How growing up in Third Ward inspired a Houston teacher to become a successful author

‘Wings of Ebony’ follows the story of Rue, a black teen in Houston who learns she’s magical.

HOUSTON – A former teacher found inspiration in her Third Ward upbringing to create new a fantasy novel set in Houston.

The book is called Wings of Ebony and the author, J. Elle, chatted with Houston Life about her impressive story that landed her a six-figure book deal.

Houston author J. Elle (Chris Spicks Photography)

“I wanted to get into the profession, but I didn’t have any formal training. I just knew that I was passionate about storytelling. I sat down and had an image in my head about a girl standing in my neighborhood over a kid that had been harmed and she just felt very sad and very powerless to stop it.”

“I just started typing and in about 35 days I had 70,000 words. I started the revising process and put it out in the world to see if anyone would be interested in turning it into a book,” said Elle, who went viral after tweeting her pitch for Wings of Ebony, a novel that explores topics like race, privilege, and allyship.

The novel is part of a young adult fantasy duology about a black teen demigoddess named Rue, who revolts against racist deities poisoning her block with drugs, violence, and crime.

Wings of Ebony (Simon & Schuster Young Readers (Millner Books))

“It was a part of a pitch contest. There were thousands upon thousands of writers pitching their books, so you’re just one little needle in a haystack. So, it was a shock when my twitter blew up and got so much attention,” said Elle, a first-time author and first-generation college student, who has worked as a preschool director, middle school teacher, and high school creative writing mentor.

J. Elle with teen at 'Your Story is Power" (J. Elle)

“I love that writing is giving me the opportunity to interface, to interact with kids because that’s what is ultimately about. I specifically wanted it to be a teen book to get it into the future changemakers’ hands,” said Elle, who is also the founder of “Your Story is Your Power,” a creative writing workshop that empowers teen voices.

The book is being incorporated in school curriculums nationwide thanks to an interactive curriculum designed by her.

Wings of Ebony is out now and it debuted on the New York Times young adult bestseller list.

To connect with J. Elle, click here.

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