First Draft Episode #214: Jason Reynolds Jason Reynolds
, New York Times bestselling author of critically acclaimed books, including National Book Award finalist Ghost
, Newberry and Printz-honored Long Way Down
, Coretta Scott King Honoree As Brave as You
, and his latest, middle grade Look Both Ways
, which was just named to the National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Li…
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Links and Topics Mentioned In This Episode
- Jason didn’t grow up writing prose, but he and all his friends had rhyme books where they would write lyrics. They wanted to be the next Nas, Slick Rick, Run DMC, Big Daddy Kane, or Rakim.
- Jason’s aunt would give him classic books as gifts, including Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- Bob Marley’s “Kaya,” Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” were hugely influential on Jason because of the beauty of the lyrics
- Jason teamed up with the artist and writer Jason Douglas Griffin for an early book, My Name is Jason. Mine Too: Our Story. Our Way.
- Jason credits Joanna Cotler, author and artist, and then publish…, with teaching him how to write narrative and gave him the mantra: “Your intuition will take you farther than your education ever will.”
- Jacqueline Woodson (author of Brown Girl Dreaming, winner of the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and Newberry Honor winner), Rita Williams-Garcia (author of Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, a National Book Award finalist), and Walter Dean Myers (author of more than 100 books for young people, including Monster, winner of the Printz Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and National Book Award, and more) are people Jason considers predecessors to his career.
- Christopher Myers, writer, artist, and the son of Walter Dean Myers, pressed Jason to return to writing, to carry on his father’s legacy. At Christopher’s urging, Jason read The Young Landlords by Walter Dean Myers (which the TV show 227 was based on)
- Caitlyn Dlouhy, Vice President & Editorial Directo… of Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, nurtured Jason’s career by focusing on the integrity of his work
- Laurie Halse Anderson (author of Speak and The Impossible Knife of Memory), Eliot Schrefer (author of Threatened, a National Book Award finalist), and Gene Luen Yang (author and illustrator of American Born Chinese), and Jason also shouts out Sharon Draper’s New York Times bestselling Stella by Starlight
- Jason references part of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself: “Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!”
- Jason admires writers who use verse for all or many of their books, specifically Kwame Alexander (poet and educator, and New York Times bestselling author of The Crossover: A Novel, winner of the Newbery Medal and a Coretta Scott King Honor) and Ellen Hopkins (New York Times bestselling author of Crank)
- Alfred Hitchcock’s works (including Psycho and Rear Window), and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining are examples of subtle ways that framing and design can make a viewer feel uncomfortable.
- Quincy Jones said about producing music, “I always say you have to leave space for God to walk into the room.” That’s how Jason feels about the appearance of poetry in text.
- The first scene of Boyz ‘n the Hood shows one kid asking another, “Do you want to see a dead body?”
- Fresh Ink: An Anthology, edited by Lamar Giles (author of Fake ID and Spin), and Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in Am…, edited by Ibi Zoboi (author of American Street, a National Book Award finalist, and Pride) are among the anthologies that Jason thinks are wonderful. He wonders why we’ve moved away from the short story format for younger readers.
- The TV show High Maintenance is another example of vignette storytelling that Jason was going for with Look Both Ways
- Jason shouts out Jennifer Buehler, Ph.D., Associate Professor at St. Louis University, Educational Studies who specializes in young adult literature
- Jason’s friend and co-author of All American Boys, Brendan Keily (author of Tradition, listen to his First Draft episode here), refers to the story under the story as “vertical narrative”
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