Meet Kwame Mbalia - #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 Kwame Mbalia, New York Times bestselling author of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, which was awarded a Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and Tristan Strong Destroy the World


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

What are you currently reading?

The Conductors by Nicole Glover.


Where is your favorite place to read?

My armchair.


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

The opening to a story I wrote when I was in high school that my idol, my mother, said was really good.


What's your favorite childhood book?

Slam! by Walter Dean Myers.


Image displaying a quote from author Kwame Mbalia: "Pick a story and finish it. Ignore the shiny new ideas. Finish one story at a time."


What is your favorite word and why?

“Hitherto.” It just sounds like a weird bird in a fantasy novel. 


What time of day do you usually like to write?

When time, family, sleep, and the other details involved with being a writer allow. 


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

Toni Morrison.


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

Third or fourth grade. I wrote love poems and sold them for a dollar.


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

Pick a story and finish it. Ignore the shiny new ideas. Finish one story at a time.


What is your favorite thing about summer?

The knowledge that autumn is around the corner.


Image displaying a New York Times Book Review quote: "[Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky] reminds us why myths exist. They're not simply stories to entertain. They tell us who we are. Where we came from. What's worth fighting for. They remind us to keep telling the stories. And Mbalia has done that."


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?

Accessibility encourages more readers to pick up books. Whatever we can do to make it easier for people to read, we should do it. Hands down. I personally love large print books. Less eye strain and a more comfortable experience. 


Any additional information or fun facts?

Change the lint trap in your dryer. Do it, or else.

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

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