Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kelly's Curiosities

I can't talk TOO much about it yet, but in the next few months, I'll add something new to my writer's resume -- video episodes.  Thanks to the good folks at MSN, I'll write and play in ten 3-minute explorations of things odd and amazing. 

So my daughter Vanessa (in the photo above) and I have been working really hard to turn our living room into a set for these quirky little news programs, and this is the result.

A lot of that stuff was already on my living room wall.  But we ramped it up pretty high to prepare for the big days (August 29 & 30).  We won't get to see the finished products until the very talented producer, editor and animator add the REAL magic.  But the scripts are finished, and so is this weird backdrop.

It's a little hectic and scattered, like I am.  But it's me -- so very me.  There are four professional reproductions of the four chapter illustrations for TALES OF THE CRYPTIDS -- a gift from the illustrator and my friend, Rick Spears

There is a photo of a mother and baby bat Mary Kay Carson's photographer husband was kind enough to give me -- shot for Mary Kay's stellar book BAT SCIENTISTS.  I love that book. 

There is a drawing of BABY MOUSE that Jenni Holm asked her brother Matthew to draw and send to me.  I can't tell you how much that means to me.

There is a drawing of the upper crust Sasquatch featured in THE SECRET SATURDAYS drawn by the show's creator, Jay Stephens.  He sent it to me because TALES OF THE CRYPTIDS helped him prepare for writing the series.  How cool is that?

Jonathan Auxier drew the fun sketch of Sasquatch chasing ME when we both spoke at the Cavalcade of Authors in the spring of 2013.

There is a tiny bottle of Yeti Cologne courtesy of Lisa Yee and ComicCon, a stain glass rendition of the chick from I BOUGHT A BABY CHICKEN created by my father, a tyrannosaur skeletal representation Rick gave me, two masks Kerry gave me of Pikachu and CatBug, a snaffle bit I used when I had my horse more than 40 years ago, a modest collection of Funko POPS and more. 

Every item represents a part of who I am.  Kelly's Curiosities will, too.  I'll tell you more about the video series very soon.  In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at me as a cartoon character.  You'll see more of cartoon Kelly, too! 

Stay tuned!  The fun has just begun.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Children's Authors Blog Hop!

A few days ago, my friend Bruce Hale (on the far right) invited me to join him on the Children’s Authors Blog Hop, created by Phyllis Griggs at her IndieChatter Blogspot.  I agreed.  How can you resist playing with Bruce Hale? 

What does that mean?  It means I’ll answer the four blog questions, like all the stellar writers before me.  Then I’ll introduce you to my three recommended children’s writers – the same way Bruce introduced me and two others! 

Hope you enjoy the fun as much as I have!  


What are you working on right now?

I just finished two books for a series called LIE DETECTOR – fun question and answer books for young readers.  One was about dinosaurs, the other was about animals.  I hope they are the first of many books in the same series, because they were enormously fun to write and the illustrations are going to be sensational.  I am also finishing my new book for Millbrook called GHOST.  It will offer evidence for and against people living on as spirits after death.  

How does it differ from other works in its genre?

GHOST is very much like the books I’m best known for, and I love it.  I love delivering books kids love to read for fun.  LIE DETECTOR is a little different because it’s for younger readers.  But the publisher loves the way I find surprising details to share, and they allowed me a lot of room to exercise my voice.  So maybe they’re not so different, when you really get down to it. 

Why do you write what you do?

I write what I write for the curious child I was, and the curious adult I continue to be.  I write for all the kids out there like me.  Being curious is wonderful, but frustrating if you can’t find answers or theories on answers.  I like moving the discussion forward through the books I write.   I like empowering kids to dig deeper themselves, too.  I think my books do that. 

What is the hardest part about writing?

Nonfiction probably pays less than any other genre, so as a single mom, that’s the hardest part of writing.  But nonfiction is my heart and my passion.  So I do my best to find a way.  Thankfully, school visits help for nine months of the year, and I am enormously grateful to those schools kind enough to host me.. 

Now, let me introduce three of my favorite nonfiction writers – dedicated professionals who care as much about curious kids as I do, even if they write wonderful books that are very different from my own.  

