On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Kojo For Kids welcomes Newbery Award winner Jason Reynolds and director Dan Buyanovsky to the show on Monday, September 14 at noon. Listen live by streaming the show on this page or by tuning in to 88.5 FM in the Washington, D.C. region. Kids can call in with questions at 800-433-8850.
Jason Reynolds returns to Kojo For Kids to talk about books, poetry and the new video of his spoken word poem, “For Every One,” which he began years ago as a letter of encouragement to himself. It’s now a book and video to inspire everyone, though it speaks most directly to young people, especially when they get discouraged by others or their self-doubts.
We’ll also talk to director Dan Buyanovsky, who read “For Every One,” and managed to convince Jason Reynolds that he should get to film him reciting it. They did it in a day!
Join our guests and call in with your questions about reading, writing, filmmaking — and facing up to your own dreams.
This show is part of the “Kojo For Kids” series, a Kojo Nnamdi Show segment featuring guests of special interest to young listeners. Though Kojo has been on WAMU 88.5 for 20 years, this is the first time he has had the opportunity to reach out to an audience of kids, most of whom until recently had been in school during our live broadcast. We’re excited to hear from our youngest listeners! Join us!
Produced by Lauren Markoe
- Jason Reynolds Author, "Ghost"; Co-author, "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You"; @JasonReynolds83
- Dan Buyanovsky Writer, producer and director
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome.
JASON REYNOLDSDear dreamer, this letter is being written from a place of honesty and love, but not at all a place of expertise on how to make your dream come true, because I don't know anything about that. I haven't been through it all and come out on the other side pinned with a blue ribbon or draped in a victor's sash or dollar bills or even unshakable happiness. In fact, I have yet to see my own dream made tangible. This letter is being written from the inside, on the frontline, in a fault line, from the uncertain thick of it all, from a man with a straight line mouth and an ego with a slow leak, from a man doing it the only way he knows how.
NNAMDIThat was Jason Reynolds reading his poem "For Every One" from a newly released video that you can watch online. In a moment, we'll speak to the director of that video, but first, we wanted to hear from Jason Reynolds himself. He's here to talk about his books and poems and about what you get out of reading. Maybe you're like the runners in his track series and are scared to try something new. Maybe you hope to discover your own superhero powers like Miles Morales Spiderman. Kids have made Jason Reynolds so popular that the Library of Congress this year named him National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Adults, of course, you are welcome to tune in, but because today's show is part of Kojo for Kids series, Jason Reynolds welcome to the program.
REYNOLDSHow you doing, brother Kojo? Good to hear you, man.
NNAMDIGood to hear you too, Jason. Before we talk about your poem, the video and your books we should let our listeners know that even though your work is read across the nation and around the world, you're from right here. Tell us where you were born and where you grew up.
REYNOLDSI was born right here in this city. I grew up in Oxon Hill right across the line. And then I left for a little while and came back. And now I'm back in the city and been back for a few years.
NNAMDIWell, we just heard the first lines of your poem "For Every One," which you performed and just released in a video. Before it was a video, the poem was a book. When did you write it and why?
REYNOLDSYou know, it's interesting. It started off as this letter to myself as I was trying to lick my own wounds so to speak. I had gotten into this industry when I was very young. I was 21 when I got my first deal. But when that book came out, the book didn't do so well. A buddy of mine had written a book called "My Name is Jason. Mine Too." And when the book came out, the book didn't do so well. American had gone into a recession. All sorts of things had gone on that kind of made me feel like I had touched failure, right? That I was experiencing something where I was like, "Oh, this is my dream come true." And then that bubble burst when you realize that it doesn't really go according to plan.
REYNOLDSAnd this was my way of sort of healing myself. I started writing it at 25 and it took me three years to write it because it kept changing as I kept changing and in midst of the grieving process of trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life.
NNAMDIYou dedicate "For Every One" to two people. Who are they and why did you choose them?
