iWRITE Gives Young Authors and Illustrators The Opportunity to Shine
The iWRITE Literacy Program honors 100 student authors and illustrators at the Page to Stage 12th Annual iWRITE Book Signing Gala
Photos by Emily Jaschke and Ashley McLaughlin
On the evening of Friday, November 12, 2021, the Hyatt Regency Downtown Houston was brimming with excitement as guests gathered to honor 100 student authors and illustrators at the Page to Stage 12th Annual iWRITE Book Signing Gala. The exhilarating event was cochaired by Sarah and Sam Austin, Kristen Latta and David Endelman, and Amy and P.J. Lampi. This year’s honoree was Elaine Balagia Croucher. KPRC 2 Houston Life Cohost Derrick Shore was the master of ceremonies.
Over 420 guests were in attendance for the program and dinner. Due to the generosity of H-E-B, the publishing contest sponsor, the winners and their families attended for free. Prepared by the Hyatt Regency, dinner was a delight to the palate ending with bourbon pecan pie and triple chocolate cheesecake. The silent auction featured tickets to see Hamilton at the Hobby Center, VIP tickets to see Clay Walker at the Bryan Museum, and five autographed books from Brad Meltzer, author of the Ordinary People Series and a partner in the 2022 iWRITE publishing contest.
Attendees had their copies of this year’s iWRITE anthology signed by the student authors and illustrators whose work is featured within its pages. Following the book signing, the students made a grand entrance into the ballroom. After dinner, four of the winning authors for 2021 participated in a live panel discussion moderated by the iWRITE Youth Club president and vice president.
This year’s editor’s choice recipients were announced by Lacey Dalcour Salas, the public affairs manager for H-E-B. Fourth grader Prinsha Khanal, editor’s choice recipient for story/play, read a portion of her story, and sixth grader Alyssa Casullo, editor’s choice recipient for poetry/song, performed her song acapella. After their performances, a special production of Khanal and Casullo’s story and song, produced by Story Pirates, was shown on the big screen.
Melissa Williams Murphy, founder of iWRITE, proudly spoke of the organizations development and accomplishments, stating “Through the years, we’ve published over 800 student authors and illustrators from 14 different countries resulting in more than 12,000 anthologies that have gone to print.” She also announced that iWRITE is launching an alumni/mentorship program in the near future. Introducing Elaine Balagia Croucher, Murphy thanked her for her last 12 years of commitment to the organization.
A highlight of the event was the unveiling of next year’s anthology’s book cover. The anthology will give 1,000 students the chance to be published in the largest book in the world. The Bryan Museum, iWRITE, and the New York Times bestselling author and illustrator team of Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos joined forces to break the Guinness world record for the largest published book in the world. It will be called I Am Texas. The cover illustration features the diversity of Texas and showcases Texas heroes like Barbara Bush and Bessie Coleman, among others.
The record-breaking sum of $150,642 was raised for iWRITE.
Guests: Elaine and Brant Croucher, Melissa and Matt Murphy, Sarah and Sam Austin, Kristen Latta and David Endelman, Amy and P. J. Lampi, Maris Castro, Lacey Dalcour Salas, Debbie Pakzaban, Arielle Lawson Ho and Victor Ho, Mehrnaz Gill, Donatella Beckenstein, Judge Ken Wise and Sara Wise, Judge Jeff Brown and Susannah Brown, Corbett and Amie Parker, Jack and Mary Balagia, Amir and Faye Roohi, Janice Underwood, and Shelby Kibodeaux.
Founded in 2009 by children’s author and public speaker Melissa M. Williams, the iWRITE Literacy Organization (iWRITE) has embarked on a mission to bring the cool factor into literacy. The organization helps share aspects of the literary and publishing world, influencing the lives of children to learn outside the classroom. The two major programs at iWRITE include the annual short story contest, iWRITE Short Stories by Kids for Kids, and the “i” The Guy Writer’s Journal Program.