Places & Faces
Erin Entrada Kelly Wins Prestigious Newbery Medal
4/2/2018 9:58:20 PM
Newbery Medal

Lake Charles native Erin Entrada Kelly won the 2018 John Newbery Medal -- the award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children -- for her third middle grade novel, Hello, Universe. The American Library Association (ALA) made the announcement mid-February. For those unfamiliar with this respected recognition, the Newbery is a children’s writer’s equivalent of winning Olympic Gold. And Erin’s life will never be the same.

In the past two months since receiving the phone call from the ALA that informed her of the award, Erin has granted more interviews than she can count. Her story and photo has appeared in most every newspaper across the country, not to mention journals, magazines, and online news sources. Within a week of the announcement, she was able to quit her full-time job. Her email, social media, and inboxes flooded with requests for interviews, school visits, and conference invites from around the country. Hello, Universe debuted on The New York Times bestseller list at number four and at the time of this writing was at number two. It will likely never go out of print and is already considered a classic. "That phone call was life-changing in every way,” says Erin. "Practical things, like the trajectory of my career and earning potential, but also emotionally and mentally.”

Erin is the daughter of an American father and a Filipina mother. She graduated from LaGrange High in 1995 and earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and women’s studies from McNeese State University in 2006. After high school, she worked at the American Press for 10 years. She was editor here at Thrive magazine from 2008 – 2016. After moving to a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa. in 2012, she earned an MFA in creating writing from Rosemont College, where she recently taught contemporary issues in children’s literature in the graduate publishing program.

By winning this award, Erin made history and broke literary boundaries. She is the first Filipina-American to win the Newbery, and only the fourth Asian-American to receive the award since the honor’s inception in 1922. She is the first Louisiana native to win the award. 

For Erin, winning the Newbery was a life-long dream come true, but she was nonetheless caught off-guard when she received that life-changing phone call. "I’ve spent my whole life daydreaming about being on the New York Times bestseller list, winning the Newbery, and being a full-time author, all of which has happened. Yet, I still was not -- and am not! -- prepared.”

In Erin’s novels, she tackles difficult issues faced by middle-schoolers, such as bullying, insecurity, racism, and the need for kindness, empathy, and acceptance. She’s a champion for middle-grade underdogs and her books beautifully weave in elements of Filipino folklore. Hello, Universe is about Virgil, who is shy and quiet, a deaf girl named Valencia, self-proclaimed psychic Kaori and her little sister Gen, and Chet, the neighborhood bully. When Virgil and his pet guinea pig Gulliver become trapped in an abandoned well, the girls embark on a courageous adventure to find him. 

Erin’s first and second books, Blackbird Fly (2015) and The Land of Forgotten Girls (2016) respectively, were award winners in their own right. Erin’s fourth book, You Go First, will release April 10. She’s currently in revisions for her first fantasy, as yet untitled, which will release in summer of 2019. Keep your eyes open for many more exciting things to come from Erin Entrada Kelly!

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