REYNOLDSThe book is dedicated -- basically it's to me and it's to you, you know. And the reason why I did that is because first of all I didn't want to lose sight of the fact is -- this is mine. This book is for me, right. This is something that -- this is the most intimate thing I've ever written. Right? It's literally about what was happening in my psyche, in my body, in my mind during this time.
REYNOLDSBut I also know that I'm not the only person especially the only young person let alone the only person who is no longer that young, who is experiencing feelings of doubt who knows that he or she wants something more from life and that they have something more to offer. But they have no idea if it will come into fruition. And maybe they're questioning if it even matters -- if that's the point of it all anyway. Maybe it's just to have the dream not to achieve it. But it's to have something to dream is a special and powerful experience.
NNAMDIJason, you originally had a different title for the poem. What was it and how did it change to "For Every One"?
REYNOLDSOriginally the title was "Letter to a Dreamer," because that's what it was, right? It was sort of supposed to be this, you know, Kojo honestly when I was writing this thing, first it was--all right. This is my thing. I'm going to write this thing for me. And then when I started to see what it was becoming I made a decision that I would never sell it. Right? It was a kind of like, I'm not going to -- this won't ever be published. It's not publishable. I'm just going to package it. You know, I'll go to Staples and I'll get it sort of packaged as these little pamphlets and I'll give it away to all of my friends who are artists around me who are struggling. And it will just be a thing that they can have. That was the original idea.
REYNOLDSThen you fast forward, you know, seven or eight years later and I'm in a -- you know, my life had changed. I'm in a different part of my career and I'm out of that space. And then my editors were like, Wait. So you did this thing all these years ago. Like maybe we should put it out. And, you know, that was kind of cringey for me because it's like, I wrote this when I was 25. I don't really know, you know. And then they changed the title of it too "For Every One." And for the record I still love "Letter to a Dreamer," but I'm not upset about "For Every One."
NNAMDIYou say that when you were a student at the University of Maryland you spent more time doing spoken word poetry than class work. For those listeners, who don't know what spoken word poetry is, could you explain what it is? And is "For Every One" a spoken word poem?
REYNOLDSYou know, so spoken word poetry, it's interesting because if you're talking to a young person -- a 20 year old today they'll say it's this sort of performance poetry that sort of was popularized in the 1990s. But the truth of the matter is that spoken word as it stands is something that we could date back. I mean, we could go back generations and generations and generations. I'd argue we could even go back centuries. I mean, arguably especially as Black people in American this sort of auditory way -- like oratory is a big part of our culture.
REYNOLDSBut if you want to see like the beginnings of something like spoken word I would say look at the 1970s. I'd even say look at the Black preacher. But after that I'd say, look at the 1970s. Look at the last poets. Look at Gil Scott-Heron. Look at what the Black arts movement, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nicky Giovani, I mean, you know, Hauki Madhubuti, there are all these people. And then I'd say look at the beginnings of hip hop music. Right? You could go on and on and on.
REYNOLDSBut to make it plain it's technically -- technically it's just poetry that is being heard and not being read. Over the years it's become more performative. But it's technically just -- it's just the spoken word.
NNAMDIWould you say a little spoken word poetry with us?
REYNOLDSI will. I will. You know, I was teasing your producers, Kojo. I was saying, I you know, got to figure out how to turn the pages and hold the phone.
REYNOLDSBut this is from the back -- the last section of "For Every One." When it comes to my dream, when it comes to my dream the way I like to describe it is that it's a rabid beast that found me when I was young. It bit me and infected me. But before I could catch it, it shot off into the darkness and now I spend my life searching for it, hunting it down. I know I'm on its trail. I can smell it. I can hear it. Sometimes I think I can even see it.
REYNOLDSEither way I know I'm on the right track. My nose to the dirt, foaming at the spirit. I look under heavy stones, behind massive trees, deep in dark caves and I will keep looking until I find that beast that thing that bit me, when I was young. The truth is finding that beast may or may not happen. But the treasures I've discovered under the heavy stones and behind the massive trees and deep in the dark caves have created the hunter and the human that I am.
