Young Adult Novelist
Michelle D. Kwasney
When I visit other YA and children’s author’s websites, my childhood seems so ordinary by comparison. I didn’t travel to foreign countries; there were no librarians in my family to engender a love of literature; the walls in our house weren’t lined with books. Sure, I was shy, and—like many shy people—writing came easier for me than speaking, but there was nothing that marked me as a writer. In fact, more than anything, I wanted to be an artist.
I sketched on whatever I could find (once I got in trouble for drawing on my bedroom wall) and I could easily lose myself for hours at a time inside the imaginary enclosure of a blank page. I always got “craft kits” for Christmas—tubs of Play-Doh, Spirograph wheels, paint-by-number sets, and weaving looms that made potholders that never really worked—but it was always the simple act of placing a pencil on paper that wooed me. People often comment that my writing is very “visual” and that's probably the reason. As I write I watch the scenes unfold in my mind, and I feel as if I’m painting with words.
As for my background, I was born in Elmira, New York the oldest of three girls. Like Blue in Baby Blue, I grew up near water, in a house on the banks of the Chemung River. I loved summers - catching tadpoles by day and lightning bugs by night, falling asleep to the low, solemn groan of the bull frogs.
I liked school, but was far too introverted to even come close to being popular. I preferred hanging around with one close friend to being part of a crowd, and always felt a bit out of step with the masses. In high school I started keeping a journal and writing poetry. I worked hard, got decent grades, and took every art and creative writing class I could squeeze into my schedule. I had amazing teachers who filled me with a deep love of learning—no doubt affecting my choice to study to become a teacher myself.
After graduation I worked many odd jobs to put myself through college. I was a waitress, an accounting assistant, a model for drawing classes, a file clerk, a security guard, a receptionist, and even did a brief stint on an assembly line at a food plant. I earned
my bachelor’s degree in art education, followed by my master’s in education, and have taught art in the public school ever since.
While teaching I became interested in children’s literature. I dreamed of illustrating picture books and set out to learn all I could about the craft. But as I drew characters in various scenes, story ideas came to me. Following my grandmother’s death, I created my first book dummy, Nana’s Snow, to help ease the pain of the loss. And although the book was never published, it awakened in me a desire to write again.
Illustrations from Nana's Snow
Several summers later, a twelve-year old character named Blue began to “speak” to me. Each day I recorded what she had to say, completing an early draft of what would become my first novel in just under a month. Baby Blue was published by Henry Holt in April 2004. My second novel, Itch, was published in April 2008. My third novel, Blue Plate Special, will soon be under contract. And I have many more in the works. To read about my current projects, click here.)
When I’m not writing or reading or teaching, I enjoy taking photographs, playing Scrabble, shooting pool on our billiards table, walking, listening to music, and perusing antique car shows. I live in Northampton, Massachusetts with my partner and our two cats. Our backyard overlooks a beaver bog where bears roam, geese honk, and coyotes howl.