Brynne Barnes’ story of publication will leave you feeling inspired and wanting more.
Trust me, if you love books and write books or plan to write, her story will resonate with you.
28 Days Later proudly honors Brynne Barnes on Day 7.
Some kids had teddy bears. I had books. I carried them underneath my arm, everywhere I went, since I can remember. I have very early memories from the age of two, lugging around this very large yellow picture book with all of the fairy tales in one collection. I was too young to read it, but I sat there, soaking in the illustrations, imagining the stories. By the age of four, I was reading to my pre-school class during story time. I loved books. Always have.
When I was 9 or 10, I wrote the first piece of writing that I really enjoyed in school. It was a paper about how I spent my summer vacation. It’s my first memory of really “crafting” a piece of writing while creating a narrative. I deliberated over finding the “right words” and the “right adjectives.” But I didn’t think anything of it. By the time I was 12, I started writing poetry. A lot. That’s when I realized that I loved writing as much as I loved reading. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I hadn’t planned to pursue it until later on in life.
I continued to write poetry, speeches, and perform spoken word throughout the rest of my schooling – even in college. During my senior year at the University of Michigan, I volunteered with this program called the We Read Literacy Program. It was a student-run program through The Detroit Project. We volunteered at some grade schools in Detroit that didn’t offer creative writing. Some of these schools also needed books, so we wrote stories for the children, had students from the art school illustrate them, and had them published by a local publisher to give to the students. Then, we helped the students write their own books and illustrate them. That’s when I knew that I wanted to be a children’s author and put my plans to attend medical school on hold – permanently. I was twenty-two then. By the age of twenty-three, I had written my third children’s book manuscript (the second of which was Colors of Me) and started researching publishers.
There are so many authors that have shaped my voice and illustrators that have shaped my imagination that it’s difficult to pinpoint a select few. I’m grateful to them all. I was raised on Dr. Seuss, Madeline, The Snowy Day, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I read everything I could get my hands on. I first started writing poetry because I discovered Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni and Shakespeare. In school, I read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and haven’t been the same since. Among my favorites in children’s book writers and illustrators include E.B. Lewis, Kadir Nelson, Carole Boston Weatherford, Ezra Jack Keats, Bryan Collier, Christopher Paul Curtis, Walter Dean Myers, for creating gripping illustrations and stories that won’t let go of me. Of course, the list goes on beyond what I could list here.
The Back Story
I re-wrote Colors of Me and changed its title countless times over four years time before Sleeping Bear Press ever saw it. It changed so dramatically from the first draft that it took that process for me to figure out what it was supposed to be. However, during the time that I was re-writing it, I obtained a copy of Children’s Writers & Illustrator’s Market and began to shop it at different publishers (two or three). No one was biting, but I did get a friendly rejection letter or two. Two different editors had complimented me on the manuscript by writing, “Really nice story” and “Great submission, but we’re looking for something different.” I enrolled in Eastern Michigan University’s M.A. program in Creative Writing and pushed forward. I attended my first SCBWI conference in the winter and received some invaluable advice in the one-on-one critique session. “Change the first stanza and you might have something.” I did. In the meantime, during my last semester at EMU, I met one of my best friends. After I graduated, she started interning at Sleeping Bear Press. She emailed me, requesting that I send her my manuscript. She wanted to shop it there, and Sleeping Bear is a closed house (which means they don’t accept blind submissions), so I happily sent it to her. Several months later (and by several, I mean six or seven), I got the news — they offered me my first publishing contract. I was twenty-six and elated. Colors of Me was released one year and a half later.
Since its September 2011 release, Colors of Me was named:
- 2012 Gelett Burgess Award Winner for First Published Book
- 2012 Friends of American Writers Award Winner for Juvenile Literature
Award-Winning Finalist in the Hardcover Fiction Category of The USA “Best Books 2011” Awards, sponsored by USA Book News
Learn more about this amazing author by visiting her website at www.brynnebarnes.com.