Student Success Stories: Elaine Kiely Kearns

I've been wanting to give away a copy of Noah Noasaurus, by Elaine Kiely Kearns since before it came out. So, I'm reposting my interview with Elaine and adding a picture book giveaway! If you don't already know Elaine, you're in for a treat. And if you already know Elaine, then I don't have to tell you that. Do I?

Myrna: What is your background?

Elaine: I am a certified elementary school teacher in New York.

Myrna: What made you want to start writing picture books?

Elaine: I have always wanted to write children’s books, but I didn’t think that it was a practical way to make a living. When my kids were born, I fell in love with them, and I just knew it was what I wanted to do with my life.

Myrna: How long have you been writing? 

Elaine: I have been writing seriously (as in, churning drafts) for about seven years.

Myrna: You helped found KidLit411, a wonderfully supportive and informative web-site and community for children’s writers. What made you see a need for it?

Elaine: My critique group, the Penguin Posse (Shout out to Sylvia Liu, Renee LaTulippe, Teresa Robeson, Victoria Warneck, and Yvonne Mes!) and I would make a list of all of the really great writing links that we found, and we would share them with each other. When the list got long, Sylvia and I thought that maybe our other writing friends would like to see the links too, so we decided to create a website. We went old school on the name. “411” means “information,” and so we married the two, and was born.

Myrna: Have you ever felt frustrated by trying to get a picture book right?

Elaine: YES! ALL. THE. TIME. A picture book is like a piece of music. When it’s done right, it just flows. Getting it to that point can be extremely frustrating at times.

Myrna: When and why did you take Arree Chung’s Making Picture Book Stories and Dummies?

Elaine: I took Arree’s inaugural class in October of 2016. I am a huge fan of Arree’s work, and when he announced that he was going to teach a class, I signed up right away.

Myrna: I took the class the term after you did, and it was amazing. Since then, he's split it into two classes: Crafting Picture Book Stories and Making Picture Book Dummies. How did taking Arree’s class change the way you write picture books?

Elaine: At the time I took Arree’s class, I had just written a brand new draft about a dinosaur that I thought had a decent hook. So I decided to work on that one. Arree’s class was incredible because it forced me to make a physical dummy of the book. That was new for me. As a writer, I didn’t think about creating dummies of my drafts. I thought that was something for illustrators. By making the dummy, however, I could see exactly how my manuscript was working, and where it wasn’t working. Arree’s class worked for me because it was the perfect balance of craft discussion and creation. In teaching, I will often present material in various forms for a deeper understanding to my students. Arree’s methodology is similar, and for me, it just worked.

Full disclosure: I was initially tempted to SKIP the dummy portion of the class, but I am so happy that I did not. I create dummies for every manuscript I write now!

Myrna: Could you tell us about your book deal with Albert Whitman?

Elaine: My agent, Linda Epstein of the Emerald City Literary Agency, submitted my picture book, Noah Noasaurus to Jonathan Westmark in July of 2017, and we had an offer within two weeks. It has been absolutely wonderful working with Jonathan. He understood my vision for Noah and has chosen the perfect illustrator, Colin Jack, to bring him to life. I hope I get the opportunity to work with Jon again. 

Myrna: Do you have any advice that might help readers find satisfaction or joy in writing picture books?

Elaine: Find a helpful tip that works for you. For example, the very first thing I do is write myself a pitch/logline and post it to the top of my manuscript. Pasting it at the top keeps me focused while I revise early drafts, and I think it’s very helpful. For ex-ample:

Character wants to do something but can’t because obstacles. But when something changes or happens, the character is able to do something and solve the problem.

I would also say to try to find some joy in the revision process. Find a way to revise your manuscript that you enjoy. I love to make dummies! Since I am not an illustra-tor, my dummies are simple. Paper, removable tape, and a pencil are all you need.

Myrna: What’s next for you?

Elaine: Noah Noasaurus debuts in the April 1, 2019, so I am planning on doing lots of school visits/book store appearances when it comes out. I am on submission again, so my fingers are crossed for more book deals! 

Myrna: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! And thanks for everything else that you do! Mwah!

Elaine: Thanks for having me and THANK YOU! 

Myrna: Arree also interviewed Elaine for our YouTube channel last year, so I'm going to share that. 

You can find Elaine at KidLit411, which also has a helpful Facebook group.

Here are her website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

And here is her lovely Noah Noasaurus!

Book Giveaway Details

I’m giving away a copy of Elaine's Noah Noasaurus. To enter, just let me know which dinosaur is your favorite in the comments by midnight on July 24. You don’t have to buy anything or be a student. If you don’t live in the States, you're still welcome to enter.

Please share this post on social media for extra entries, and paste the link to wherever you shared as a reply to your original comment.

Thank you for reading!

Blog Contributors

Instructor Photo: Myrna Foster

Myrna Foster writes and edits content for Storyteller Academy and the WriteRiders Newsletter for SCBWI Nevada. She has spent a lot of time teaching and coaching children, including five years as a preschool teacher. She's also worked as a journalist, and Highlights High Five has published six of her poems. 

Arree Chung is an author/illustrator and the founder of Storyteller Academy. Arree’s Ninja! series has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Kirkus also gave a starred review to Mixed, which recently won the FCGB award. 

Today Arree lives a creative life, making stories for children. Arree spends most of his time making picture books, writing middle grade novels, and sharing his love for art, design, and storytelling with kids and dreamers everywhere.

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