Erin Entrada Kelly
received the 2018 Newbery Medal for Hello, Universe
, the 2017 APALA Award for The Land of Forgotten Girls
, and the 2016 Golden Kite Honor Award for Blackbird Fly
, among other honors.
She is a New York Times bestseller whose work has been translated into several languages. Her fifth book and first fantasy, Lalani of the Distant Sea
, received six starred reviews and was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Public Library, The Horn Book, Booklist, BookPage, and others.
All Erin’s books
are Junior Library Guild Selections.
In 2018, Hello, Universe
and You Go First
were both acquired for adaptation. Hello, Universe
is being adapted by Netflix, and You Go First
is being adapted for the stage.
Her sixth book, We Dream of Space
, is her first work of historical fiction. It’s set in January 1986, in the weeks leading to the Challenger disaster.
Erin has a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and liberal arts from McNeese State University and an MFA from Rosemont College. She lives in Delaware.
Erin is mestiza and identifies as Filipina-American. Her mother is Visayan.
What drew you to Hamline?
I knew I wanted to join the faculty at Hamline even before I visited campus for the first time. The faculty is unparalleled. Newbery and Printz winners, National Book Award honorees, Stonewall Award winners, Coretta Scott King Award recipients—the list goes on. Then I was invited to campus last year to give a guest lecture, and I was able to spend time with faculty, staff, and students; attend readings; and get a feel of what Hamline is all about. I immediately felt at home. Not only that, but the quality of work from the students is above par, which makes for an even richer experience.
What genres are you excited to be working on with students?
I read and write across genres and audiences, so I’m excited about all of it. But, my heart is with realistic middle grade.
Tell us about WE DREAM OF SPACE.
The novel follows three Delaware siblings—Bird, Cash, and Fitch Nelson Thomas—in the weeks leading to the Challenger disaster. It’s set in January 1986. Although the Challenger plays an important role in the novel, it’s ultimately a story about family, loneliness, and escape. It’s about the ways our families let us down and lift us up. And how to find hope in less-than-hopeful circumstances.
What is your favorite writing craft tip?
You don’t have to write every day. I go weeks without writing. I spend that time with my characters, in my head, thinking about them, asking them questions, wondering what their lives are like. Even though I’m not putting words on paper, that process is important.
What is your writing process?
Good segue! I start every project by spending time with my characters. Not writing them down, but imagining them in my head. I do that for months. Once I have a clear picture of who they are, I get a notebook, create a rough outline and summary of the characters and the plot, and I start writing.
What are you working on now?
I’m launching a chapter book series in summer 2021. I’m author and illustrator, which is exciting (and frightening)! It’s about a girl named Marisol Rainey who is mestiza—half-white, half-Filipino—and living in a small town in Louisiana. Unlike many chapter book characters who are precocious, mischievous, and bursting with personality, Marisol is quiet, unsure of herself, and scared of everything. Although I changed some elements of her home life, the character Marisol is basically me when I was in elementary school. She is the most autobiographical character I have ever written.
What is your favorite book and why?
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. There is not a wasted word.
What is your writing origin story?
I loved to read when I was a kid. At some point, around eight years old, I realized that books were nothing more than words on paper, and I had both. So I started writing.
What advice do you have for new students?
Seize opportunities when they come your way. When I was starting out, I sought every opportunity I could. I joined writing groups. I wrote to authors I admired and asked them questions, knowing they may or may not write me back. I read craft books (good ones and bad ones) and took what made sense to me. I was enthusiastic about feedback, even if it was negative. The great thing about an MFA program is that students already understand the importance of seizing opportunities for growth. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be enrolled.
Tell us about your hedgehog!
Absolutely! I love talking about my pets. I adopted my hedgehog from a responsible breeder about an hour away from me. There aren’t many hedgehog breeders, as you can imagine, so I was thrilled to find one nearby. When I showed up, she introduced me to the three young hedgies for adoption. They were cute, obviously, but I didn’t really connect with any of them. Then she mentioned that she had a “difficult” hedgie in another room who was also up for adoption. She said he was available at a discounted rate, because no one wanted him. He wasn’t friendly and never wanted to come out of his ball. She brought him out and, of course, I immediately wanted him. His name is Pinball, but we call him “Chuffy,” because of the sound he makes when you bother him. I also have a rescue dog named Marlowe. Marlowe was found on the streets of Baltimore, completely matted and mistreated. There was a line in his description that said, “He does not like to be alone at night, so you have to be willing to let him sleep in your bed.” Needless to say, I was okay with that.