book and talking about your mom and talking about writing forsomething larger. You are wonder. Thank you Kwamie, thank you for visiting us.Thanks for you. Thanks for being here. You're amazing. Get some sleep. Goodnight. No, everyone out there. Don't forget to stay for our after show. Andone thing we really want to remind you as we did before we are on Youtube andevery week we're here live and if you head over to Youtube you can pick outthe writing clips and you can see small clips from all our shows now come backnext week, same time, Same place as we welcome Tasha alexander and AndrewGrant and we'll see you a minute at the after show. Yes. Holy moly macaroni. Oh, he was so great.It was so great. It was such a great show, Such a great show and wow. Likedon't I feel like a hack uh huh Right. When you read your words out loud, itwas like being able to string those wordstogether like that. I can't imagine that I can just so in awe of thattalent. You not only does your brain bring together those words in anappropriate way, but then you're able to um articulate them. Yeah, It'spretty astounding. I'm so glad he shared at the end though that 25 yearsago he was driving across the country selling books out of the trunk of aminivan because like that, I just. those are the things that grow us asartists, you know what I mean? Like that's, you had, you had difficulttimes and he figured out how to how to make it through those times and how to,how to be true to himself and true to his words and reach a bigger audienceand then from there, he figured out what to do with it. Like in a way thatcould change the world. I just, and when the passenger said, oh sorry, whenthe pastor said come up and read a poem, he didn't say I can't no, I can't dothat. He just walked up there and yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's funny. It wasfunny timing because I was thinking earlier today about just the thingsthat people go through, the things that we've done. I mean the things that whenyou really, really want something, when you want it badly enough, the linksthat you will go to to make it happen. And I mean that's an example likeselling, you know, and I sometimes I think I think I won't speak for all ofus. I think I forget, I think we all forget like kind of what those reallyearly days were like and it wasn't even that long ago. But like just to lookback and think about like, you know where, where we came from and where weare and and the journey in between and what that was like. And I don't know.That was a great show. Even um like even the language we use sometimes, youknow, like Pope Day or the list or big box like it reminds me of when I was in,you know, a nurse, you rattle these words off like other people aresupposed, but there was a time when I'd be sitting around with authors andthey'd say things like, you know, pub day or or co op like I'm tooembarrassed. That's what they mean. Now. We just just say them. You couldhonestly all the whole time he was speaking. I honestly, I kept thinkingabout, I saw Hamilton. Um this is my one credit, my cool street crab. I sawhandles broadway in previews. Oh wow, that's cool. Just by a fluke. Um I wasin new york for a conference and I had nothing to do on a friday night and Iand I didn't know anything about the show and but people are saying, oh,this is going to be a hot show, you...

...should try to go. So I hung out in thelobby and got some turn back tickets and I was sitting in the audience andthey, you know, the curtain goes up and it's this multicultural cast andthey're rapping about the american revolution and now and alexanderHamilton and I'm like, I don't get this, I don't get this. I don't know what I'mdoing here. Then all of a sudden the power of the words and the rhythm andthe drama. And I honestly, when he was reading that last uh piece of his newwork tonight, I'm like, oh my God, that's a broadway show, You're totallyright from your lips. Amazing. So how are you so excited about the list? Youwere so proud and so happy to bring up to 10 1 more time. So I also love howyou just referred to Hamilton as your one piece of street cred like I alsofeel like maybe being number 10 on tonight's list. A little bit of streetcred just just saying just prepared completely. Yeah, she's always preparedfor everything. It was So how many days until we see each other? Uh, you know,I'm not good with numbers. Um, we can have its three. It's 13 days and I'm soexcited to see all. But the fact that it's 13 days is freaking me out. Not toendless proportions. There's a lot to do in the next 13 days. There is. Yes,there is. In fact, we should go do it. I love you all madly love you that youdid such a good job tonight. Hey, don't forget two. If you're still watchingyou afterwards, go and buy qualms books from words please support for moreweeks and preorder patties if you haven't, it's coming out like comingout and like, well, patty's just coming out like a hot minute. Yes, it is out.Um, one week and six. I just got my final coffee at a little while backhere a minute ago and he was like, mom, this seal on this book is awesome. Likebehind me. Yeah, that's, you know, molly is spending the night here forthe past four nights because her house is as she puts it infested with Covid.She's the last man standing. So she's sleeping over here and she's likebuying it. Like yeah, you can read that. That's all right. We'll sleep. Manyhave to tell me what she thinks. No, I love it. Everyone. That was amazing.Congratulations. Cathy Mary everybody. 18 grads. Goodnight. Thank you for tuning in. You can joinUs every week on Facebook or YouTube, where our live show airs on Wednesdaynights at seven p.m. eastern time. Also subscribe to our podcast and follow uson instagram. We're so glad you're here. No.

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