For children’s book author and Driftwood, Texas, resident Candy Wellins, writing is life. An author of three celebrated children’s books, she published her first story in 2020 about a boy named George, his beloved grandmother Stella and the traditions their family practices to keep her memory alive. Saturdays Are for Stella went on to become an Amazon Editors’ pick, earned a coveted Kirkus Star and was named a Kirkus Best Picture Book. Candy has been writing and publishing ever since.
For Candy, there’s something quintessential about children’s literature. It’s content people of all ages read, and adults appreciate the stories just as much as kids. “Picture books are the ones that stick with you for life. You remember stories like The Giving Tree and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I had an idea in the back of my head for years to write children’s books, but it felt impossible.”
After more than a decade immersed in children’s literature as an elementary school teacher, Candy met local author of middle grade and young adult fantasy books Mari Mancusi in 2016 at a Camp Gladiator workout. In between their reps, Candy asked Mari about her path to publishing and realized that the steps Mari described were things she, too, could pursue. In addition to attending conferences and researching literary agents, she enrolled in a children’s book writing course that happened to be minutes away from her at The Writing Barn in Austin.
She credits her success in large part to the remarkable community of children’s book authors and illustrators she met there who call the Hill Country home. She says, “It’s a community of really good people where everybody is cheering for each other,” which was particularly helpful for an author making her debut during the pandemic.
Drawing inspiration from her life, Candy includes themes of love, resilience and strength in her work. The importance of family shines through in each of her books. “Family is the root of all stories,” she says. “When you write from the heart, that’s the stuff that resonates with readers.”
In Mabel’s Topsy-Turvy Homes, Candy speaks to the ups and downs of children with divorced parents, an experience she knows firsthand from her own childhood. Her goal is “find that one kid who really connects with the story and help them feel like they’re being seen, like they’re not alone.” One young reader identified with the main character so much after reading the book that she came to class dressed as Mabel.
The author gave the same care and consideration to her children’s biography of Edward White, the first American to walk in space. A beautiful read for all kids and their families but especially those here in Texas, The Stars Beckoned: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space tells the story of the astronaut from San Antonio who as a child “loved the night, lived where the stars were big and bright” and never wanted to come inside when his mother called him. When children read Candy’s stories, they see themselves in the characters who persevere past challenges to find belonging and purpose, much like the inspiring author herself.
Young readers and their families will be happy to know Candy has a fourth title, A Geoduck Is Not a Duck, coming out in 2024. When she’s not writing, coming up with new story ideas or spending quality time with her three young children and husband, you can find her teaching at The Writing Barn. To stay up to date with her latest releases, visit candywellins.com or follow her on Instagram @candywellins.