If I had to choose one flavor to describe my fellow GROGger, Kathy Halsey, it would be super-duper-confetti-cake-wonder-cream. (Okay, I cheated with all of the hyphens, but Kathy is all that!) Here's your chance to get to know her a bit better.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? What drew you to writing for children?
Kathy: Since I was a child, books surrounded me. Both my parents read to us - MIKE MULLIGAN, MILLIONS OF CATS, and LYLE, LYLE CROCODILE, among other classics. Newspapers, Time, National Geographic, and Smithsonian magazines were everywhere.
After many years as a 7th grade English teacher, I acquired certification as a school librarian and fell in love with books all over again. I experienced the power that reading had for K-12 students, the right book for the right reader, and I wanted to wield that power that writers have.
Now I write stories that I wish had been there for me as a child – biographies of women who knew no boundaries, adventure stories, and humorous tales to make kids laugh. Being a kid isn’t always easy. I advised many a student as an educator about big life issues, and I know they need to laugh.
What inspires you to write? How do you come up with ideas that you want to write about?
Kathy: After my first PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) in 2011 with the amazing Tara Lazar, I found that ideas surround me and can pop up daily. I enjoy coming up with titles, and I carry a notebook in my purse for brain bursts. The sheer exuberance, honesty, and lack of artifice in children inspire me. They are society’s truth tellers.
I carry a notebook, too, Kathy. What a shame if those ideas slipped away before we wrote them down!
Can you share your author history with us? How long have you been writing?
Kathy: I wrote poetry in 5th grade, kept a journal off and on since I was 12, and was accepted into a juried master class in poetry at Ohio State. Writing to publish began in earnest 2.5 years ago when I hit a certain birthday ending in zero. I joined SCBWI, hit Facebook, and joined every group I could for writing challenges and information. My 15 years as a school librarian gave me the deep reading background all writers need.
What authors have mentored you?
Kathy: At my first AZ SCBWI meeting, I was blessed to meet Dianne White (author of BLUE ON BLUE), who became my first mentor and part of a face-to-face critique group in Phoenix. Ada Kent, friend, librarian, and former Newbery committee member, encouraged me to go to The Mazza Museum Summer Conference in Finlay, OH, several years ago. They instituted a writers’ track that year, and Ohio author Michael J. Rosen gave me my first critique. Alayne Kay Christian, Miranda Paul, Dianna Aston, Kristen Fulton, and my agent Jodell Sadler have all made an amazing difference in my writing! My writing buddies include a myriad of GROGgers, and Pamela Courtney, Jackie Wellington, and Pam Vaughn. They inspire me.
|Kathy and fellow GROGgers|
kicking up their heels with Kristen Fulton
If you could invite any author or illustrator to dinner, who would it be?
|Photo by manhhai|
Kathy: My dad introduced me to Robert Benchley and James Thurber. I’d love to chat with Thurber. We both love dogs, went to Ohio State, and I am doing research on him for a biography now. I adore his illustrations and dry humor.
Tell me about the reading program you started at the indie bookstore in AZ.
|Kathy with illustrator Lynne Avril|
at Changing Hands Bookstore
Kathy: I’m always in bookstores, and I noticed how adults often looked lost when choosing books for kids. I reached out to Gayle Shanks, the owner of Changing Hands Bookstore, an indie that’s been around for 40 years, volunteering to do book talks for adults. Her sister, another former educator, also had the same idea, and the Grandma’s Club took off!
This rewarding experience gave me a chance to hone my public speaking skills, read tons of new books from picture books to middle grade, and connect with local authors. When I go on my first book tour (I think big – Julie Hedlund taught me that), I know that Changing Hands will welcome me with open arms.
What else would you like to share with our GROG readers?
Kathy: Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with people who share your goal to be an author. Look for opportunities – make them happen. Be bold, brave, and generous to others in the field. Remember, children’s writers write for the noblest audience there is! Give them your best.
|Kathy and me at the SCBWI LA Conference,|
affirming that two GROGgers are better than one!
I'm so glad to learn more about you, Kathy! Thanks for giving us a taste of your life, and best of luck with your writing.