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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Candy Wellins

Candy Wellins is a lifelong writer and book lover. A former teacher, she has a BA in journalism and an M.Ed. in literacy education.

She’s now a full-time mom to three wonderful children who keep her up-to-date and immersed in children’s literature. When She's not reading, writing or mothering, Candy loves running, traveling and naps! She and her family make their home deep in the heart of Texas.

Candy is the author of The Stars Beckoned: Edward White's Amazing Walk in Space, illustrated by Courtney Dawson (2021) and Saturdays Are For Stella, illustrated by Charlie Eve (2020).

Her newest nonfiction book, Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes, illustrated by Jess Rose releases tomorrow.

Welcome Candy, thanks so much for stopping by to chat with us about your books, writing, and illustrating.

Thank you for having me!

Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write or illustrate? How long have you been writing or illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate? )

I’ve always loved writing and children’s literature. I earned a degree in journalism then spent a decade teaching in elementary school classrooms. In 2016, I started writing picture books and my first book was published in 2020. I love writing stories that have a lot of heart and humor.

What do you like to do outside?

I love hiking and backpacking. In 2009, I hiked all 165 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail and it remains one of my favorite all-time trips.

That's impressive! What was your inspiration for Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes?

My parents divorced when I was young so just like Mabel, I grew up in two different homes. There are frustrating moments that I think only a child would appreciate. Navigating dark halls to find the bathroom in the middle of the night is hard enough without having to remember if the bathroom is down the hall and to the left—or to the right—in this house. But living in two homes is not all ‘woe is me,’ and I wanted to write a story that highlighted the advantages of the situation.

I'm personally glad for a divorce story that shows the upside of two homes. What was the hardest part about writing Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes? The most fun part?

The hardest part was putting myself back in my own childhood and recalling the struggle. I had the most fun creating Izzy, Mabel’s class pet iguana, who helps her find her adventure.

I love Izzy's journal. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

I adored P.D. Eastman’s book. Are You My Mother? still touches all my heartstrings and Go, Dog, Go is so much fun visually. There’s also a book by Anne Rockwell that is no longer in print called Gogo’s Car Breaks Down. It’s about a clown in a traveling circus who wants to go home to have dinner with his mother one night. On his way there, his car breaks down (dirty spark plugs!) and he’s stuck until a female (!!) mechanic comes and saves the day. For the late 1970s, it was a very progressive and sweet story. I read it endlessly as a preschooler.

Ooh, a book I'd never heard of. Thanks. Did the writing and/or revision of Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes differ from your previous picture books?

I’d say it’s similar to my other stories in that it focuses on families and the many ways we show we love each other.

That's such a great over-arching theme or thread tying your books together! Is there something you want your readers to know about Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes?

Text © Candy Wellins, 2022. Image © Jess Rose, 2022.

Mabel doesn't like having two houses.

She finds it very confusing.

Especially when her bedroom is upstairs...

but also downstairs.

I’d say that even if you feel like this story won’t resonate with you, I guarantee you know a reader who will know this experience. Whether it be due to divorce, fostering, immigration or something else, we all know kids whose lives feel a bit topsy-turvy at times. If nothing else, I hope this story helps build empathy in readers.

I hope it does, too. How long did it take from first draft to publication for Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes? What is the toughest part in general about writing for you? The most amazing?

This is one of the first manuscripts I wrote in 2016. It went through a lot of revisions with my critique group then went out on submission. We didn’t get any bites, but I kept tinkering with the manuscript. I also sat on the story for a long time—years! We sent out a revised manuscript in 2021 and it sold to Beaming Books. As many writers know, the waiting is the toughest part of this job. The most amazing is getting those calls when a book has been sold!

Sometimes, despite tinkering, a story just has to percolate quietly in our subconscious fo a while. Are there any new projects you are working on that you can share a tidbit with us?

I have a young graphic picture book coming out in March 2024 called A Geoduck Is Not A Duck (Little Bigfoot). It’s about a little-known species of clams called geoducks (pronounced gooey ducks) that are native to the Pacific Northwest. It’s a mystery filled with lots of humor that I think kids will love. I can’t wait to share it with the world.

That sounds so interesting. We'll have to keep our eyes open for it. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Yosemite holds a very special place in my heart. It’s absolutely beautiful and a favorite place of mine to visit. In 2008, I even climbed to the top of Half Dome. That was an adventure!

Thank you so much Candy for participating in this chat!

Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Mabel's Topsy-Turvy Homes.

To learn more about Candy Wellins, or contact her:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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