REYNOLDSYour dream is the mole behind your ear, that chip in your front tooth, your freckles. It's the thing that makes you special, but not the thing that makes you great. The courage in trying, the passion in living, and the acknowledgement and appreciation of the beauty happening around you does that.
NNAMDIJason Reynolds, spoken word poetry "For Every One." I could sit there and listen to this all day. But we do have to move on. This new video of you reciting "For Every One" is not the first time you performed it. You actually read it on a very famous stage and for a very special occasion. Can you tell us about that?
REYNOLDSYeah. I was fortunate enough to be asked to read this at the unveiling of the Dr. King Memorial at the Kennedy Center. There was a special event that was going on at the Kennedy Center. And I was asked by a friend -- my dear friend Simone Jacobson to be a part of this event and to read something. Now the thing is that I had nothing else to read, right? And so it was sort of like, Hey, would you come and like do this thing? And I'm like, Oh -- you can't say no when it's anything involving Dr. King or the Kennedy Center at that. So I'm like, Oh, yeah. I'll have to figure this out. And this is the only thing that I had been working on for years. And it was like, Well, I guess this is what I'm going to read. It seemed apropos. And I'm so glad I did.
NNAMDIWe are all glad you did too. I'd like now to bring into our conversation Dan Buyanovsky. He's a Writer, Producer and the Director of the newly released video of Jason Reynold's spoken word poem "For Every One." Dan Buyanovsky, thank you so much for joining us.
DAN BUYANOVSKYHey, Kojo. Great to talk to you. What's up, Jason?
REYNOLDSWhat's up, Dan?
NNAMDIDan, we only got about a minute left in this segment. But I should mention that you're joining us from Tokyo, Japan. Is that a place you call home and what time of day or night is it there now?
BUYANOVSKYIt is almost 1:30 in the morning right now. And Tokyo has been home for the last nine or 10 months, yeah.
NNAMDIWow. How and when did you decide to make videos and commercials? And I guess kids would like to know what's the most fun part of that job?
BUYANOVSKYSure. So I started out actually as a writer like Jason and, you know, poetry is my first way in and then journalism. And then I transitioned to video production. And I think for me it was just a new avenue of storytelling. And I think the most fun part about it is just the new challenges on every single project and, you know, figuring out how to deal with changing circumstances and the challenges of being on set and coming away with a product that you're really proud of.
NNAMDIOkay. We're going to taking a short break. Dan, try not to fall asleep. I know it's very late there in Japan. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Kojo for Kids and we're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Do you ever wonder how videos get made? What would you like to know? 800-433-8850. Of course, a lot of kids are in school today. But if you happen to have a break now is the time to call 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet @kojoshow. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We're talking with Jason Reynolds, Author of "Ghost" and Co-author of "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You." He's currently serving as the seventh National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress.
NNAMDIWe're also talking with Dan Buyanovsky. He's a Writer, Producer, and the director of the newly released video of Jason Reynolds's spoken work poem "For Every One." Dan, tell us about the first time your read "For Every One." How did you discover it and what made you want to make a video out of it?
BUYANOVSKYSure. So someone had recommended one of Jason's books to me. I believe it was "A Long Way Down." And I was at the bookstore and I was looking at his section. And I was like, "Oh, wow, he has a lot of books." And so I dug into a few of them. And "For Every One" just struck me right in the bookstore. And I took it home and I read it all in one sitting. And my wife was there and I just looked at her and was like, I need to do something with this. This strikes me and connects to a chord with me. And I just need to figure out how I can make something with this person.
NNAMDIYou didn't have to consult with any kids at all. Every time I get hold of a Jason Reynolds's book I claim I'm getting it for my granddaughter. And then two days later she says, Granddad, where's the book that you said-- I said, I'm reading it. I'll get it to you shortly.
