I want to tell you all about Kelly Light, an author-illustrator friend of mine, who has been very busy recently, and will soon have her first book published that she not only illustrated but also wrote. Even though I don’t have the honor of being Kelly’s agent, and I rarely get to see her in person (we chat mostly online), I do count her as a friend and I find her absolutely inspiring. Kelly’s book LOUISE LOVES ART will be coming out on September 9th of this year by Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins.
I first met Kelly when I was still the oldest unpaid publishing intern in Manhattan, back in 2010. Kelly is a fantastic illustrator who was still trying to get her first book gig. But in the meanwhile, she had started a blog called Ripple Sketches. It’s no longer active, but the link is still here, if you want to check it out. Scroll down a bit to get a real feel for it. Ripple Sketches came about when Kelly just had to do something for the animals that had been affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She raised over $11,090 by asking other children’s book artists to donate sketches, and auctioned the pieces off for $10 each, to the first lucky bidder. Then she donated the money to organizations like the International Bird Rescue Center, The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, The Sea Turtle Conservancy, and Tri State Bird Rescue and Research. Well known folks like Mo Willems, Jarrett Krosoczka and Dan Santat donated sketches, as did many, many other artists and illustrators. The whole project was absolutely inspiring in so many ways. Kelly and I became friendly because my daughter did an internship, helping out a teeny tiny bit with Ripple Sketches. And because Kelly’s awesome.
After that I was still trying hard to break into agenting, and was reading for various agents in New York and Kelly and I kept in touch. We’d commiserate about trying to break into the business. I knew how talented she was, and I just kept telling her to keep on keeping on. She faced some very trying times, even dealing with health issues that threatened her ability to draw. But she got through it, and triumphed. And she faced issues that all illustrators and authors face when trying to break into the business: the brick wall of being told NO. But she kept going. She made dummies. She made post cards. She sent out queries. And more queries. And more queries. She went to conferences. She blogged. And she kept a pretty cheery outlook (at least that’s what it seemed, anyway!). And then: she hit it!
Kelly’s first book deal was as the illustrator for Erin Soderberg‘s THE QUIRKS: WELCOME TO NORMAL. Since 2012 Kelly has either illustrated, written, or been contracted to illustrate, write, or both, 15 books. FIFTEEN BOOKS! Other things that are already out? THE QUIRKS: CIRCUS QUIRKUS and ELVIS AND THE UNDERDOGS. She’s also the illustrator for the forthcoming JUST ADD GLITTER by Angela DiTerlizzi and DON’T BLINK by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. And of course, LOUISE LOVES ART is coming in the fall (and is the first in a series!).
Why did I write this blog post, for someone who’s not even my client? First of all, because I’m so happy for my friend. But also, because I want every author and illustrator to know, your dreams can come true. Read other people’s success stories! Be happy for them. It feeds your soul.