I met Larry when we both staffed the Highlights Foundation’s Workshop at Chautauqua in New York six or seven years ago.  He was so smart and so friendly, we became instant friends and I couldn’t wait to read his books.   Neither could thousands of other people, thanks to his astonishing hard work.  One of my favorites is BLACK AND WHITE: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor.

Larry worked so hard to present a clean, clear vision of how the Rev. Shuttlesworth fought for the civil rights of African Americans while Bull Connor fought to preserve the status quo.  He brought the heart and hope of war torn Birmingham, Alabama into focus and he brought me to tears.  Such a brilliant project – if you haven’t read it, give yourself a treat and read it now.

When I moved to Spokane, WA, I had lunch with my friends Chris Crutcher, Terry Trueman and Claire Rudolf Murphy (right, next to Meghan Nuttall Sayres, another wonderful author).  Chris and Terry were talking about what movie tie-in Happy Meal toys might look like for Terry’s book STUCK IN NEUTRAL about a profoundly disabled teenage boy.  Chaos ensued, while Claire and I watched.  

I figured if she could take that craziness (craziness I LOVE), I wanted to know her better, and I’m so glad I had that opportunity.  I discovered Claire feels as passionately about American History as I do about all things weird.  She writes for those kids aching to know more about what life was like in the “olden days,” and she helps them see how those days gone by have helped shape the world we know today.  Her book MARCHING WITH AUNT SUSAN is one example, but she has a new book on the horizon you won't want to miss.  Top secret for now, but trust me.  I’m so proud I can say, “I knew her when.” 

Like me, Mary (far right, with Trent Reedy and John Bladek, two MORE great Spokane writers) started as a freelance writer, crafting short nonfiction for both kids and adults, so she had mad props from me even before we got to know each other.  But as I’ve watched her nonfiction children’s book career unfold – and as she’s stewarded the Spokane SCBWI group KennNesbitt and I started many years ago –I’ve gained a whole new respect for her unique abilities as a writer.  She finds topics that surprise and enlighten me and I can’t wait to see more. 

I love her book, JOURNEY TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD, but I REALLY can't wait for her new book about World War II nurses trapped in a Japanese prisoner of war camp long after the war was actually over.  Mary is a winner -- watch for big things from this remarkably talented author.  I'll post about it as soon as I'm allowed!  


Why we write what we write.

People ask me, OFTEN, why I write the kinds of books I do.  And the answer is pretty easy.

I write about weird stuff for two reasons.  First, I love weird stuff.  I always have.  From the time I was a little girl growing up in Friendswood, Texas, I collected all things odd and amazing, from animal skeletons to lizard eggs, to odd stones I found exploring the woods.  I sat in my father's lap watching documentaries like Walter Cronkite's 21st Century.  I lived a life full of wonder.

The second reason I write about weird things is not so different.  Kids still love weird stuff as much as I loved it 45 years ago.  They have as many questions as I did, and I love the idea of helping them find answers. 

I know I'm on track, too.  I don't win a lot of awards, though I would love to.  That's not the feedback that keeps me confident.  It's the reaction of librarians and kids.  Every week, I get letters from kids who love my books and can't wait to tell me.  I also get drawings inspired by my books like this one from April.

After reading ALIEN INVESTIGATION, April wrote to me to tell me how much she loved it.  And she drew her own version of an alien to share with me.  When a 5th grader takes the time to read, write and draw, that's an all around win.

I will write more traditional books like SAVING THE BAGHDAD ZOO and DINOSAUR MUMMIES.  My latest books are two early chapter books for National Geographic, TIGER IN TROUBLE and COURAGEOUS CANINE -- both more traditional.  And kids love those too. 

But writing weird holds a special place in my heart, because when I was little, no one could answer my weird questions.  Are aliens real?  Do UFOs mean us harm?  Is Bigfoot waiting to kill us at our campsites?  They may seem like silly questions to adults.  But thoughts like these kept me up at night as a kid.  And no one would talk to me about them. My books offer well researched evidence to answer those questions -- or at least to help them draw well informed opinions of their own.

We each have our own reasons for writing the books we write, and every one is valid and important.  Because there are kids waiting for the book only you can write.

Get to it, no matter what you decide "IT" should be.