Meet Kelly Fineman

Kelly Fineman is a judge for the Poetry category. She’s a children’s writer who blogs at Writing and Ruminating.  On her blog, Kelly reviews books and talks about writing and life. To get to know her better we sent her a series of questions.

Q: How long have you been blogging?Kellyfineman

A: Since May 11, 2005.

Q: Why do you blog?

A: Because I can. Really? To share my thoughts about children’s books and poetry, and because of the sense of community I get from having near-daily contact with so many other children’s writers and poets.

Q: What is it about children’s books that you like most?

A: Everything! The stories, the illustrations (where they exist), the sense of escape, the (mostly) high quality level of the writing I read, the fact that nearly all children’s books end with at least a hopeful ending.

Q: Favorite book that didn’t make the shortlist?

A: My favorite of the nominated books that didn’t make the shortlist is Dear Mr. Rosenwald by Carol Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Gregory Christie. My favorite of the poetry books out in 2006 that didn’t get nominated is Thanks a Million: Poems by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera.  How it didn’t get a nomination is baffling.

Q: Do you and your kids ever disagree on reading choices? 

A: Yes, occasionally. For instance, I have little time for some of the series YA chick-lit that my daughters read, but they gobble it up like the candy that it is. Also, S (my 8th grader), tends to like some books that are darker than I do, while M (in 6th grade) likes more historical fiction than I.  Mostly I let them read what they’d like unless there’s something particularly unsuitable for their age or emotional maturity level. Being teens/tweens, that’s in constant motion and flux, so sometimes a matter of months is the difference between whether a book is age-appropriate or not. S has read Cut by Patricia McCormick and Luna by Julie Anne Peters. M has already read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. If I know they’re reading something that might be difficult for them to wrap their heads around, we talk about the book.

Q: If you could have a fictional character visit you for a day, who would it be and how would you spend the time together?

A: What I wouldn’t give to have the best answer ever for this question. I think I might pick Albus Dumbledore, and spend the day chatting, eating sweets and looking into his pensieve.  He’s not my favorite character ever, but in real life I’d have little in common with many of my favorite characters and I fear our conversations would be terribly awkward as a result.

Kelly, besides writing neat, concise book reviews, posts hilarious thoughts on writing.  Here, for example, are some of the things she’s learned about writing from the show Top Chef:

  • Great ingredients don’t necessarily result in an excellent dish. Just like a great character and good writing skills don’t necessarily result in the best of stories.
  • Stay true to your own vision. The folks who remain true to their own vision generally succeed, and even if they don’t win (or even if they lose), they garner the respect of the people who are judging them. I’m betting this works with agents and editors just as much as with the food critics and whatnot on the show. (Read the rest of this post here.)

And what did she learn from the Winter Olympics?  Here are some choice revelations:

  • You can be one of the best in the world at what you do, and still not achieve visible success (whether that means having a book published or selling as many copies as you’d like). Thanks to Bode Miller and Apolo Anton Ohno for this one.
  • Just showing up and sticking with it can be its own reward. Thanks to Lindsey Kildow (women’s downhill) and Evan Lysacek (men’s figure skating) for this one. (Read the rest of this post here.)

Kelly’s awesome portrait was created by Kevin Slattery.