Featuring the crazy, weirdo author
Kelly Milner Halls
I met Kelly at Pat Miller’s NF4NF conference this past September 2016. Holding her audience captive, she humorously educated us in more ways than one.
Kelly is very compassionate about her writing, about animals and about people. They co-exist with one another filling her heart with true love.
Thanks so much for being here.
You say you’ve always been a curious, weird kid and that it all began in elementary school. Can you give us a glimpse of how this lead to your road of writing?
I grew up in a very small town called Friendswood, Texas - well, it was small in the early 1960s. My parents could send me out to play in the morning and call me back in for dinner, without a moments worry – other than venomous reptiles.
As a result, I was free to explore the wonders of my natural world. My best friend Craig and I traversed the woods, built forts, collected trinkets and critters. We played four square and kickball, we built bat caves out of refrigerator cartons.
The freedom accelerated my imagination and my curiosity. The writer I am was born in those woods. And I am forever grateful.
One story you told was the reasoning behind writing Albino Animals. It’s so endearing and I’d like for you to share with us. I know I will remember this forever!
As a young mother, I lived in a town north of Denver called Longmont, Colorado. I frequently took my two daughters to the Denver Museum of Nature and the Denver Zoo. On one zoo trip, a group of African American kids was walking toward me on the zoo sidewalk. It looked as if they had one white friend until they got closer. Then I realized she wasn’t white. She was an African American girl with albinism.
I marveled at how self-assured she was, thought what magnificent parents she must have in her corner. Then I wondered how hard her life might sometimes be, as a minority within a minority. And I wondered, what could I do as a writer to help kids not as lucky as she was.
Writing a book about albino animals seemed a great way to celebrate the magic of diversity. So that’s what I did. Research materials were slim to none for such an undertaking, so I had to depend on journalistic detective work and the one organization representative of the genetic condition, NOAH – the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation.
In the end, it wound up being a very special book that allowed me to discuss race in America without offense. It also allowed me to celebrate the beauty of differences and lay the ground work for unity. Where better to build bridges than in the lives of young readers, where all hope resides?
I know you can’t say which book is your favorite, because they all are. So I won’t ask. Instead would you share what you are working on currently?
I’m working on several books right now. One is on the tardigrade – the toughest creature on earth, roughly the size of a poppy seed. The second is about the organic cleaning crew that keeps us from being surrounded by stacks of dead bodies. The third is about paleontology, the study of prehistoric life on earth. Dozens of others are waiting in the wings.
Children love having you visit their schools and you love going! I think you’ve had over 30 just this past year. Kelly has even traveled to China for a school visit. What kind of weird stuff do you do…like do you bring those creepy crawly things with you?
I do between 30 and 60 school, library, conference or festival events each year, and you’re right, I love every one. I do a series of presentations called the Wonders of Weird. I walk the kids through where I get my ideas, how I do research, why it’s not just work, it’s fun. If I’m lucky, my enthusiasm is contagious and they launch searches of their own. One boy in California told me last year he never knew research could be for fun, not just for homework, until he talked to me.
It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
It was so great to meet you and Pat and everyone at the NF4NF Conference last month. Gathering with a group of people who love doing what I do was a true gift and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I hope all of us share our personal nonfiction passions so kids like the kids we were will feel a real and meaningful connection to their natural world.
Everyone has something important to share, even if they don’t yet know it!
You can learn more about Kelly on her website: www.wondersofweird.com
Thank you, Kelly! We appreciate your generous and loving spirit!
God Bless :>)
Thank YOU, Patricia. I appreciate it very much!
Here are a few books...check it out!