Meet Jewell Parker Rhodes - #LevelUp2021 Author Spotlight

Welcome to our #LevelUp2021 Author Spotlight Series! We’re thrilled to feature 4 incredibly talented authors from our first National K-12 Summer Reading Challenge, sponsored by Thorndike Press and Mark Cuban. 


This week, we’ve interviewed Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Ghost Boys (ALA 2019 Children’s Notable List Pick, NYT Bestseller, IndieBound Bestseller) and Black Brother, Black Brother.


Check out our interview with her below, and learn more about her work here! You can also follow Jewell on Twitter and Instagram

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Floyd Cooper.


Where is your favorite place to read?

At my desk, with the window open and the wind blowing across Lake Union.


What is your favorite thing you've written? Book or otherwise!

I love sending colorful notes to my four year-old granddaughter.


This image displays a quote from author Jewel Parker Rhodes: "My basic advice is always the same: "A writer doesn't talk about writing. A writer writes." So many people grow fearful of their dreams and ultimately, don't really try...Most importantly, believe in yourself."


What time of day do you usually like to write?

When my children were young, I spent most of the nights writing. I’ve now shifted to daytime hours but I still spend a great deal of time dreaming, thinking, musing about writing. 


If you could have coffee (or beverage of choice!) with any author, who would it be?

Walter Dean Myers.


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? And/or how did you become a writer?

I’ve always loved to tell stories and to write. I wrote my first children’s book in third grade and shared it with my classmates. The magic of creating a story ignited my passion for writing but unfortunately, because I had never read any books written about people of color or by people of color, I didn’t actually know that it was a career. So, I quickly forgot about it and it wasn’t until I was a junior in college when I saw a book by Gayl Jones called Corregidora that I went, “Black women write books!” And I switched my major the very next day to English.


If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

My basic advice is always the same:  “A writer doesn’t talk about writing. A writer writes.” So many people grow fearful of their dreams and ultimately, don’t really try. Keep a journal. Set aside a few hours a week to write. Also, a writer reads. Books can teach effective writing skills.  When you read something you’ve enjoyed, ask yourself, how did the writer do that? Eventually, through analyzing, you’ll teach yourself patterns and ways of writing well. Most importantly, believe in yourself.


What is your favorite thing about summer?

Hearing the birds sing and walking my two toy Aussie Sheepdogs in the park is simply heavenly!


This image displays a quote from a Booklist starred review: "An entertaining story and happy ending does not take away from this powerful examination of how the educational and justice systems punitively treat children of color - and how this bias impacts their self-perception and esteem. A powerful work and must-have for children's collections."

Why is it important for readers to know that books are formatted in large print? And/or how important is format when it comes to putting your books out in the world?

It’s very important that books are available in different formats. Large print opens the doors for reluctant readers to develop lifelong reading habits. Large print books feel wonderful in your hands and are easier to read and easier to comprehend. Nothing is better than a child proudly holding a book!


Any additional information or fun facts?

Each book I write has its own music soundtrack. I don’t understand how music inspires my books - but one book might be written while I’m listening to pop music or Hamilton: The Musical. The book I’m writing now flows easily when I’m listening to Chopin.

Stay tuned for future Thorndike Press author spotlights throughout #LevelUp2021, and encourage your community to keep reading! 

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