Profile of the Month | Melissa Williams
The Bush family, philanthropists and media folks gathered at the Hilton Americas Downtown Houston for the 6th Annual iWrite Luncheon and Book Signing for the READ3Zero Literacy Organization. READ3Zero inspires children to read 30 minutes a day and write their own stories, while providing publishing and leadership opportunities to our youth. This sell out luncheon not only inspires children but encourages adults to help make the world a better place. This program has given kids the chance to feel like they belong to something greater. It allows them to express themselves outside the walls of standardization of the education system. It allows them to have a voice and be creative, which is also a part of personality development. The ability to remove thoughts from your head and create something meaningful on paper is extremely empowering and increases understanding and purpose.
Lights Camera Action International Society News Host Ruchi Mukherjee sat down with publisher and the founder of Read3Zero Melissa Williams.
What inspired you to be a publisher in the first place?
My decision to publish came while finishing graduate school and attending conferences on the writing and publishing industry. About ten years ago, experts in the field told us all, the publishing industry as we knew it would drastically change in the next 3 years. As the chances to get published by a New York publisher were predicted to diminish to a crumb of a percent, I took it as an opportunity instead of a hindrance and started my own company. Being raised by entrepreneurs and creatives, (my father a business owner and my mother a professional ballerina with the Houston Ballet) it made sense not to waste time and build my own team of professionals, so I founded LongTale Publishing in 2007. Soon after starting my business, I decided to create the non-profit literacy organization in order to give kids a place to share their love for reading and writing with the opportunity to become a published author early in life.
What does Read3Zero mean to you?
I believe all children should have the chance to be great and passionate about something. The I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids publishing contest gives young people the opportunity to challenge themselves to a level of creative achievement and recognition. It’s all about creating early successes in life to mold the confidence and motivation of a person. READ3Zero (iWrite) means by kids for kids. I was given so many opportunities to succeed as a child, which has driven everything I do today.
Would you be interested to have any cross country exchange programs?
I would be interested in knowing more about the program. We definitely embrace every culture in our anthologies each year. One of the most exciting things for me to see is how far this contest and our programs have spread. Some of our authors are even hosting creative writing workshops in the Philippines and donating books to parts of Asia and Mexico.
This one is a tough one. Is there any particular story by these young children that touched your heart and is your favorite?
In a world full of politics and politically correct concerns, it is refreshing to see our youth still write from the heart. One of our editor’s choice winners this year wrote a story about slavery and finding hope through faith. The story was Christian based, and today many schools would not have accepted the story due to imposition. It was one of our best pieces of writing, which is why she received recognition. I loved that she was not afraid to write about the subject matter, and I was literally blown away by her story structure, word choice and symbolism.
Is Houston rich in literary creativity? And do you see a lot of young aspiring authors?
Absolutely! Because the program is based in Houston, we still receive a lot of entries from our local community. It is refreshing to know that writing is not a lost art here, even in the age of technology, news feeds and less is more.
What is your favorite book?
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.
What’s next for Read3Zero?
In January 2016, READ3Zero will officially change our name to the I Write Literacy Organization. As a community organization, we have a responsibility to target a literacy need in the area of writing competence in addition to writing opportunity. The original name, READ3Zero, symbolized the importance to read 30 minutes a day. Reading and writing go hand in hand and as the organization matured, the I Write Program became our foundation. Now that we are officially the I Write Literacy Organization, we can focus our efforts on additional writing programs for kids who need help in areas of writing literacy, while allowing us to create stronger partnerships with our reading focused literacy organizations in Houston.
Photo credit: Omar Marcos