Allen Writes Well talks importance of inclusion and representation.

Photo by: T. Williams

Allen R. Wells is a creative writer of picture books and Middle-Grade and Young Adult (YA) novels. The Virginia resident grew up in Jackson, MS, where he spent much time reading, creating worlds through his words, or solving problems and puzzles.

Wells works as a Mechanical Design Engineer when he isn’t writing or traveling. He is a Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) member and Co-Founder of BlackCreatorsinKidLit, a community of authors and illustrators who share their talents and create stories that increase Black representation across all genres of literature.

I was fortunate enough to speak with Wells and enjoy a delightful conversation. Here’s his story.  

PrideIndex: Today, I’m conversing with Children’s Book Author Allen R. Wells, also known under his pen name Allen Writes Well. How are you today, Allen?

Allen R. Wells: I’m doing pretty well. How are you?

PI: Pretty good. Tell me a little about your background and where your journey has led you up to this point.

ARW: I am originally from Jackson, Mississippi. After completing high school in Jackson, Mississippi, I also attended community college in Jackson, obtaining my associate’s degree. I then found my way to Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, pursuing my Architectural Engineering degree. After graduating from Tennessee State, I landed in Atlanta, Georgia. Fast forward eight or nine years, I moved to Virginia. While living in Northern Virginia, I worked as a Mechanical Engineer and began my career as a children’s book author.

PI: You have a background in architecture and design?

ARW: Yes. In my full-time job, I work as a Mechanical Engineer, and I have designed mechanical systems for high-performance facilities.

PI: How did you become interested in writing books for children?

ARW: I’ve always written. I’ve been a writer since I was in second grade. On my first day of second grade, our teachers gave all the students these composition notebooks, the black and white marbled composition notebooks. They told us all to use it as a journal, and each morning, we would have the opportunity to share what we wrote. It wasn’t mandatory or required that we share what we wrote. We only shared what we wrote if we wanted to. I shared a few of my stories and noticed that the students in my class were excited by the different stories I wrote. I continued to write from elementary through middle and high school and college until now. 

When I attended college, I prioritized taking classes in creative writing, Black literature, and the arts throughout my matriculation. I began transitioning to children’s literature while at Tennessee State. At that time, I worked at Toys R Us and interacting with kids in that environment inspired me to write children’s books. Another reason I wanted to write books for kids was that when I was younger, there weren’t many books about kids who are Black or Queer or struggling with the different emotions that come with those identities. I wanted to write stories for kids who feel less hopeful and want to see a story of a Black kid having fun and living in their joy. That is the primary reason I started to focus on books for kids and young adults.

PI: Are you a father? Do you have any children of your own? 

ARW: No, I don’t have any children at the moment. I have nieces and nephews. There are also LGBTQIA+ youth that I volunteer with. I see them as my kids. I’m helping them better understand their lives and what to expect as they encounter the things that will impact them because I’ve had those experiences.

PI: Why do you think it’s important to work with LGBTQIA+ kids?

ARW: I don’t know the statistics or anything, but I work with them because they are probably the most underappreciated and, at times, mistreated children out there. When you think about it without even knowing the full range of numbers and statistics, these kids are being kicked out of their homes because they identify as Gay, Queer, Bisexual, or one of many identities on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Just as there need to be many more books written with great depictions of African American kids so they can see themselves as the heroes of the stories they read, the same should be true for LGBTQIA+ youth. They deserve we deserve an opportunity to see ourselves as heroes, princes, and princesses, along with all the other characters and beings that you typically see in children’s and young adult books.

PI: I understand you are affiliated with Black Creators HQ. Tell us a little bit about that and its importance. 

ARW: The Black Creators group originally started as a critique group. We were coming together to share our stories. Then, the primary or lead co-founder posted a tweet expressing the need for a group for Black creatives where we could come together and share our experiences in the publishing industry. This is an opportunity to demystify publishing for Black creatives because, typically, when Black creatives get into those publishing spaces, they go blind. Sometimes, we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into, whether it comes to negotiating deals or finding illustrators, specifically Black illustrators, or those illustrators finding Black authors and things like that. It was important because it created a community or network for Black creators of children’s literature.

