Creative writing mentorships, San Jose, CA

This month, we talk to award-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly. She talks to us about the value of characters, her preferred method for writing first drafts, and what she hopes you’ll take away from Hello, Universe. 

Keep reading! As always, we’ve got a writing challenge for you, a fantastic interview, and some updates about Society of Young Inklings. Want to catch up? Check out last month’s Ink Splat here.


Writing Challenge

This month’s challenge is straight from Erin. She says, “One of my favorite writing prompts is from my friend Laurie Calkhoven, who leads meditations for writers. She asked a very simple question during one session: How does your character feel about their name? It’s such a great character-building prompt because our names are so personal to us. My response ultimately became a chapter for Valencia in Hello, Universe.


Submit your responses by emailing and you might be published on our website!


An Interview with Erin Entrada Kelly

Hello, Universe centers around four middle-schoolers – painfully shy Virgil who has a crush on brave, near-deaf Valencia, Kaori the psychic, and Chet, a bully. What aspects of yourself do you see in your characters? In writing them, how have you drawn from your past experiences?

As writers, our past experiences always influence our characters and stories, even when we aren’t aware of it. I tend to write about introspective kids who never quite fit in. That’s something I have in common with them.


Hello, Universe is your third published novel, and you’ve also written many short stories. How has your writing process evolved? How has it stayed the same?

Writing short stories taught me how to polish my craft, prepare submissions, shoulder rejection, and accept feedback, which are all essential in the publishing business. I hope my writing process never stops evolving! One thing that has stayed the same is my preference for writing first drafts in longhand. It’s been that way since I was a kid.


Your characters are always fully fleshed out and feel like they could jump right out of the page. What’s your top tip for writing nuanced, real characters?

Thank you! My top tip: Know what your characters are afraid of, and then force them to face those fears.


How do characters interact with story and setting in your creative process?

Characters take precedence over everything. I let them lead the way and follow them wherever they want to go.


What do you hope young readers take away from Hello, Universe?

There are many ways to be strong.

If you could tell your young writer-self something, what would it be?

One day, all your dreams will come true. Just keep going.

Society of Young Inklings News

  • Summer is a perfect time to tackle your writing passion projects. During the school year, you’re guided in a learning journey by teachers. In the summer, you’ve got the opportunity to take the lead and follow your curiosity. Where will your curiosity lead you? We want to support you as you find out. From mentorships to writer’s circles, to online courses, Click here to read about our programs that can help you push that passion project forward.
  • Join our society! We’ll send you a FREE Inklings Starter Kit with tips and tricks personalized to your creativity style.



A special thanks to Erin Entrada Kelly!


Erin Entrada Kelly received the 2018 Newbery Medal for Hello, Universe, the 2017 APALA Award for The Land of Forgotten Girls, and the 2016 Golden Kite Honor Award for Blackbird Fly.

Erin was raised in Louisiana, but now lives in the Philadelphia area. She is a professor of children’s literature in the graduate fiction and publishing programs at Rosemont College, where she earned her MFA. Erin’s short fiction has been nominated for the Philippines Free Press Literary Award for Short Fiction and the Pushcart Prize. Erin is mestiza and identifies as Filipina-American. Her mother is Visayan and lives in Cebu, which is why many of Erin’s Filipino characters speak Cebuano rather than Tagalog. Learn more about Erin by visiting her website at


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