Elaine Kiely Kearns is a light in the kidlit community. I first met her in 12×12 and later interviewed her here on Writer’s Rumpus soon after she and Sylvia Liu launched Kidlit411. I’m thrilled to interview her now at the release of her debut picture book, NOAH NOASAURUS!
Kirsti Call: Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a published children’s author?
Elaine Kiely Kearns: I had always thought about writing but life was busy working as an elementary school teacher. It wasn’t until I had my girls and was home with them that I decided to pursue the idea. I joined the SCBWI right away and right after that I found Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 (where I also met my critique group members). I took a few classes after that (Susanna Leonard Hill’s Making Picture Books) and it took off from there. Once I got into the industry, I loved everything about it!
KC: Your debut, Noah Noasaurus, made me laugh out loud because it reminded of my children when they were grumpy. What was your inspiration?
EKK: I got the idea for this story in two parts. The first idea came when I was scrolling through #MSWL and I read that an editor said that she would love to see a picture book about kids going through the NO stage (that was not at all like NO, DAVID by David Shannon). The second part happened when I was tutoring a first grader who was OBSESSED with dinosaurs. I started out each session by letting him tell me about some new dinosaur factoid that he had learned the previous week (so we could then focus on the task) and this one particular week he started to tell me about a dinosaur that had been recently discovered called a noasaurus.
I had a really good feeling that a NOasaurus could be a character in a book. I could not wait to get home that day and write. I had a draft done in a few days. We needed a first name and chose NOAH because it had the NO element in the name. A lot of revisions followed after that! My agent sold the book to Albert Whitman a few months later.
KC: How long did it take you to get this story to sing? How many drafts? How many years?
EKK: This story was the quickest story I have ever written from first draft to sold, less than a year. However, it had a ton of drafts and rewrites in that short time. The ending and the opening line took me the longest. I rewrote them countless times.
KC: What other projects are you working on?
EKK: I am always writing and right now I am on various stages of different manuscripts. (And maybe something that I cannot discuss yet because- this is publishing!)
KC: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
EKK: Join SCBWI, take classes, join communities where other writers are hanging out. Submerge yourself in every aspect of the industry. Even if you are not an illustrator, learn what it is they do and how they do it. It will help you write better stories. Join KidLit411, read lots and lots of new picture books. Get to know the market.
KC: Thank you, Elaine! I loved learning more about your writing journey!
ELAINE KIELY KEARNS writes picture book and middle-grade stories. Armed with a master’s degree in education, she also scours the internet for golden nuggets of information about children’s writing forKidLit411.com.
NOAH NOASAURUS (Albert Whitman) illustrated by Colin Jack hits bookshelves on April 1, 2019.
She lives in New York with her husband, two smart, beautiful daughters and a menagerie of animals. Find her online at ELAINEKIELYKEARNS.COM
She is represented by Linda Epstein of the Emerald City Literary Agency.