Day 25: Crystal Allen

The Brown Bookshelf is a family of creatives, genuinely focused on knowing other creatives of color, and making their works known.  Being a committee member has strengthened my commitment to our community. It has helped me form strong relationships with other writers, illustrators, editors, and organizations that I may not have been a part of had it not been for The Brown Bookshelf.

I want to start with that, and emphasize how grateful I am for this opportunity to be highlighted again.

 My publishing career actually began at a conference in Missouri back in the early 2000’s. The late, but amazing, Bernette Ford, was teaching a class, and I signed up for it. Two weeks before the conference, Bernette sent out an email to those who had signed up for her session, giving us homework that would be read in class.

Oh no.

I was so nervous, and intimidated, but I read my story A PURPLE HAT FOR MOM. At the end of the session, as I was leaving, I was approached by Dara Sharif, an editor at that time with Scholastic, who asked to buy my story! What the what?

Yep. The first thing I ever sold was my homework, and that story ended up being published in Scholastic’s Read and Rise Magazine!

Since then, I’ve published six books, including HOW LAMAR’S BAD PRANK WON A BUBBA-SIZED TROPHY, which recently got an new cover! I have taught thousands of children how to write a story, won awards, and know without a doubt that creating children’s literature is one of the things I was created to do.

Of all the novels I’ve written, my newest one, BETWEEN TWO BROTHERS is definitely my heart book.

Here is my Author’s Note where I emptied out everything I could about the journey of writing this story:

Many of you know me as an author who writes humorous stories.  I love making people laugh!  Laughter is medicinal, and it’s free.  But that doesn’t mean it comes without a price.

Some time ago, I read a passage from a novelist named Èmile Zola, and his words really resonated with me.  He wrote:

“We are like books.  Most people only see our cover.  The minority read only the introduction.  Many people believe the critics.  Few will know our content.”

Even though I have published five novels, Between Two Brothers feels like my debut because with this one, you will know my content.

It took eight years to finish this story, and ironically, my youngest son was eight years old when a catastrophic incident changed the dynamics of our family forever. The mental and physical changes on my son were apparent, but the effect on the rest of my family was not so obvious. We all needed freeing, or at the very least, distractions.

For my oldest son, his diversion was sports. For my husband, work. Writing humor allowed me to mask my pain. It all seemed to work until I tried to write something more heartfelt, and I knew the only story I could genuinely tell was the one I was living. For years I had tried to write it without help, but couldn’t.

Now, though, I’d have support. I knew my agent and editor would help me find my words, give me time to write them, and encourage me to tell my story. I just needed to figure out a way to get through the difficult memories. 

So, in an effort to protect myself, and my family from reliving those horrific events, I chose to make the plot, and most of the names in the story, fictitious. However, the heartaches, the anger, the hopes, and triumphs experienced by the characters are real, and that is the content I’ve chosen to share with you.

This story is about a lot of things like making mistakes and owning them, dealing with failure, and rejoicing at even the smallest of victories.  Most of all, it’s a story about accepting but not settling, and the power of a family’s unconditional love.

In the midst of our ashes, my family found beauty.  From our brokenness, we mended each other, grew stronger individually and together.  And through it all, we learned to love life again, understanding that every day is a gift and a blessing.

I hope you enjoy reading Between Two Brothers.  Thank you for taking this journey with us.

Much love.



Crystal Allen is the author of six middle-grade books, including her latest, Between Two Brothers, and How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy, along with The Laura Line, and The Magnificent Mya Tibbs series, all published by Balzer + Bray.  She is Co-Director of Kindling Words East, faculty member of Highlight’s for Children and committee member of The Brown Bookshelf. Crystal lives in Texas with her husband, Reggie, and two sons, Phillip, and Joshua.

Twitter and X handles: @rcpjallen

FB: Crystal Allen

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