Interview: Kimberly Willis Holt on Words, Gardens & Libraries

Kimberly Willis Holt
Kimberly Willis Holt

Since her first novel, MY LOUISIANA SKY, Kimberly Willis Holt has won numerous awards for her children books. She writes stories about kids trying to find their place in life when they’re faced with difficult circumstances. Among her books are WHEN ZACHARY BEAVER CAME TO TOWN, which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and PART OF ME, which won the Louisiana Library Association The Literary Merit Award.

We asked her some questions to find out more about this amazing author.

Booking Biz: What does your average day look like?

Blooming At the Texas Sunrise Motel

Kimberly: I’m an early riser, so the mornings are reserved for coffee and reading, usually nonfiction, short stories, or my book club’s novel selection. Right before dawn, I go into the garden and water and do other garden tasks. It isn’t work to me. I love it as much as writing. When I pull away at the grass invading flower beds, my thoughts always wander back to my stories. After I’m through there, I exercise, shower, eat and get to return to my writing. One exception with this schedule is when I’m writing a first draft. Then the writing comes first thing in the morning. That way I don’t try to revise as I write.

Later I usually cook dinner. After my husband washes the dishes, we watch a show, movie or read. My days begin and end with words.

Booking Biz: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do best?

Kimberly: Garden.

Booking Biz: Where do you get the inspiration for your books?

When Zachary Beaver Came to TownKimberly: Most of my ideas come from my well of life. When I visit schools I tell kids about how they will never run out of anything to write about if they go to their wells. They never run dry. My first book, MY LOUISIANA SKY, came from a moment in fourth grade when my mom and I passed a lady on the way to my grandmother’s house. My mom explained that the lady was mentally challenged and that she had children. That moment stayed with me because I’d never known any kids with parents like that. I wondered about those kids. When I started writing, I thought about that small moment and the voice of a character came to me. It was an idea I cared about. That too, is important. Writers have to care about what they write about. Is it any wonder that my latest book, BLOOMING AT THE TEXAS SUNRISE MOTEL, was inspired by my garden?

Booking Biz: Did you always want to write books for children, or was there another career you wished for as a child?

Kimberly: Ever since I was in fifth grade, I wanted to be a writer. I struggled in school because I was a slow reader. Back then I didn’t think I could be a writer because I wasn’t a perfect student, but in seventh grade three people made me feel like it was possible–two teachers and a friend.  I never made a conscious decision to write for children. The genre chose me.  Funny thing though, a few years back I was reading my journal that I kept in college. In it, I stated that I’d like to write for children. So maybe my subconscious led me here.

Booking Biz: If you ruled the world, what would it look like?

Kimberly: I think reading and being surrounded by beauty changes hearts and lifts our spirits. If I ruled the world everyone would have access to books and gardens.  And while I’m at it, how about a library surrounding a huge garden that could be seen from every window?

Booking Biz: That sounds like an amazing library.

Read more about Kimberly Willis Holt on her speaker page.