In 2018 I was lucky enough to meet the sweet and talented Kelly Carey at a magical event known as the Whispering Pines Writers’ Retreat. We shared lunch and talked about the journeys of our debut picture books. Today, I am so pleased to interview Kelly about How Long is Forever? which will hit bookshelves everywhere next month.
Kim: Where did you get the idea for How Long Is Forever?
Kelly: The nugget that inspired How Long Is Forever? happened when I was a teenager. A song I loved came on the radio and I excitedly squealed, “Turn it up! This is the best song ever.” My friend’s Dad scoffed, “Really? This is the best song ever?”
That exchange stuck and launched the interaction between 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 sends Mason searching the farm to find the meaning of forever. I loved the idea that what can seem like the best song ever to a teenager or 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 NOT the best song ever! And Mason is going to find out that waiting for a blueberry pie to bake is not forever.
Kim: That song may not be the best ever but it is definitely epic! I just asked Alexa to play it and was immediately transported back in time 🙂 Ok…back to book talk. Did you grow up on a farm?
Kelly: Yes, I did. My grandfather owned a fish farm. It’s a real thing, trust me. It’s called a fish hatchery and my Dad ran it after my grandfather died, and now my cousin runs it. I grew up on Rowledge Pond Fish Hatchery. There were ponds all around and we would grow fish from eggs or little fry; fry is what the fish are called after they hatch and can feed themselves. We had trout and bass. Fish & Game Clubs and towns would buy the fish to stock ponds for people to have fishing derbies. We even sold to some fancy restaurants that had fish tanks like some places have lobster tanks. I loved going on those deliveries because it was cool to see the secret behind the scenes part of the restaurants and the chefs would give me a special dessert treat. And if they didn’t, my Dad would always take me for an ice cream on the way home.
Kim: That’s amazing! How many drafts of How Long is Forever did you write?
Kelly: I wrote the first draft of How Long Is Forever? in 2013. At that point, the story was in first person and almost 800 words and my main character was a boy named Billy waiting for his parents to bring a new sibling home from the hospital. The opening line read:
Grandpa’s rocker creaked slowly on the front porch. I tapped my foot on the front steps.
By 2014 the story was in third person and just under 500 words. In all, the manuscript went through six major revisions and a bunch of minor tweaks. I got help from critique partners and writing workshops. The final draft that sold in 2017 was about a boy waiting for the first blueberry pie of the season. It went through a few more revisions with the help of my editor, Karen Boss. Now, the opening line reads:
Grandpa’s rocker creaked. Mason’s foot tapped.
Looking back, I know I sent early drafts out on submission much earlier than I should have. It’s the classic mistake. But it’s easy to get excited about a project and push it out too soon. I’m really working to make sure I let my manuscripts marinate a bit longer and I’m insisting that they take more than a few turns through critique groups.
Kim: It’s definitely hard to show restraint but you’re right…the marinating is where the magic happens. What is your writing schedule like?
Kelly: It would be a mess if not for 24 Carrot Writing (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/). I am so grateful for the discipline that the 24 Carrot Writing philosophy brings to my writing schedule. 24 Carrot forces me to set one writing goal and one business of writing goal every month. I meet with my fellow 24 Carrot Writing founders monthly to share our progress. I joke that these meetings are like Weight Watchers meetings for my writing. It keeps me honest and motivated. I highly recommend that folks set monthly goals, share them with a few fellow writers, and then follow up. While it’s a bit embarrassing when you’ve had a low production month, I think I have fewer because I know my 24 Carrot Writing partners are waiting to hear how I did. And, when I write less than intended, this is the right group to help me reset and refocus for the month ahead.
Kim: I love goal setting AND 24 Carrot Writing! What other advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Kelly: The best thing I ever did for my writing was to immerse myself into the wonderful KidLit community. I took a correspondence class for children’s writing offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature and I joined The Society of Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Both offered a wonderful way for me 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.
I credit The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA for my first book sale. I took classes offered by Karen Boss, Editor at Charlesbridge Publishing at The Writers’ Loft. Karen bought How Long Is Forever?. I could argue that my book would have found its path to publication on its own merits, but I think connecting with Karen, forming a professional relationship through the classes, and applying her excellent teaching to my manuscript, 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.
Kim: I couldn’t agree more. What are you working on now?
Kelly: I have picture book manuscripts that I am currently submitting and others that are moving along the path from initial draft to submission ready. I feel strongly that I need to keep working on new writing projects even as I’m excitedly sharing How Long Is Forever?. I’m hoping readers love How Long Is Forever? and will be anxious to read more of my work. And I plan to be ready for that.
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, and Clubhouse 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 12×12 Picture Book Challenge.
Kelly lives in Upton, MA with her husband and three children. Learn more about Kelly at her website www.kcareywrites.com.