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Erin Entrada Kelly on where her stories come from

Award-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly finds her writing inspiration can come from many places, from growing up as the only Asian American in her school to the daunting task of finding a spot in the lunchroom.

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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.


“Blackbird Fly” was inspired by my own of bringing, growing up as the only Asian American or Filipino American in my school, and kind of the cultural struggles between she and her mother, but also she and her peers. “The Land of Forgotten Girls” is my favorite, and it celebrates imagination. And it’s about two sisters, Meng and Soul who are growing up in very dire circumstances, but they use their imaginations to escape, mentally escape what they’re going through. So it’s my get…it’s my letter to the celebration of imagination. Letter to the celebration of imagination. “Hello Universe” was inspired by Virgil actually, and this idea of wanting to tell the story of a very shy sensitive boy, and it grew from there you know. “You go First,” it was inspired by this idea of lunch, which sounds strange. But you know when you’re in school lunch is a very precarious and scary time. So I wanted to write a book about two characters who eat lunch alone, and that’s how the story built. That’s where the story came from.