BUYANOVSKYYep. That's how it was for me.
NNAMDIDan, you did not know Jason. How did you get him, this, well, famous writer to go along with your idea?
BUYANOVSKYThat's probably a question better for Jason. But, you know, like I said as soon as I read it felt like I need to just figure out a way to connect. And so I talked to his agents and his people. And, you know, after a little while of convincing and trying to setup a meeting we eventually did. You know, we connected right away. And as soon as I tried to explain the vision for it, Jason just jumped in and, you know, a few months after that we filmed it.
NNAMDIJason, were you skeptical about this at first?
REYNOLDSYou know, I'm always a little skeptical of everything. I think if you're in this business long enough --
NNAMDIWe seem to have lost Jason for a second there. Are you back yet? Well, Dan, are you still there?
BUYANOVSKYYeah. I'm here.
NNAMDIWhile we get Jason back, the night before you began filming the video, Jason gave you some, well, unexpected news about how he was going to recite this four part poem, which you thought was going to be entirely from memory.
NNAMDIWhat happened and how did you Jason handle it?
BUYANOVSKYSo yeah, the night before we shot, you know, we met up and we shot it in Los Angeles. And we met up at Jason's hotel. And we just kind of talked through some of his inspiration for writing it and we kind of game planned what the shot day would look like. And then I had the printout of the poem with me. And I was like, Oh I have this. But you probably don't need this. And he was like, Actually I think I might. And so I handed it over to him and he kind of told me, I have it mostly memorized, but not, you know, down pat. And by tomorrow I will. So I trusted him and we went through it a few times. And then the next day, we needed some assistance, just a little bit.
NNAMDIYou needed some assistance, just a little bit. And a part of that assistance was the benefit of him having dreadlocks, long hair, right?
BUYANOVSKYThat's right. Yeah. So, you know, we had our sound guy there and he came with every gadget and toy that you can imagine. And when we realized, you know, I might need to feed some of these words to Jason in real-time, the sound guy was like, actually we might be able to hide this little earpiece like he's a newscaster just in his ear, you know, under his hair. And no one will see it. I said, Okay, great. Let's try it.
NNAMDIJason, are you back? No, we still don't have Jason back yet. We're working on getting Jason back. Dan, this video is now available to everyone a website called 826nation. Tell us about 8-2-6, 826 and how people can watch the video.
BUYANOVSKYSure. So 826 is a network of foundations across the country and their mission is to empower young writers and to give educational resources to teachers who, you know, work in English and the humanities. And so we connected with them. And they were huge fans of Jason like many people are. And kind of had the idea of what if we use this as a big back to school push and a back to school resource. And so they, you know, got behind it. And they built a website for it and did a big promotion to, you know, the educators, who are kind of figuring out how to teach in a new way this year, you know, under the circumstances.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. I think we have Jason back. Jason, are you back?
REYNOLDSI'm back. I'm sorry about that.
NNAMDIOh, glad to have you back. Well, when we lost you were talking about your initial skepticism about this project. What changed your mind?
REYNOLDSDan changed my mind. I think, you know, it was another reminder that we as human beings we invest in people not in product, you know, not even in promise, right? We invest in people. And I think after having breakfast with him, it was immediately clear that this is a man that operates with a certain kind of earnestness and a certain kind of integrity. And that he genuinely wanted to make something beautiful and that was all I really needed to know.
NNAMDIWell, the conversation I was having with Dan after that was about how you guys did it, because the initial plan was for you to memorize the entire work. Did you really aim to memorize the whole thing?
REYNOLDSKojo, honestly, I never felt more unprofessional in my life. I know that's what was expected of me, but my life is a little wild and upside down. And I just didn't have -- I just knew I wouldn't have the time or the energy to go through and memorize the entire thing. And so -- but I kind of sprung it on Dan at the last minute, which is probably not a good thing to do. But we worked it out. And I will say this and to Dan's credit. He really had to kind of talk me off the ledge a bit, because I'm sure a perfectionist and it's really hard to get it right when you're doing it this way. And he was able to say, Look, man, like this is you. You're human. There's going to be slobs. There's going to be human elements to this thing and that's okay.
