Prose advice from a pro

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: Tif­fIndyNews

New­bery Medal Award win­ner Alexan­der meets fans at Wal­dorf li­brary

About 100 Charles County res­i­dents came to the Wal­dorf West Li­brary Mon­day to get books signed and meet New­bery Medal Award win­ning au­thor Kwame Alexan­der.

“The Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary is thrilled to have New­bery award win­ning au­thor Kwame Alexan­der come to talk about his work,” said Janet Salazar, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary. “We are pleased to be able to of­fer the chil­dren of Charles County the op­por­tu­nity to meet an au­thor of Mr. Alexan­der’s cal­iber. The in­flu­ence Alexan­der’s visit will have on the young minds of Charles County is im­mea­sur­able.”

“This is a rare treat for Charles County, the abil­ity to lis­ten to the wis­dom of a lo­cal au­thor who is so promi­nently known through­out the lit­er­ary community doesn’t hap­pen ev­ery day. Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary is ec­static at the op­por­tu­nity to share Mr. Alexan­der’s wit and in­sight with our community,” said Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary Pro­gram Co­or­di­na­tor Sarah Guy.

Alexan­der was awarded the 2015 New­bery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award for his book “The Cross­over,” which was also rec­og­nized as the year’s “most dis­tin­guished con­tri- bu­tion to Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture for chil­dren.”

“The Cross­over,” which is told en­tirely through verse, was first pub­lished in the U.S. in hard­back on March 18, 2014, by HMH Books for Young Read­ers. The story fol­lows two African-Amer­i­can twin broth­ers that share a love for basketball but find them­selves drift­ing apart as they head into their ju­nior high school years.

Alexan­der is also the au­thor of sev­eral teen and adult ti­tles in­clud­ing “Acous­tic Rooster and His Barn­yard Band” and “Surf’s Up.”

Charles County Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D) thanked Alexan­der for com­ing to Charles County and ex­pressed how very hon­ored the community was to have Alexan­der plan this event and reach out to the county.

“Libraries and education are very im­por­tant to me. It is also im­por­tant that we con­tinue grow in our community and mak­ing sure that we fo­cus on our cit­i­zens, en­sur­ing they have fa­cil­i­ties such as Wal­dorf West,” Ste­wart said. “We’re ex­cited that Alexan­der is here and we are proud of the work he is do­ing and the books he is writ­ing.”

Ste­wart read a procla­ma­tion from the Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers honor­ing Alexan­der for be­ing an Amer­i­can writer in chil­dren’s fic­tion and pre­sented him a small gift made es­pe­cially for an au­thor.

“I’ve been in the D.C. metropoli­tan area since 1990 so it just feels good to be ac­knowl­edged or rec­og­nized by the peo­ple who knew you be­fore you had any suc­cess. It’s re­as­sur­ing and val­i­dates you when the peo­ple from your community ac­knowl­edge you in those pro­found ways,” Alexan­der said.

Alexan­der, who was shocked to be re­ceiv­ing a procla­ma­tion from the county com­mis­sion­ers, thanked the Wal­dorf West Li­brary for invit­ing him and wel­comed the stu­dents that came out. He took the time to share his ex­pe­ri­ences in writ­ing as well as his in­spi­ra­tion for his sto­ries and po­etry to the au­di­ence of read­ers.

“I re­mem­ber as a child, I loved read­ing books and po­etry un­til I was 9 and then I had fell out of love with books. My fa­ther was con­stantly mak­ing me read my en­cy­clo­pe­dia and my high school teach­ers ex­pected me to be ex­cited about books,” Alexan­der said. “I didn’t have the bridge be­tween ele­men­tary school and high school and my goal was to be that bridge for young peo­ple and to help them still ap­pre­ci­ate the power and the joy of po­etry.”

Alexan­der read sev­eral lines from his more re­cent novel, “Booked,” about a boy who learns the power of words as he strug­gles with prob­lems at home, a bully at school and tries to im­press the girl of his dreams. Alexan­der then ex­plained to his au­di­ence about how books and po­etry per­son­ally saved his life as well.

“My first book had been re­jected 22 times by var­i­ous edi­tors but I was de­ter­mined to get my book pub­lished,” Alexan­der said. “I be­lieved my book was good. You have to be­lieve in your­self or else other peo­ple won’t be­lieve in you.”

Alexan­der said he wants to con­tinue to en­cour­age young read­ers to think dif­fer­ently about lit­er­acy and po­etry.

“Young peo­ple need to know that read­ing can be some­thing that opens a world of pos­si­bil­ity for them and that life ex­pe­ri­ences are not all go­ing to be easy but it’s im­por­tant to know that you took a risk and per­se­vered,” Alexan­der said.

At Wal­dorf West Li­brary on May 9, New­bery Award win­ner Kwame Alexan­der, who is orig­i­nally from the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area, thanked all the stu­dents for com­ing out on a school night and spoke of his jour­ney to suc­cess. His jour­ney be­gan with his love for read­ing and po­etry.

STAFF PHOTOS BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

New­bery Medal Award win­ning au­thor Kwame Alexan­der re­ceives a procla­ma­tion from Charles County Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart, signed by all of the Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers, on May 9 at Wal­dorf West Li­brary.

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