Word Champion: Why I Choose Yellow

Alyssa and Emily swinging in a hammock.jpg

Alyssa King is an Intervention Specialist at Hilltop Elementary in Reading, Ohio. She’s written a book, “I Choose Yellow,” about her dear friend Emily Marie Casey. Alyssa recently connected the dots with Peter H. Reynolds to share about Emily, her writing journey, and their love for “The Word Collector.” Read on to discover how words can shape a life and transform hearts.

Alyssa recounted a lesson she learned from Emily, “you don’t have to use a lot of words or big fancy words to have a voice and a powerful message.

“I believe that there are certain events that have helped me find my purpose,” reflected Alyssa King an Intervention Specialist at Hilltop Elementary in Reading, Ohio. Her spirit, drive, and purpose is drenched in kindness as she speaks of her best friend Emily and the journey that propelled her to write and share the message of one “bright,” “bold,” and “warm” life.

Alyssa’s road to discovering her purpose started in the fourth grade when her youngest brother, TJ, was diagnosed with cancer.

“During the time TJ was sick, I spent years playing in a hospital playroom and learned how to play and interact with children who looked and acted a lot differently than me,” she shared. “My fourth grade-self quickly realized that our similarities greatly outshined our differences and my passion for being around people who are perceived by the world to be ‘different’ began to develop.

These experiences guided the activities she was joined in high school.

“I spent a lot of time going on mission trips to work with children in impoverished communities, being a part of a community service club, and volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Each new experience intensified my passion for being around people from all walks of life. In each of these experiences I learned valuable life lessons about perseverance, strength, and resiliency from the children I was supposed to be helping.”

And then she was asked to be a swim therapy partner with Emily, a young girl with a developmental disability. Alyssa explained that Emily was a family friend and shared a birthday with her brother Ryan. Infact, her mother, Barb, and Emily’s mom, Jen met at Miami University of Ohio.

Emily and Alyssa first time at the pool!.jpg

“I’d see Emily occasionally, whether it was at a backyard barbeque or a trip to the amusement park. Fast forward to my junior year of high school. My mom told me that Emily needed a partner for swim class and I couldn’t have been more excited,” she said. “I showed up to our first day of swim class full of energy and to my surprise Emily showed up with about ten times more. Needless to say, it only took about 15 minutes for the dynamic duo of Emily and Alyssa to conquer the pool which ultimately turned into us conquering life, side by side.”

Emily became Alyssa’s “greatest teacher” and the reason she pursued a degree in special education.

“Emily taught me far more than any three-credit hour college course ever could. She taught me to tackle challenges with positivity, treat everyone with overwhelming kindness, and to never underestimate the power of a genuine smile and contagious laughter,” Alyssa said.

All great paths eventually connect, Emily’s love of children’s books lead Alyssa to write Peter H. Reynolds.  

“One of our favorite books to read together was ‘The Word Collector,’” she shared. “I felt called to reach out to Mr. Reynolds because I believe that you cannot write books with such powerful messages and not be living out those same virtues in your own life.”

As a senior in college, Alyssa started writing, “I Choose Yellow,” with Emily.

“The more I reflect on ‘I Choose Yellow,’ the more that I realize that Emily was the author and I was her scribe,” she shared about the writing process.

This also happened to be the same year Emily became very ill. Emily had a life-long battle with medical issues associated with CDGS (Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation Syndrome).  

“I was up really late, as most college students are, and I felt the need to open my laptop and just start writing. Before I knew it, I was left with a book called ‘I Choose Yellow,’” she said. “At first, I thought I wrote the book in less than an hour but the more I reflect on it, the more I realize that ‘I Choose Yellow’ was five years in the making.”

Each page of the rhyming story celebrates a beautiful friendship and the decision to express joy, be bold, show kindness and choose yellow.

“Emily had her own language, we called it Emily language,” Alyssa explained. “Her language was made up of few words, with ‘yellow’ being my favorite word in her vocabulary.”

Yellow was Emily’s favorite color and she wanted everything to be yellow.

“The color yellow is a cheerful color, often associated with making people happy. After spending time with Emily, people always walked away with a smile on their face. She was bright yellow like the sun, spreading her light to all that she encountered. She was bold yellow, like the golden mane of a courageous lion tackling the scariest challenges with absolute grace and positivity. She was a warm yellow, comforting and sweet, often saying ‘HELLO’ to the grumpiest looking strangers and always getting a smile in return. Emily chose to live her life yellow for her almost 19 years on earth,” Alyssa shared. Emily died in March of 2018. Her life, love, and joy unfolds on every page of Alyssa’s book - the story she wrote with her dear friend.

“‘I Choose Yellow’ challenges people to choose positivity during the most challenging times and to continue to always lift others up,” Alyssa said about her book.

While journey to publish ‘I Choose Yellow’ has been slow. Alyssa shared that the book was rejected from many independent publishing companies.  

It was then she reached out to Peter.

“I reached out because I was feeling discouraged as a writer. After ‘I Choose Yellow’ was rejected I was seeking guidance from a person who seemed passionate about sharing positive messages.” she said.

With encouragement to keep pushing on. Alyssa is choosing yellow.

“I am choosing to live my life yellow as Emily taught me and to remain positive that the right independent publishing company will pick it up,” she said. “Emily persevered through some of the hardest challenges imaginable, and I plan to persevere through every rejection because I believe her story needs to be heard by the world … I think Emily would like people who read this book to be encouraged to live their lives ‘yellow’ as she did. Choosing yellow simply means to tackle life’s challenges with positivity and to focus on impacting others’ lives with sincere kindness.

Want to connect with Alyssa? She can be reached at kinga15@xavier.edu.