Simply 7 with Candy Wellins–“Saturdays are for Stella”

The book in today’s Simply 7 came as a complete surprise.  With a surprise twist and sincere tenderness, I’m guessing you will love this book as much as I did.

Candy Wellins-9Candy Wellins is a lifelong writer and book lover.  A former elementary school teacher, Candy 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 kid’s literature.  Candy and her family make their home in Central Texas. You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

COVER“Saturdays are for Stella” is an incredibly sweet book about a little boy named George who adores his Grandma.  He gets to spend every Saturday with her and I’m sure that alone would be an adorable picture book.  BUT this story doesn’t stop there.  I don’t want to give away too much, but there’s a surprise twist and an incredible ending in this one that you won’t want to miss!

Welcome to my blog Candy!

Me: You have been a journalist and a teacher.  What is it that drew you to writing picture books? 

Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 4.22.45 PMCandy: I love telling stories and I love working with children.  Writing picture books was a way to combine both passions.  I spent ten years working in classrooms and I’ve spent another ten raising my own children.  That’s twenty years of reading great picture books, talking to children, hearing their stories and learning about their joys and frustrations.  My students and children have been huge inspirations and I hope my stories help echo their experiences.

Me: Your story is so wonderfully written (circular plot and surprise twists for the win!).  I fell in love with George and Stella.  Is George based on anyone you know?  What inspired this story? 

Candy: I am George!  I was really close to both of my grandmas growing up and they died within two months of each other while I was pregnant with my oldest child.  I’m still sad that neither one of them got to meet my kids, but I’m happy that I get to relive our traditions with the next generation. 

Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 4.21.27 PM

Me: Aww!  I love that and it makes me want to cry all at the same time!  What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?

Candy: Original drafts of the story just focused on George and Grandma Stella’s relationship and didn’t feature Baby Stella.  The story was nice, but too sad.  I wrote the scene where George blacks out all the Saturdays on his calendar and it reminded me of marking off weeks during each of my pregnancies.  Suddenly it dawned on me that the only thing that could save George from his grief was Stella.  That was how Baby Stella was born (so to speak). I think the promise of more Saturdays with Stella is the heart of the story. 

Me: What does your writing process look like?

Candy: I have three kids under 10. They provide lots of inspiration, but also don’t leave me with much quiet time to write.  I do most of my writing either during nap time or when everyone’s in bed between 8-10pm.  I prefer writing on a laptop where I can instantly edit myself (I like looking at a clean, unmarked page).  When I’m happy with a draft, I’ll read it out loud a dozen times then send it to critique partners to review. 

Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 4.20.55 PMMe: The illustrations by Charlie Eve Ryan are wonderful.  I especially loved the patterns and color palette. Were there any illustration surprises for you?

Candy: It’s funny because when I wrote the story, I didn’t have a clear sense of what George looked like.  He was always a little fuzzy in my mind’s eye.  Then when I saw Charlie’s illustrations, I recognized him immediately. 

This picture book is both of our babies and I think we both captured George (and the Stellas) perfectly. 

Me: Wow, that’s definitely Kismet! Any advice for other picture book writers? 

Candy: Just keep writing. It’s a tough industry filled with lots of rejections, but if you just keep working, the work will pay off.

Me: I love the Saturday routines George has with his Grandma.  Do you have any favorite Saturday routines you do with your own kiddos?  Can you share them with us? 

Candy: I love running and Saturday mornings are a good time for me to get in a long run (since my husband is home and can help watch the kiddos).  Afterward, everyone looks forward to a pancake breakfast.  I found a knockoff version of IHOP’s buttermilk pancakes on Pinterest which are heavenly.  So we all eat stacks of those.  It’s divine. 

What a wonderful Saturday routine!  Dear readers, find a copy of this book and study the circular plot that seems effortlessly crafted.  You might also want to study the heart that is captured so perfectly in this story that it leaves me amazed that this is really a debut picture book author!  This is definitely one you won’t want to miss.

About jenabenton

I'm an elementary school teacher, writer, illustrator and storyteller.

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