NNAMDIYep, because the thing is 20 minutes long. I could understand how long it might take to memorize it. Jason, on the 826 national website, you give kids a writing assignment. You asked them to describe themselves as a place. What kind of place did you intend for them to describe? You mean like a city, Alexandria, Oxon Hill, just any kind of space?
REYNOLDSAny kind of space. Any kind of environment, right. It could be a classroom. It could be their bedroom. You know, wherever they feel connected to I think is what I want them to sort of tap into.
NNAMDIWhat's the idea behind that writing exercise, and what kind of places do kids come up with?
REYNOLDSYou know, the idea behind it is really to sort of view oneself as a world, right. Like, I think that we look at ourselves as people in the world, but I also think that it's healthy for us to know that world exists within us. And so, if you ask a young person to describe themselves -- I remember a young woman -- one time I did this experiment, and a young woman said, you know, I am the beach. And she said, I am sunny, and I feel sometimes like I'm in the flow. She said, but then there are other times where the waters are raging, and they’re crashing and I'm angry and it's flooding everything around me. Right?
REYNOLDSAnd she was like seven.
REYNOLDSThat's an incredible thing. And so in that moment we get to think about who she is and how she feels about herself and what's going on on the inside of her, and that's an amazing thing.
NNAMDIWhat would your place look and sound like, Jason?
REYNOLDS(laugh) At the moment, you know, probably Manhattan rush hour, you know. (laugh)
NNAMDIChaotic would be an appropriate word, huh?
REYNOLDSAbsolutely. Everything moving, and nothing going anywhere (laugh) .
NNAMDIExactly right. That’s a lot of our lives right now. Obviously, this broadcast is Kojo for Kids, so we're looking for kids who might be in school. 800-433-8850 is the number to call, if you're a kid. But here's a little secret. If your kid happens to be in school and your kids happens to be a friend of -- a fan of Jason Reynolds, then if you're an adult, we'll allow you to call. But you got to talk about your kid, okay?
NNAMDIJason, we'll get back to the video, but let's talk about books for a bit. You say many kids who hate reading may not actually hate it, but rather that they hate reading boring books. Does that describe you as a kid?
REYNOLDSOf course. I think that describes me now. (laugh) You know, ultimately I just don't know if boredom -- I understand that we don't get everything we want, that everything isn't going to be exciting. But I also know that I think it's an obligation for adults to figure out ways to turn learning and education into something that is fun. I think it's unfair that we expect them to want to do something boring when we don't like to do boring things ourselves. You know, why not make it all a good time?
NNAMDIWhat got you to become a reader?
REYNOLDSYou know, for me, it was what I thought was fun in terms of listening to rap music, right. Rap music was fun. It's sort of interesting, sort of exciting, sort of electrifying. It felt new and fresh, and it felt like mine, right, something that was literally for me. Reading was for old people, right. That’s the way I saw it, right. These old books on the shelves. Nobody knew who wrote them. They were probably written by machines, in my mind, right. And rap music was personal. And so, I started to read rap lyrics and from there discovered poetry. And then from there I was pretty much good to go.
NNAMDIAnd then you discovered Richard Wright, right?
REYNOLDSAnd then I discovered Richard Wright. And then I -- and you know what? You know what's interesting, and I'm glad you brought up Richard Wright. I discovered Richard Wright, and started reading after Richard Wright, and I sort of read all the "Harlem Renaissance" and the Black Arts Movement, I discovered Walter Dean Myers. Now, I was a 20-something-year-old at that point.
REYNOLDSAnd I bring him up because when we talk about for everyone, we always talk about how, like, there was only one time that I read it publicly, and that was for Dr. King. The truth is, there were two times that I read it publically. And the second time was actually at the memorial service for the great, giant Walter Dean Myers.
