Tuesday August 30, 2011

PITTSFIELD

This is a story of how a full-time corporate sales executive became an author with the help of a character named Danny Dollar and a dream.

"I never aspired to become a writer," said Tyrone "Ty" Allan Jackson. Born and raised in Bronx, N.Y., he and his wife Martique, who was raised in the Berkshires, moved to Pittsfield eight years ago. They have three children between the ages of 8 and 14: Alia, Ajayi and Aja.

"As an African-American male and father, I am always looking for books for my kids. They all love to read very much, but it's hard to find literature that relates to them with characters that look like them," Jackson said.

"For example, my son loves to read popular books like ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid' and ‘The Adventures of Captain Underpants.' They're the goofy, fun, upbeat books but the characters don't look like him. After much looking around, I've found that most books that had children characters that were African-American were about very heavy topics like slavery and Jim Crow law," said Jackson.

In further research, Jackson also learned that the average professional athlete often goes broke and files for bankruptcy after leaving their pro sports league.

"Look at Antoine Walker, who played for the Celtics and made more than $100 million. Now he's broke and playing over seas. It's a shame. But there are a lot of people who, as a child, didn't understand or respect the power of money," Jackson said.

So three years ago, while working as a full-time corporate sales executive, Jackson began writing a story about a fun-loving child who loves basketball, hip-hop music, and plans to make big money by starting a lemonade stand. Through the experience, Danny Dollar encounters neighborhood bullies, funny mishaps and also learns about being an entrepreneur.

Jackson fielded the book to 150 publishers, all whom turned the book down.

Instead of giving up, the author began researching how to start his own publishing company. Together, with his wife, sister-in-law and author Nick Davies and artist Jonathan Shears, they founded Big Head Books; it's so named after his daughter Alia's philosophy that being told she has a big head means she's got a big brain.

In January of this year, Danny Dollar went to press. The author also recently made a deal with Carver Federal Savings Bank in Harlem, N.Y., where the bank will be reaching out to area community centers and schools to sign kids up for savings accounts and distribute free copies of the book.

Last month, Jackson published his second book, "When I Close My Eyes," a book designed to teach pre-kindergarten-aged children about the power of imagination. He's also working on a Danny Dollar follow-up.