Friday, September 2, 2016


Today I'm happy to introduce multi-genre author Mary Jean Kelso.
Please tell about your background.

When I was in school, I wanted to be a Secretary. Little did I know that the skills I was learning would turn out to be highly important for a writer.

How did you decide to become a children's writer and what steps did you take to make that happen?

I wanted to write children's books in the early 60s. Studying the "dos and don'ts" I found that you could not "personify" animals nor could you "moralize." I switched to YA and then to Romance. Still I had several children's manuscripts in the drawer that I couldn't give up on. One in particular, The Christmas Angel, was quite popular as a handmade booklet. It was submitted to Lynda Burch at Guardian Angel Publishing. She gave me a contract for that one and several others I had already written. Since then others have been added while I still write YA and Adult novels as well. When I got serious about writing for children, I joined SCBW before it became SCBWI. I attended many conferences all over Oregon looking for a way to break in. Then, when I wasn’t successful, I started traveling to Romance conferences. In Eugene, OR, I met Debbie Macomber at a conference she spoke at. Later, in Salem, OR, I attended another Romance Writer’s conference that she and Linda Lael Miller gave. Linda looked over one of my books, which is now Blue Coat, and gave me some tips. Both writers were extremely helpful. I never attended a conference that I didn’t learn something or get something out of.

Tell us about your book(s), especially about the one you are promoting now. (I will list your books/covers in the blog.)

Christopher's Science Magic is an early chapter book. It is about a boy who gets in trouble for taunting a classmate. The results of his actions teaches him a lesson.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

Crazy! There is never enough time to write new copy as much as I want to. With promo and other projects I am at the computer most of the day. When a story demands to be written, I stop doing everything else and pay attention only to writing—that is what shifts to the top. I am constantly researching. My filing system is usually scattered sticky notes on my desktop until I have time to get the material into folders and try to make sense of the notes.

What is the most difficult part of writing for children?

Having enough time to write. There are so many stories to be written. I usually write quite quickly when I am on a project. Everything else gets sidelined.

What do you enjoy most about writing for children?

I love telling a story and find many ideas in daily life. One small thing can trigger an experience for my characters.

Do you make school visits? If so, please describe a typical school presentation.

Although I have spent lots of time doing school presentations, and still do them when I can find the time, it is hard to fit them into my schedule. Sometimes, I display the books and take questions from the students about writing. There is never enough time for all the questions! Sometimes I project the pages of a book on a wall and read the text to the children from that. No matter how full of students the room is, someone always wants to know more and they all enjoy the presentation.

Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL.

Here's a list of other children's books by Mary Jean Kelso with Guardian Angel Publishing:

Chapboooks for Tweens
The Christmas Angel

Tell us about the marketing process for authors. What do you do to market and sell your books?

I try to keep the book covers posted everywhere on the internet that I can. When I am going to do a signing, or have a new book out, I always do a Media Release. I direct contact people who have a particular business that one of my books fits their product line and arrange signings with them. Just about anything and everything that comes to mind, I try.

What are you working on right now?

Admittedly, I haven't had a lot of time to work on creating fiction this year. While I did release The Love He Left Behind, and Guardian Angel Publishing released Christopher's Science Magic, I have been knee-deep in genealogy both of relatives in New Mexico and Texas. Finally, I am getting a handle on the research that was needed to apply for a New Mexico Historic Women's Roadside Marker for my maternal grandmother. While researching her life, I have been gleaning ideas for another novel. Doing dual duty, one might say.

What is your best tip for aspiring children's book authors?

Attend writer’s meetings, conferences and gatherings. Listen to the presentations and find what jewels of inspiration and instruction you can. But, in the end, decide for yourself what you want to write and how you want to write your material. Don't listen to what "they" say in the sense that, if it doesn’t feel right for you, ignore it and pay attention to your own voice. My writing was stunted by taking everything you weren't supposed to do to heart. Therefore, now, some of my animals are "personified" and there often is a "moral" to my stories. Go ahead and attend conferences, read books on writing but, in the end, toss all that aside. Chances are you will remember the really good advice and forget the bad. Write from your heart. Be true to yourself.

Happy writing,
Mary Jean

Thank you so much for sharing your writing life, insights, and tips for aspiring authors. 
Mary Jean Kelso, children's author, Christopher's Science Magic, animal stories, Chapter Books, Early Readers, Picture Books, Tween stories, Andy and Spirit Series, New Mexico and Texas historical stories, Western Stories, Romance.

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