NNAMDIWow. Well, I was glad that "Black Boy" was one of the books that pulled you in because as a young man, that's one of the books that pulled me in. It was so easy to read, and I could relate to it so well, that it was definitely not a boring book. As the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, which is an honor bestowed by the Library of Congress, your plan was to spend two years traveling around the country and listening to kids in small towns tell their stories. But the pandemic hit just as you were about to put the plan into action. How are you reaching out to kids when, because of the coronavirus, you now cannot visit them where they live?
REYNOLDSYeah, it's been really hard, man, but it's quite a bit of a pivot, you know. And so I've done all these -- I did 30 videos of writing prompts, much like the one I did for 826. So I did 30 videos that were coming out twice a week, and then eventually once a week, and now that school's back in, we've put that a pause on them for a second, that teachers have as a resource. And so, they can use those in class, kind of bring out some of the imagination.
REYNOLDSAnd then I was playing -- I had a game every Friday called Brain Yoga, where I had the kids come on my Instagram and we would all laugh and joke and play imagination games. Right now -- you know, it was great, right, like I used to play it. And right now, we're sort of gearing up to do some sort of digital touring. But we're figuring it out.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation with Jason Reynolds and Dan Buyanovsky and take your calls, 800-433-8850 this week, even if you're an adult. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to Kojo for Kids, where we're taking the unusual step of taking calls from adults, because, well, most kids seem to be in school. 800-433-8850. Are you a writer or a poet? Tell us about what you write. And today we're talking with Jason Reynolds, about his latest poems and newly released video. It's called "For Every One." Jason Reynolds is the author of "Ghost" and co-author of "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You." He's also currently serving as the seventh National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress.
NNAMDIAlso joining us is Dan Buyanovsky. He's a writer, producer and the director of the aforementioned newly released video of Jason Reynold's spoken-word poem, "For Every One." We do have a caller. Let's go to Samantha in Marlboro, Maryland. Samantha, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi Samantha, are you there? Well, let me go to Samantha. Hi, Samantha. You are on the air. Go ahead, please.
NNAMDIOh, for the time being, I can't seem to hear Samantha, but I know what Samantha wants to ask, Jason, so I'll just tell you. Her son KJ is eight years old. He's working on his second chapter book. How can Samantha help to foster his writing?
REYNOLDSYou know, so first of all, way to go, Samantha's son. What's his name, KJ?
REYNOLDSKJ, first, I'd like to say congrats to KJ and keep up the good work. It's hard to write one, let alone two, you know. I think the one thing that Samantha can do is continue to do what she's been doing. Whatever she's doing is giving him -- it makes him feel like he can do it -- he's been able to do it this far.
REYNOLDSThe other thing though is, I think that it matters that they get to see this thing look like a book. And there are all kinds of ways now that that's possible, without having to break the bank, so to speak. And so, I think if she looks online, she just types -- I mean, you know, there are all sorts of companies that do this, that'll print the book for them. And I think she should have it printed up. Let him see it. Let him see what it feels like to hold an object that he made. And I think that is a huge, huge encouragement for him to keep going.
NNAMDISamantha, thank you very much for your call. We heard, by way of Twitter, from Miss Dunn, who I think is a teacher, who says, well, I found what we are reading next week to introduce our independent reading choices at @JasonReynolds83 for the win, always.
NNAMDIThank you very much, Miss Dunn. Jason, the nation is grappling with the virus at the same time as it's grappling with another sickness that's been around for much longer, racism. A few months ago, people began protesting after police in Minneapolis killed an unarmed black man, George Floyd. But the violence against black people has not stopped, nor have the protests. What is your advice to kids, who might feel discouraged when they see how racism continues to hurt black people and other people of color?
REYNOLDSI mean, I think I'd say what I always say, which is, I think that the feeling of being -- like, feeling discouraged is a human thing. So, before I try to fix the discouragement, first of all, it's important to acknowledge it, right, and that a lot of us feel a bit discouraged. But the truth of the matter is, is that us feeling discouraged doesn't necessarily fix anything, right.
