Children’s author KA Holt visited Graland recently to share her thoughts on writing and finding inspiration as she spoke to groups of students throughout the day. Beginning with a middle school assembly, students learned that becoming a writer can happen to “regular people” like them.
“My favorite author when I was a kid was Paula Danziger,” shared Holt. “To me, she was some kind of untouchable celebrity but when I met her at a young author’s conference, I found out she’s just a regular person. I realized I could write books too.”
But, just like most endeavors, being a good author takes time and work. Holt described how she taught herself to move beyond the first three chapters, “the easy part,” and formulate the middle and end of her books.
She’s often asked, “How long does it take to write a book?” to which Holt answers, “Anywhere from six weeks to seven years.” One of her books, "Gnome-a-ggedon," was a good idea that she didn’t know what to do with. “It had to sit in my brain for many years before I could finish the story,” she told students.
A poet, Holt talked about “free verse,” or poetry that doesn’t rhyme, and “found” or “blackout” poetry. In one novel, the main character learned that creating blackout poetry was a way to use his intelligence to get positive attention, not negative attention.
Younger students heard more from Holt about her first picture book. Inspired by poet Pablo Neruda’s “Book of Questions,” Holt began writing down all the questions her own children asked her during the course of the day: What do clouds taste like? Do tires get tired? Is cereal afraid of the spoon?
She turned these charming queries into “I Wonder,” a beautifully illustrated book that she wrote and revised as many as five times. “Picture books are actually the hardest to write,” she shared. “You have a tiny amount of words and you have to make them into a story.”
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.