Who is Kelly Milner Halls?
I'm a nonfiction writer for young readers. And it all started in elementary school.
When my third-grade teacher in Friendswood, Texas, told me I was a good writer, I didn’t really understand what she meant -- that I should be a professional writer.
I'd always been the weird kid – the kid who asked too many questions, the kid who couldn’t stop talking to her neighbors, the kid who couldn’t find a book she wanted to read. But the thought of being a writer at first drew a complete blank.
High school in California brought my third-grade teacher’s words back to me, thanks to the high school newspaper. Journalism was a forum for questions and conversation, and it turned out that elementary-school teacher was right. I could write.
Writing for adults didn’t really work for me. I got bored, plus I didn't have that “killer” instinct to go for the BIG stories, even if people got hurt. Writing for kids was ideal. Weird topics. No mean stuff. So I started with magazines and newspapers.
Within five years, I'd been paid to write more than 1,500 bylined articles and reviews for publications including Highlights for Children, Ask!, Dig, Teen PEOPLE, Guidepost for Kids, Guideposts for Teens, the Chicago Tribune KidNews, the Atlanta Journal Constitution News for Kids, the Denver Post, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Washington Post, Writers Digest, Booklist, Book Links, The Book Reporter Network, and dozens of others all over the country.
When editor Tanya Dean Anderson left Guidepost for Teens to help create a publishing house expressly for reluctant readers, a new phase of my career was born. Together, we created six critically acclaimed nonfiction picture books that made being “weird” really cool.
Kids respond, and I know it–thanks to school visits all over the country. I’m living my dream. I’m not just writing fun books, I’m helping kids know it’s okay to be whoever they turn out to be.
Weird is no longer a bad word once we share a day together. Weird is a destination we share. Weird is a really fun state of mind.
Dolls weren't my "thing." Critters were.
Me & Craig Bottoms catching toads
I was Robin. Craig was Batman.
Newbury Park High School journalists/1976.
Awards and Special Achievements
For roughly a decade, I focused on magazine and newspaper submissions and saw more than 1000 articles and reviews published in Highlights for Children, Ask! Dig, Children’s Digest, U.S. Kids, Child Life, Yes!, Hullabaloo, Kid City, Fox Kids, Curiocity for Kids, Freezone, Guidepost for Kids, Guidepost for Teens, Teen PEOPLE, Family Fun, Writer’s Digest, Booklist, Book Links, New Jersey Magazine, Wyoming Magazine, the Chicago Tribune KidNews, the Atlanta Journal Constitution News for Kids, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram PG Page, the Denver Post, the Spokesman Review, The Book Reporter Network (including Kids Reads), and many other publications.
My focus eventually shifted to children’s nonfiction books, and it remains my primary effort today. But I do make time to write for magazines and newspapers when a book, author or topic really excites me.
I now live and work in Spokane, Washington with one dog, two daughters, too many cats and a 4-foot rock iguana named Gigantor. I travel frequently, doing school visits and conference presentations all over the country. As a single mom with two kids in college, writing and speaking isn’t just a hobby for me. It’s my full-time job, but I am lucky because it is also my never ending bliss.
Sasquatch Award Nominee 2009 -- Tales of the Cryptids (second to Dan Gutman)
Junior Library Guild Premier Selection, 2009 – Wild Horses
New Jersey Garden State Children’s Book Award List 2009 – Tales of the Cryptids
Highlights for Children -- Best Arts Feature of 2008 (Jack Prelutsky profile)
Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award List 2008-2009 – Tales of the Cryptids
Texas Lone Star Reading List 2008-2009 – Tales of the Cryptids
YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers – Tales of the Cryptids
Kentucky Bluegrass Award Nominee, 2008 – Mysteries of the Mummy Kids
Junior Library Guild Premier Selection, 2008 – Mysteries of the Mummy Kids
Maine Student Book Award List 2007-2008 – Tales of the Cryptids
Junior Library Guild Premier Selection, 2007 -- Tales of the Cryptids
Lamplighter Award Nominee 2006/2007 -- Albino Animals
IRA Top Five Children's Choice, 2006 -- Wild Dogs
Benjamin Franklin Award, 2006 -- Wild Dogs
Izaak Walton League of America Conservation Book of the Year, 2005 -- Wild Dogs
Orbis Pictus Recommended 2006 -- Wild Dogs
ASPCA Henry Bergh Award Nominee, 2006 -- Wild Dogs
Junior Library Guild Premier Selection, 2005 – Wild Dogs
YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers – Albino Animals
Benjamin Franklin Award, 2005 -- Albino Animals
Orbis Pictus Recommended, 2005 -- Albino Animals
Junior Library Guild Premier Selection,2004 – Albino Animals
VOYA Honor List 2004 -- Dinosaur Mummies
Booklist 2003 Top Ten Science Book for Young Readers -- Dinosaur Mummies
National Science Teachers Association Recommended Book -- Dinosaur Mummies
Booklist Starred Review -- Dinosaur Mummies
Junior Library Guild Premier Selection, 2003 -- Dinosaur Mummies
Ed Press Finalist, June 2000 -- Materialism Bug, GP4K
Ed Press Finalist, Archaeology's DIG, June 2000
The Book Report/Kids Reads Executive Editor -- 14 months
American Bookseller Pick of the List -- Dino Trekking
Highlights Best Science Feature of 1995 Award
Highlights Best Nonfiction Feature Award, April 1996
Archaeology's Dig, Contributing Editor
Dinosaurus Magazine, Senior Contributing Editor
Dino Times, Contributing Editor
US Kids -- Seventeen cover stories from 1996 to 1998
My freelance career has been profiled in both Writer’s Market and the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market guides. My features regularly appeared in the CWIM from 1997 to 2010. I was a contributor for the most recent edition of Anita Silvey’s critically acclaimed Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators and for the revised edition of The Continuum Encyclopedia of Young Adult Literature, edited by Bernice Cullinan and Bonnie Kunzel.
PARTIAL TRADE BIBLIOGRAPHY
Dino Trekking (1996, Wiley)
Kids Go! Denver (1996, Avalon)
365 Outdoor Activities (2000, PIL)
I Bought a Baby Chicken (2001, Boyds Mills Press)
Look What You Can Make From Craft Sticks (2002, Boyds Mills Press)
Look What You Can Make From Foam Trays (2002, Boyds Mills Press)
365 After School Activities (2003, Backpack Books/PIL)
365 Projects for Pennies (2003, PIL)
Dinosaur Mummies (2003, Darby Creek Publishing)
Albino Animals (2004, Darby Creek Publishing)
Wild Dogs (2005, Darby Creek Publishing)
Tales of the Cryptids (2006, Darby Creek Publishing)
Random House Dinosaur Travel Guide (2006, Random House)
Mysteries of the Mummy Kids (2007, Darby Creek Publishing)
Wild Horses (2008, Darby Creek Publishing)
Dinosaur Parade (2008, Lark/Sterling)
Saving the Baghdad Zoo (2010, HarperCollins/Greenwillow)
In Search of Sasquatch (2011, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Alien Investigation (2012, Millbrook)
PARTIAL LIBRARY BIBLIOGRAPHY
Science Fair Projects, Rocks & Minerals (2007, Heinemann-Raintree)
Science Fair Projects, Astronomy & Space (2007, Heinemann-Raintree)
Science Fair Projects, Forces & Motion (2007, Heinemann-Raintree)
Science Fair Projects, Cells & Systems (2007, Heinemann-Raintree)
Cool Careers: Astronauts (2009, Cherry Lake Publishing)
Cool Careers: Vitual Reality Specialist (2009, Cherry Lake Publishing)