REYNOLDSAnd so, if we're going to try to make things better, even within our own surroundings, right -- because we can't -- sometimes it's best to just try to make the space around you a little bit better, right. Be kinder to the people in your household and in your neighborhood. And I think those are things that we actually can control. So, we channel that discouragement into humanism, right, and into gratitude and to empathy and compassion to the people that we actually can put our hands on, let alone the people that we don't know. But we have to make sure that we can color and change the temperature of our immediate environment. And from there, it'll spill out.
NNAMDIYou wrote a book for young people with Ibram X. Kendi called "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You." What were you aiming to do with that book, and do you think black kids and other kids might understand the book differently?
REYNOLDSYou know, my aim was to provide context for the world that we live in today, and to provide truth. I'm not a person, who believes that we should be lying to kids because we feel like they can't handle certain conversations. I think we should figure out a better way to have those conversations, right. So, it's like, instead of us just saying these things don't exist, because we can't find a language to explain it in a way that makes kids -- that helps kids to grapple with it and keeps them safe emotionally and mentally, we should just do a better job at giving ourselves a better lexicon of skills so that we can communicate more effectively.
REYNOLDSAnd so, this book is meant to do just that. But look, this is our world, right, the good, the bad and the ugly. This is the reason why it is the way it is in this particular country. And this is written in a way for you to understand your place in it and how we can go about changing it in the future.
NNAMDIIt wasn't even a year ago that you published your last book, "Look Both Ways," but a lot of us really can't wait for the next one. What are you writing now, and when will we be able to read it?
REYNOLDSOh, man, oh man, oh man. It's -- you know what's funny about this question, Kojo, is that that, you know, people ask this question as if it doesn't take years to write a book, right. (laugh)
REYNOLDS(laugh) People are like, yeah man, so you put out that last book a few months ago, so what you got coming up next?
NNAMDIExactly. Spit it out, like a poem. Just come on.
REYNOLDSWhat I will say is this. I don't know if I can talk too much about it, but what I will say is I am interested in making sure that I cover all the grounds when it comes to children's literature. Every category, every space -- like, I would love for there to be a child who, at the age of two, three, their mom or pop is like, hey, we're going to start with this Jason Reynold's picture book. And then we're going to get into these Jason Reynold's early readers, and then the middle grade, and then the YA. And really be able to walk all the way through their literary lineage with me. And so just know that whatever I'm working on, it's to fill the holes of the things that I haven't quite tackled yet, but it's coming.
NNAMDIThank you. Dan Buyanovsky, let's get back to the newly released video you made of Jason reading "For Every One." Anyone who watches the video may first notice that Jason recites "For Every One" against a very plain background, and that he walks in and out of a circle on the floor. Can you explain why you went with this background, and the meaning of the circle?
BUYANOVSKYSure. So, the meaning of the background is, I just wanted to keep it as bare as possible. You know, I think when Jason talks about the writing of this poem and some of the solitude and the loneliness of self-doubt, I wanted to kind of let his expressions, let his performance, let his kind of spoken-word background just shine, and not really distract from that with any background.
BUYANOVSKYWe talked about doing some projections and we talked about doing different designs on the walls, but then we realized, you know, he's such an engaging speaker and he's such an engaging performer, let's just focus on that. And, you know, we did long takes, and I think that was part of the reason why some of his emotions come through even more, because the camera's right there with him. You know, it's right on him all the time.
NNAMDIOkay. Now we get to hear a little more from the video again. Here is Jason Reynolds performing from the third part of his four-part poem, "For Every One."
