Author Spotlight: Kelly Carey
March 27, 2020
We are excited to feature author Kelly Carey and her debut picture book, HOW LONG IS FOREVER? illustrated by Qing Zhuang (Charlesbridge, April 7, 2020). Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Once upon a time there was a girl who was obsessed with Dynasty and when she graduated from college she thought she was destined for chunky earrings, power suits, and the thrillingly creative field of …insurance. I ended up working with actuary tables, deductible formulas, and stop-loss policies. I learned about big business, marketing, and customer service, but I was miserable.
Enter motherhood and suddenly I was a happy stay-at-home mom rediscovering a joy in books and in picture books in particular. My own mother encouraged me to apply for a course at the Institute of Children’s Literature. Best decision I ever made! (Thanks Mom!) I loved the feeling of crafting a story and creating characters, and I found that magical space where time stands still because you’re in the zone. Writing was my zone. My power suits were donated and I turned my attention to writing and finding the KidLit community through groups like SCBWI, Julie Hedlund’s 12x12, Storystorm, ReFoReMo, and The Writers’ Loft.
I think the desire to write was always there – and the universe made math a struggle for me so that should have been extra encouragement to follow a writing path – but sometimes you can get lured away. I’m happy writing found me again. I’ll never stray from this path now!
Congrats on your book, HOW LONG IS FOREVER? Tell us about it and what inspired you.
How Long is Forever? is my debut picture book published by Charlesbridge and illustrated by the talented Qing Zhuang. It is a heartwarming story that parents and grandparents can share with children and grandchildren to help them understand that special love parents and grandparents feel for the children in their lives – that forever love.
The nugget that inspired this story happened when I was a teenager. I was with a friend when a song came on the radio and I excitedly squealed, “Turn it up! This is the best song ever.” My friend’s Dad scoffed and replied, “Really? This is the best song ever?” That exchange stuck with me and became the kernel that launched the interaction between young Mason and his Grandpa in How Long Is Forever. Mason is waiting for the first blueberry pie of the season and it’s taking forever. At least that’s what Mason thinks, until Grandpa asks him to prove it and sends Mason searching the family farm to find the meaning of forever. I loved the idea that what can seem like the best song ever to a teenager or what can feel like forever to an eight year old can be very different for an older adult.
By the way, my friend’s father was right. Thomas Dolby’s, "She Blinded Me With Science" was clearly NOT the best song ever! And Mason is going to find out that waiting for a blueberry pie to bake is not forever.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
First, I didn’t even get on the road for long time. I took that long insurance industry detour. But, even after I got serious this has been a long and winding road. I’m grateful for the journey. It means that I’m now putting out work I’m really proud of – I’ve gone back and read some earlier manuscripts and they are cringe worthy! The long journey has also allowed me to collect kindred writing friends. I had no idea that the road to publication could include such a rich community of fellow writers.
I fully recognize that it is easy to have this positive reflection on “the journey” because my book is about to launch. It’s true – a book deal feels like you finally hit the pad hard enough to ring the bell at the carnival. That joyful clang can make you forget the aches and pains along the way!
I remember just wanting this moment for YEARS! And it was years. And it was hard and I got very impatient.
I took my first step on this road when I took a class with the Institute of Children’s Literature in 2007. While I published my first fiction magazine piece that same year and at least one magazine piece every year since, I’ve been chasing the elusive book deal for 14 years. I will forever be grateful that I took Editor Karen Boss’ class at The Writers’ Loft. That I soaked up every lesson and piece of advice she offered and that she found worth in my work.
What projects are you working on now?
More picture books that I hope young book lovers will be reading soon.
I have files and files of picture books in various stages along their journey. Some have gone through dozens of revisions and are waiting for more changes; others are out on submission hoping to catch the heart of an editor or agent. And still others are just a few words jotted down in a word file waiting for me to fill in the entire story. Depending on my mood and the time I’ve allotted for writing each day, I will work on any of these projects.
As a rule I try to work on revising one existing picture book every month and drafting a new picture book every month. Some months I’m better at hitting that goal then others, but I keep aiming for that level of productivity. I rely heavily on my 24 Carrot Writing community to hold me accountable and encourage me.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
The best thing I ever did for my writing was to really immerse myself in the KidLit community. My advice would be to take a class. Check out the offerings at the Institute of Children’s Literature, and join the Society of Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Both offered me a wonderful way to get feedback on my work and to improve my craft. It was through SCBWI that I met my first critique partners and we started 24 Carrot Writing (www.24carrotwriting.com), a blog for writers, that has been offering help and advice to fellow writers for over five years.
I could argue that HOW LONG IS FOREVER? would have found its path to publication on its own merits, but I think connecting with Karen Boss through her class at The Writers’ Loft certainly helped speed up the process.
My advice to other writers, based on my journey, would be to get out into the writing community. Meet fellow writers, take classes and workshops, offer your own help and advice, listen to editors and agents, and become a part of the community. I think the community will reward you for your efforts – it did for me.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
The thing about me is that I have no filter. As a result, there is very little about me that I don’t share, immediately, and way too freely. So I haven’t left much as a mystery.
But I will share that I grew up in the same town as author illustrator Stephen Kellogg. I have a signed copy of Stephen Kellogg’s Island of the Skog. It’s my favorite picture book because holding his book in my hands, the one he had written my name in with big bubble letters, and knowing that he lived where I lived made me think, for the first time, that I could be a writer. It’s been a crazy stop-and-start journey ever since.
Where can people find you online?
Please come visit me online at kcareywrites.com and sign up for my monthly newsletter. I offer up a peek at the books I’m reading every month. I’d also encourage writers to join the 24 Carrot Writing Community at www.24carrotwriting.com.
Kelly Carey’s debut picture book, How Long is Forever?,will be released by Charlesbridge in April 2020. Her award winning magazine fiction stories have been published for over a decade in Highlights for Children, Girls’ World, andClubhouse Jr.
She is a graduate of The Institute of Children’s Literature and an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She belongs to The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and is the proud co-founder of the blog 24 Carrot Writing (www.24carrotwriting.com). Kelly’s writing received the Higher Goals Award from the Evangelical Press Association in 2008, 2009 and 2015. She has participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), Storystorm and Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge.
Kelly lives in Upton, MA with her husband and three children. Learn more about Kelly at her website www.kcareywrites.com.a Rafflecopter giveaway