Our Member Interview Series welcomes picture book author Candy Wellins, a former teacher who holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.Ed. in Literacy Education. She is represented by Erzsi Deak of Hen&ink Literary Studio. Currently a full-time mom, Candy’s debut picture book, Saturdays Are for Stella (Page Street Kids,) was a Kirkus Best Picture Book of 2020. Her own family’s tour of NASA inspired a picture book biography, The Stars Beckoned: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space (Philomel, 2021.) On Candy’s website, you can find Educator Guides that pair with these books. Be sure to watch the shelves for her two upcoming books—read on!
Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?
I grew up in Washington state and my childhood certainly played a part in my storytelling. My first book, Saturdays Are for Stella, was inspired by my grandmothers who were big parts of my life. The Stars Beckoned focuses on the importance of family too. My upcoming book, Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes, is about a girl living with divorced parents—something I experienced as well. But the Pacific Northwest is best represented in my upcoming fourth book, A Geoduck is Not a Duck. In this book, I uncover the secrets of one of the state’s most fascinating animals.
Did you always want to be an author, or did that come later?
I did always want to be an author! From a young age, I loved writing and children’s literature. For a while, I worked in the related fields of journalism and education, but finally got serious about being a picture book author in 2016. It’s fun to have your dreams come true.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
Chaos! I homeschool my three kids, ranging in age from three to twelve, in addition to making time for writing. There is never a dull moment here.
How does your everyday life feed your work?
Because life is just so busy right now, I really must make conscious efforts to carve out writing time. And when I get those writing periods, I have to maximize my efforts. Writing and being creative are what I do for fun, so I do use writing as a bit of “me time.”
Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.
I was able to send copies of The Stars Beckoned to Edward White’s children and grandchildren. Their happiness in having the book meant more to me than any award.
What surprises you about the creative life?
Borrowing from Big Magic here, but it’s true that if you are open to creativity, the universe will inspire you with ideas.
It is also true that bringing those ideas to fruition is always much harder than you first imagine! Having a good idea is not enough. You have to work to make your story shine.
When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?
I hope they find picture books they want to read again and again.
As a child, what beckoned you?
Books, dogs, and time to myself.
Would you rather cruise through a constellation or play on planet?
Play on a planet, as long as it’s Earth. I have no interest in traveling to space, myself!
As a writer, what are some of your habits?
I keep a writer’s notebook on me at all times, as I never know when inspiration will strike.
Also, I save every draft of a story I write, even if small changes are made. Sometimes it’s necessary to go back and recover something that was taken out of an earlier draft.
What are some of your kids’ recent favorite bedtime stories?
My kids are at three very different stages in reading, so bedtime stories take me a good 90 minutes each night, as I go from room to room.
My twelve-year-old daughter loves historical fiction. We recently enjoyed The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin. We also love the Nathan Hale Hazardous Tales series.
My nine-year-old is really into graphic novels right now. Two recent favorites of ours are Button Pusher by Tyler Page and Too Pig to Fail by Rob Harrell. (His novel Wink was another favorite.)
My three-year-old loves a lot of picture books. She never gets tired of Dozens of Doughnuts by Carrie Finison.