Kellie Byrnes is a children’s author, freelance writer, blogger and reviewer with a BA degree in Literature. Her first picture book, Cloud Conductor, was published by Wombat Books in May 2018, and her second picture book, Yes! No. will be published by Little Pink Dog Books in 2019. Kellie recently won a three-month mentorship as part of the U.S.-based Writing with the Stars mentorship program; and she is a member of SCBWI, the Queensland Writer’s Centre, WriteLinks, and 12×12.
Kellie has been a full-time writer for more than 5 years, and has written content for clients around the world. Her ghost-written work has been featured on sites such as Huffington Post, Inc. and Forbes; and she has created content for MYOB, Gumtree, St. George Bank, Fiji Airways, Intuit, Bridgestone, Mortgage Choice, and Sheridan, to name a few.
Kellie has experience in the publishing industry, having worked in the editorial department and as a sales representative for Pan Macmillan, as well as a rep for Hardie Grant Gift (previously Taltrade Books). An avid reader across most genres, she is an enthusiastic book reviewer and blogger, and is found chatting about kidlit on her blog each month.
Who or what inspired you?
I’m inspired by many things. For example, on my daily walks with my dogs, they and the world around me (nature in particular), tend to inspire lots of story ideas, as do other books and stories, and people who have risen above challenging situations. I think the fact that I have read so much during my life, and continue to devour 100-plus books per year, means I have constant sources of inspiration, which is very helpful!
What has been your journey up to this point?
I decided in 2015, after attending a big literary festival in the UK, that it was high time I actually wrote my own books, rather than just creating content for corporate clients exclusively. I realised I really had to try to make my author dreams come true.
I spent around 12-18 months reading hundreds of children’s books, attending classes and courses and otherwise learning and networking, and then wrote a couple of manuscripts myself. I was very fortunate in that the first conference I went to, CYA in Brisbane in 2016, led to my contract for my debut book, Cloud Conductor.
Since that time, I’ve been playing around with different genres and formats of kidlit (I like to keep trying new things and challenging myself), and am always trying to improve. I recently completed a three-month mentorship with U.S. author Adam Lehrhaupt, too, which was incredibly helpful.
What are you working on now?
– editing a few picture book manuscripts, plus a junior fiction novel
– writing new picture books, fiction and non-fiction
– outlining a few novels for middle grade and young adult audiences.
As a child, what was your relationship with books?
I was always a book worm. Even before I could read, I liked to learn stories off by heart so I could pretend I was reading! I was one of those kids who actually got in trouble sometimes for reading too much – e.g. when I should have been sleeping, doing homework, getting ready to go out, or just generally interacting with the world. I figure it has all worked out okay though, considering now I’m an author.
What is the most important thing about what you do?
I’ll come at this question from a couple of angles. From a reader’s and caregiver’s point of view, I think the most important think about what I do is that I create books which will make kids love reading. The books should also help them to learn something along the way, whether it’s about story structure and language, or about a particular topic or theme, etc.
As for me, I think the most important thing about being a writer is being passionate about it. If you go into work half-heartedly it comes across in what you produce. If you’re not passionate, you also won’t invest yourself in reading, learning about, and talking about books in the way I think you need to if you want to succeed.
What are the challenges you face in this industry?
I just attended KidLitVic (a children’s literature conference held down in Melbourne) and yet again the editors and publishers there highlighted how tough the market is right now, and how few books are getting picked up for publication. As such, I think the main challenge is just trying to breakthrough when there is so much competition. You really need to do the work, and put yourself out there, to get results.
What advice can you offer to aspiring authors?
The biggest thing, in my opinion, is to keep learning and reading. Learn from other authors and illustrators, from publishers and editors, from readers, and so on. Study books to see what works and what doesn’t; attend conferences; get to know other kidlit people; and always be willing to editing your work over and over. If you want to get anywhere in the publishing industry, you simply can’t be too precious about your work – you must be open to feedback and to making changes.
What is your definition of success?
I think numerous things define success, but the most important are spending my time working on things I enjoy and am interested in, and being a good person who treats people well.
What is your ultimate goal?
My ultimate goal is to become a full-time children’s author. I write full-time now, covering freelance work and my own books, but eventually I’d love to be able to concentrate purely on being an author.
Another goal is simply having children all around the world be entertained by, and learn from, my books. I know what an impact reading had on me as a child, so I just hope I get to help kids of all ages to love books too, and to learn about themselves and the world around them through my creations.
Have you been involved with Share Your Story in any way?
I’m a member of Share Your Story and have been following the progress of the group and its members. I’m attending my first Share Your Story meeting in a few weeks, and can’t wait!
Buy the Book
The book can be ordered online at sites such as:
Wombat Books – http://wombatbooks.com.au/index.php/cloud-conductor
Booktopia – https://www.booktopia.com.au/cloud-conductor-kellie-byrnes/prod9781925563344.html
And purchased in other bookstores.
Kellie will be conducting a storytime and craft activity at Riverbend Books on June 30 – https://riverbendbooks.com.au/events/storytime-and-crafts-with-kellie-byrnes