A writer from a tender age: Kallie George, by Pam Withers

It may have started with a houseguest who happened to be a children’s writer. Kallie George was five years old when she shyly spied on the family friend creating a children’s book.

Or it may have been her indulgent father (founder of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee), who loved telling her made-up stories as much as he loved encouraging her to make up her own. Her family home, which included her parents and a younger brother, was well filled with books and reading.

For sure it was a Christmas gift she made in fourth grade that nudged her towards becoming a writer: She decided to create a story for family members, which she photocopied so that each received a copy. That became an annual holiday tradition right through 12th grade.

Finally, there was her Croatian grandfather, who hand-wrote before typing up crime novels in his retirement, but gave up sending them out after one rejection.

“You are definitely going to be a writer,” he told his granddaughter, who in high school was already submitting novels to big publishing houses and collecting her own rejection slips.

“No! No!” she insisted. “I’m going to be an actress!”

He loved rubbing in the fact he was right when she finally published her first book in 2010.

Born and raised on the Sunshine Coast, Kallie George (now 33) is the award-winning author of 12 picture and chapter books. They include Secrets I Know; Duck, Duck Dinosaur; and the Heartwood Hotel (“Downton Abbey meets the Tale of Peter Rabbit”) and The Magical Animal Adoption Agency series. Her publishers include Disney-Hyperion, HarperCollins and Schwartz & Wade (US).

After studying English and art history as an undergrad, Kallie earned a Masters in Children’s Literature at UBC and began by editing for Simply Read Books, which published her first picture books.

It was around then she met her husband, who works in the film industry, in a whimsical way.

“Eight years ago I was writing a story in a café right after a guitar lesson,” Kallie says. “I was smiling out the window because I was excited about the story.” A young man passing by caught her smile, assumed it was for him and entered the eatery to ask her out. They’ve been married four years now. “He has a wonderful creative spirit and that’s something we share.”

Although writing takes up an increasing portion of her time, Kallie also edits for Greystone Books and leads creative writing workshops through Capilano University, Emily Carr University, and Creative Writing for Children Society of Vancouver.

She has a middle-grade novel coming out in 2018, followed by its sequel the next year. “I find writing for the older grades more difficult, but I appreciate the challenge. I would like to keep exploring the many genres of children’s literature.”

Kallie credits CWILL BC with “great friendships and a sense of how to do school visits and residencies.”

Between perspective she has gleaned from fellow CWILLers, her lifetime of reading and writing, and her successful career, here are some nuggets of wisdom Kallie likes to share:

“A good story is a good story. If you try to follow trends or marketing, you might not be writing the best story you can.”

“Publishing is all about perseverance. The more you work on your story, the more you polish your writing, the more you LOVE writing, the easier the publishing part will be.”

“A new idea is the best gift in the world to a writer.”

“Writing works best when I let my ideas simmer – and plot them out.”

“Oftentimes, my first scenes are just dreadful, but as long as the germ of the idea is there, I know I can work on them until the writing itself is polished to how I like it.”

“The arts can help inspire young people to express their own experiences and emotions, as well as help young people understand and empathize with experiences that they haven’t had.”

“Stories are my whole life.”

— Pam Withers has written
17 young-adult adventure novels.

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