PI: Does Black Creators only work with authors looking to work with a traditional publisher, or is it a sort of hybrid offering advice or consultation on different types of publishing? 

ARW: It’s actually a hybrid because it’s a community. It’s a community of traditionally published authors as well as self-published authors. The self-publishing market is growing much faster than it was 20 years ago because many now use social media as an outlet for marketing and promotion. BlackCreatorsinKidLit as a community is for traditionally published authors, self-published authors, and creatives who aspire to be writers or illustrators for children’s books.

PI: How many books have you written so far?

ARW: I’ve written eleven books so far. Eight of these were published through the Children’s Educational Market. Those eight are distributed to schools throughout the country. Then, there are my three traditionally published books. The first one, “It’s Pride, Baby,” a picture book with illustrations by Dia Valle, introduces children to the experience of LGBTQIA+ Pride through a parade with all its love and sense of community. This story is centered around DC and pays homage to DC Black Pride because it originated in DC in 1991. This book goes on sale May 7, 2024, under MacMillian Publishers on their MacKids imprint. It will be available at AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-Million and Target. “It’s Pride, Baby” is already available for pre-order. 

Next, I have “Danté Plays His Blues,” a picture book illustrated by Shamar Knight-Justice. This book tells the story of a young boy experiencing housing insecurity and discovering the power of expressing his feelings through music. That one goes on sale in July 2024 under Harper Collins Publishers. Then I have my third children’s picture book, “Yvonne Clark and Her Engineering Spark,” a picture book illustrated by DeAndra Hodge. This book presents the story of a little girl who goes from fixing things around the family home to becoming a pioneer in engineering and solving problems at NASA. That one will also go on sale around February or March of 2025 under MacMillan Publishers on the MacKids imprint.

PI: It sounds like you have some great things coming through the pipeline. What are you doing with yourself these days? What do you like to do for fun since you’ve relocated to Virginia from Atlanta?

ARW: Since moving to Virginia, I’ve been diving deeper into the arts. I’ve met a few friends here and seen a few theatrical productions together. That is something that I wasn’t typically used to doing in Atlanta, let alone when I lived in Tennessee or even grew up in Mississippi. I’ve even found myself traveling more as well. I love to travel. I enjoy exploring the museums; there are so many opportunities to explore the different types of museums. I also enjoy going to concerts. I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the DMV culture and all kinds of art. I’ve also been learning how to swim.

PI: What are you working on besides your books, as mentioned earlier?

ARW: I’m wrapping up a young adult novel set in the heart of Atlanta. I’m really excited about it because it has a music theme, a young activist theme, and, of course, an LGBTQIA+ theme. It’s a story with so many elements to it while discussing and exploring the intersectionalities of the movements that we are fighting for.

PI: What are your plans for the future?

ARW: I’m not 100% sure. I’ve always had goals or dreams for myself. I have goals, but lately, where I am in my life right now, in this moment, I’ve just started going day by day.

PI: Where can our audience find more information about you and your upcoming books? 

ARW: They can visit my website at allenwriteswell.com, and as I stated earlier, they can pre-order my picture book for children, “It’s Pride, Baby,” at AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionMacMillan Publishers, and Target. Further information on “Danté Plays His Blues” and “Yvonne Clark and Her Engineering Spark” will be forthcoming.

MEET ALLEN R. WELLS

Allen R. Wells is a featured panelist in Artists in the Afternoon 4: Writing For Our Lives. The event will be held on Saturday, August 31, at 250 Williams Street Northwest Atlanta, GA 30303, from 1 PM to 5 PM. Join us for an afternoon highlighting written and spoken word, music, art, and more. This event is free; RSVP here.