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Apr. 8—The story behind "Kevin Turns Fear Into Feat," a children's book written by Marietta City Schools employee Kevin Edwards, begins decades ago. As a 10th grade student at Vernon High School in the Florida panhandle's Washington County, Edwards was asked by his chorus teacher to sing at a National Honor Society induction.
As a teenager with low self-esteem, Edwards was wracked with dread and fear about singing for a crowd of his peers. Edwards had sung since he was eight years old, but mostly in church, where he was comfortable.
But he sang at the event anyway, and now views it as a turning point in his life. Walking the school halls the next day, he was surprised to receive complements from his classmates.
"I was bullied in school, I felt rejected in school. Buy my gift for singing was what brought me out of this," Edwards said, later adding that singing "gave me the confidence that I needed. And it made me feel validated."
The book is based off that story, with some minor changes to make it more relatable to elementary school students (Edwards works in the library at Hickory Hills Elementary School).
After embracing his singing hobby, Edwards got involved in community choirs in his hometown. He joined a group and traveled to sing in New York and Washington, D.C. Since relocating to Atlanta in the '90s, he's toured with a professional group, "Pastor Murphy Pace III and Voices of Power," in Italy and Switzerland.
The idea for the book came when a counselor brought a student to Edwards who liked to sing, knowing that Edwards sung in his free time. Edwards could tell the girl lacked confidence and decided to use his story to inspire kids.
"I don't want her to feel the way I felt, I wanted her to feel confident," Edwards said. He hopes children reading the book "will be inspired to know, 'OK, I might be afraid, but I need to do it afraid, and something wonderful will happen."
A few friends and colleagues helped Edward edit the book. He then put out a call on social media and found an illustrator in, of all places, the Philippines. The illustrator, George Franco, formatted the book and Edwards self-published it on Amazon.
Now, Edwards has received the first copy and is awaiting an order of 250 books. The Washington County School District in Florida, which Edwards attended and previously worked for, plans to put copies of the book in its schools, he said. There are also plans to do a reading session there, as well as a reading and signing at Hickory Hill.
Edwards' faith has been central to his journey, he said. He felt God was telling him to share his story, "to bless somebody else, to help somebody else."
"Basically, what I'm trying to get at — a student can push through their fears of being rejected, bullied, and still reach their goals," Edwards said. "And I believe that every student should find that one gift that they are good at and pursue it wholeheartedly."