I GET TO GO TO SCHOOL by Jane Kelley

Whenever I visit a school, everyone is grateful to me for coming. The truth is I always get more than I give.

Don't misunderstand me. My talks are great. I used to be in the theater, so I read my work well. My remarks are inspirational. I often quote one of my characters, Trail Blaze Betty. "The only way to fail is to quit." I share insider info about the business of publishing. I also sign books or bookmarks––or even scraps of paper if that's all the student has. I pose for photos. And I smile. Because I know I am getting much more than I give.

Contact with humans! Instead of lunch at my desk, trying to keep the peanut butter off the keyboard, I get to have a conversation with actual humans. I can't say enough about how much this means to me. Many many years ago, in what was actually my very first author appearance, a student asked me if I was lonely. LONELY? Of course I'm lonely. Most people are. Especially writers who absolutely must spend most of their lives all by themselves or no words will ever get written. 

The people I meet at schools are the best kinds of people. They're readers! They're curious and thoughtful and often more empathetic because they have spent time inside the world of another person--even if that person was made up by someone like me. 

Spending time with readers who are kids is the best of all. Kids are awesome. They are passionate. They have not given up. They are working hard to solve the problems of the world. And they are also really really imaginative. I am absolutely in AWE of this. Sometimes on visits, kids will start to tell me about the things that they are writing. And I can't wait for their books to be on the shelves. Because they are so eager to write and to publish, they remind me to value what I do.

My visits would not happen without teachers. They have such difficult jobs. I am so grateful that they carve a little time out of the day for an author visit. It's wonderful when students have already read my books. It's wonderful when they want to read my books after hearing me read. But it's amazing when kids have actually STUDIED my books. 

At St. Mary's School in Richland Center, Wisconsin, the kids did a character analysis of Megan in Nature Girl. Their work that lined the hallway was astonishing.

I was so impressed by the details and the insights. Look! Trail Blaze Betty! And Megan, who, as the young reader said, did start out as a snotty and selfish drama queen, but at the end became independent, smart, humble, happy, and grateful.

I truly wish I could acknowledge every single student who ever asked me a question or shared an idea. Every single librarian who put my book in a kid's hands. Every single teacher who made space in the day for reading. 

I owe my writing life to all of you. 

Jane Kelley is the grateful, humble, happy creator of Trail Blaze Betty and Megan who are still hiking the Appalachian Trail 12 years after NATURE GIRL was published.




  1. Reading Nature Girl with my grand daughter was a priceless time together. Thanks for taking us there.

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