Hello, friends! And happy Thursday!! I'm so glad to be back up and running with this blog. Thank you all for such kind words on my post about the #KidsChoiceKidLitWriting contest. I am blown away by your kindness and understanding. I'm also so humbled by your excitement for the contest! In only 2 days, I have over 100 kid judges registered!! THANK YOU!
Today, I'm thrilled to be jumping back into PB23Bunch features! Have I told you how much I ADORE being part of this group? These amazing creators have been such a huge part of my own debut journey. It's so nice to have a group of people in your corner going through the exact same thing. Truly such a blessing.
Today, I get to introduce you all to the amazing Kelly Swenba. (And apologies for the delay... I've been trying to get this to post since Tuesday, but the website was not cooperating and I don't know much about technology, so it was a lot of trial and error).
If you've been part of the kidlit community for even 2 minutes, you will probably recognize her name. Kelly is one of the most positive, giving, and uplifting people I know. She is quick to volunteer her help, quicker to offer her cheering words and support, and to uplift after the hard stuff. I'm so grateful to know her and to introduce her to you all today!
So... join me in welcoming Kelly to the blog!
Kailei: Hi, Kelly! Welcome. Let's jump right in. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey?
Kelly: Writing has always been something I loved. In college, I actually started off as an English major convinced I was going to be a college professor. But…one tough teacher brought about a pause, and I started to lean a different direction – toward nursing. I loved, and still do, science and taking care of people, so it was a perfect fit. I worked in various specialities and went on to get my masters with a focus on psychiatric medicine. Flash forward many years and I’m a stay at home mom of two kids who loved to let me read to them. I got to cuddle up and bring so many worlds to them through humor, heart and STEM. My love for picture books was born!
So in 2019 I started writing, and kept going. I met so many kind and helpful people through #PBChat, Twitter, SCBWI and eventually 12x12. One of my friendships led to a submission opportunity that led to my acceptance from Beaming Books.
Kailei: That is so neat, Kelly. I love that journey. And I can totally see your heart in all of it. So tell us what inspired your debut book?
Kelly: When I was in nursing school, I did a rotation in a long term care wing at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, OH. The staff took such wonderful care and connected so fully with the children who spent a lot of time there. I imagined that had to have been hard for the children and those that cared about them.
And that always stuck with me.
Then, the pandemic hit and brought a storm of tragedy. I couldn’t shake the thought of children who were missing their friends that life had taken from them. My heart hurt for them, and I wanted to help. I wanted to create a book on their level, where they could see someone, like them, going through something terrible. I wanted to offer parents, guardians and schools a bridge into a tough conversation. And this is where MISSING VIOLET found its footing.
Kailei: Oh Kelly, that sounds so powerful and needed. What message would you like for your readers to walk away with?
Kelly: I hope readers will walk away knowing that it’s okay to have big emotions – to feel something else besides happiness but know that the other emotions aren’t gone. That it’s okay to hope for brighter days even amidst the storm that surrounds them.
For adult readers, conversations about death and grief aren’t easy, but are so important because not talking doesn’t help children process things. Children need help to understand complex things, or things that don’t have an easy explanation. And we as adults need to be brave and help them through their feelings. Even the not so pretty ones.
To any readers who belong to the writing community both authors and illustrators:
I want to say that you inspire me everyday to keep creating. I am in awe of all the stories that come into this world, from board books to adult, and am grateful you share your talents with the world. Because we need each and every one of your books.
Kailei: That is so wonderful, Kelly. Truly, those big emotions are part of life. And again, I love your heart. So, when does your debut hit shelves?
January 31, 2023! So soon!
Kailei: Oh how exciting!! Can't wait to grab my copy! Where can we follow you online?
Kelly: Twitter: @Kswemba
Also, I just want to thank you for visiting Kailei’s blog and taking the time to get to know a little bit more about the inspiration behind MISSING VIOLET. It means so much to me!
Kailei: You are the sweetest, Kelly. Thank you so much for joining us today!!
Kelly is offering the winner's choice of a PB critique or even a 30 minute zoom chat.
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About Kelly Swemba
Kelly Swemba has been passionate about big feelings since she was little. She’s a nurse with a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing and a preschool aid for children with autism. Her debut will be published in 2023.
She lives in Ohio with her husband, two children, and their fluffy goldendoodle. When not writing, she enjoys being outside, going to the library, and playing strategy board games which she may (but most likely not) win against her kids.
The PB23Bunch is a diverse group of 12 authors and illustrators with Picture Books debuting in 2023. We cannot wait to get our books in your hands!!