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Erin Entrada Kelly: My writing process

Award-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly writing process involves many stages — everything from that first idea of a character to writing the story by hand with many colored pens.

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Erin Entrada Kelly

Folktales, Fantasy, Fiction

Erin Entrada Kelly

Erin Entrada Kelly is the author of chapter books for tweens and teens, including Hello, Universe — winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal. Her books explore coming of age with sensitivity and honesty, dealing with issues such as bullying, building friendships, and feeling like an outsider.


My writing process always starts with a character. And usually I’ll get a thought of a character or an idea of a character in my head. So in “Hello Universe,” I had an image of a little boy named Virgil who was very quiet, and shy, and sensitive. And I knew it was important to me to write a boy character who has those traits, because we’re seeing a lot more, very vocal and present girl characters, which is important. But it’s also important on the flip side to see sensitive boys. So he kind of came to me fully formed, and I will usually see the character in a situation, and they’ll start wondering why are they in that situation, what got them there? And in Virgil’s case I saw this boy who was trapped in a dark place and he’s calling for help, and then there is a girl who is above ground, and she’s not helping him. So then I have to say, “Why isn’t she helping him? She seems perfectly nice.” And then I realize it’s because she can’t hear him, and that’s how Valencia came to be. And everything grows out from there. And then once I feel like I have kind of like a three dimensional idea I spent a lot of time in my head thinking about it before I ever write it down. And once I feel like I have that idea, I get a note book and I write it down, and put pen to paper, and it kind of builds up from there. I’ll do a summary, and then I’ll do a synopsis, and then I’ll do a very fluid chapter outline that I follow, and then I’ll just, you know, start writing a chapter outline that I follow, and then I’ll just, you know start writing. So I usually have a road map, but sometimes it changes. But that’s my process. I also do a lot of doodling and, you know, I’ll use different colored pens. I feel like it’s important for me. I feel strongly about writing longhand, because I feel like the more tactile senses are involved kind of the more invested you are. So I’ll use different colored pens, so I have the tactile, but I have the visual, I had the smell of the notebook, and the smell of ink, and I love the whole, that whole process, and then once that’s done I sit down, and that’s whenever I type it up in a Word doc, and then send it off to my editor, and then that starts the editorial process.