REYNOLDSThis letter isn't for any specific kind of dream. Isn't intended for a certain genre, medium, trade, or denomination. It's only intended for the courageous. Maybe you’re a dancer, moving to the sound of your own future, or a musician, playing and strumming bow and plucking, blowing into, creating soundtracks for dream trains chugging along through thick night. Or a painter spilling and splattering confessions across the stretched face of a canvas. Or an actor, praying at the altar of your alter ego, or a photographer, finger on the button like a quick-draw cowboy shooting, but not to kill anyone, but to preserve forever.
NNAMDIJason Reynolds performing from the third part of his four-part poem on the video "For Every One." Dan Buyanovsky, what's not so plain about the video is the colors. The background changes, going from white to fiery orange to cool blues and pinks, and then back to white again. Why did you decide to have these colors change as Jason moves through the four parts of the poem?
BUYANOVSKYWell, I think as you read the poem, you can see some of the kind of emotional range that he' going through, you know. He starts from self-reflection, and then he goes into an anxious space and even at time angry. And then it gets kind of more ruminative from there and going into, you know, a broader story about people that are not creatives and people on different walks of life. And then it comes back to himself. So I kind of wanted to mirror some of the emotions that you see in the poem.
NNAMDIYou also have the words of the poem appearing on screen as Jason speaks. Why did you make that choice?
BUYANOVSKYYeah, so I collaborated with a really great creative director and designer. His name is Chris Kitahara, based in L.A. And when he saw the video, he was like, you know, if this is for kids, we need to make this even more dynamic then it already is, so that they can sort of, in real time, you know, read Jason's poem while they're seeing him perform it and while there's this kind of musical backdrop that's adding more drama to it. And once he showed me some first frames, you know, I sent them to Jason, and we were both like, this is perfect. This is going to add so much to it.
NNAMDIJason, we heard from Vish, who writes: My 10-year-old published her first book, "Not Your Type of Girl" on Amazon Kindle. Like you, she wrote it for herself. It's a bold take for a young mind on ethnic diversity written as a fun, first-person point of view. What's your advice for writers this young?
REYNOLDSIt sounds like she's already got all the answers, you know. (laugh) She's already done the thing. I think the one thing that, I think, is first and foremost, tell her to call herself a writer, right. She is a writer, so she is a writer. I mean, she has written this thing and it exists in the world, and it's hers. I think my only piece of advice is to continue on, right, that this is the beginning of, you know, a long journey.
REYNOLDSAnd she already knows how difficult it is to make a thing, and therefore it shouldn't scare her to make another one, and another one and another one. And that in order to keep one creativity alive, one has to live a curious life. And so, my greatest piece of advice would be to live a curious life, which means to try to know everything there is to know about everything merely because it's there for you to know it. That's all.
NNAMDIAnd thanks for writing to us, Vish. And I'm afraid we're just about out of time. Dan Buyanovsky is a writer, producer and the director of the newly released video of Jason Reynold's spoken word poem "For Every One." Dan, thank you so much for joining us. Try to get some sleep. I know it's now 2:00 in the morning in Japan.
BUYANOVSKYI'm on it. Thank you so much for having me.
NNAMDIJason Reynolds is the author of "Ghost" and co-author of "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You." He's also currently serving as the seventh National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. Jason, always a pleasure. Stay safe.
REYNOLDSAlways good to talk to you, Kojo.
NNAMDIKojo for Kids with Jason Reynolds and Dan Buyanovsky was produced by Lauren Markoe. Coming up tomorrow, six months into the pandemic, there have been over 250,000 reported coronavirus cases in the Washington region and nearly 7,000 deaths. Back in January, U.S. researchers set a goal to develop a coronavirus vaccine within a year and a half. If accomplished, it would set a world record.
NNAMDIWe'll speak to the lead doctor in a local vaccine trial, along with our regular guest Dr. Leana Wen, who's got tips on staying safe. And finally, on an upcoming Kojo Show, we'll be remembering lives lost to COVID-19. Has someone close to you passed away from the coronavirus? Share your story with us. Go to kojoshow.org and click on the banner that says "Remembering the Lives Lost. " And thank you all for listening and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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