Kelly Barnhill can’t stop writing inspiring stories

Pictured above 2017 commencement speaker, Kelly Barnhill, gives her speech to send off the class of 2017 along with her eldest daughter, Ella Barnhill. Photo courtesy: Lisa Ramirez

Pictured above 2017 commencement speaker, Kelly Barnhill, gives her speech to send off the class of 2017 along with her eldest daughter, Ella Barnhill. Photo courtesy: Lisa Ramirez

James Warren, Staff Writer

South alum and writer Kelly Barnhill was the commencement speaker at the South High graduation for the class of 2017. Barnhill recently won the Newbery award for her book, “The Girl Who Drank the Moon,” a story about a village with a legend about a witch in the woods that would ruin their way of life if they didn’t leave a child for her in the woods every year to keep them safe but in reality she always stumbles on the children and adopts them.


In her speech, Kelly Barnhill talked to the students about empathy, inventiveness, uncertainty, and curiosity. She has been connected to South High since she and her siblings were freshman. Kelly Barnhill also has two children that are continuing a tradition of going to South, Cor and Ella Barnhill.


Ray Bradbury, author of sci-fi novels such as Fahrenheit 451 is a writer is someone who inspired her to write. Kelly Barnhill also read a lot of fairy tales when she was young and they made her want to create her own world.  “When you create a fantasy world you can break it up,” said Kelly. By the end of college she started doing more stories than poems,”I morphed into a fiction writer,” said Kelly Barnhill.


Cor Barnhill is the youngest of Kelly’s two oldest daughters and thinks that it’s cool that she goes to the same school her mother, aunts, and uncle did but “it’s a little weird to have some of the same teachers.”


To Cor Barnhill, her mother’s stories show how to grow up, especially under hard circumstances, and even how to hold yourself together when you’re young. Because of her mother’s work schedule, she doesn’t really stop working, there are small breaks she does have in her writing sometimes but she always seems to be toward one deadline or another and because of this they don’t have much of their family time.


Cor Barnhill has recently thought of a solution to her mother’s busy schedule. “She, like me, tends to procrastinate, and I think if she started shutting down her social media accounts whenever she had a particularly tight deadline or busy schedule, it would be more manageable for her.”  She also feels that she owes her strong writing to her mother since her mother’s writing has inspired her to to take more literature and writing classes. Instead of being a writer, she plans on becoming an english teacher, a job her mother had before she became an author.


Kelly Barnhill even has some advice for young writers to keep on writing. ‘You don’t have to write everyday.” She believes that you should let your work be your work and “it doesn’t matter that your work sucks,” you can just make a new or better one.”just get over the fact it sucks, since it does for a long time, trial and error”says Kelly. And her final recommendation was to head in and out of your favorite genre to get more variety everyday but when you have a particularly tight deadline, cut it up a little so it can be a bit more manageable.


At the end of her speech, Kelly Barnhill left the class of 2017 with this: “I’m going to speak on behalf of the moms here. And the dads. And the grandmas and grandpas and the aunties and uncles. And the foster parents. And social workers. And every adult who has stood by you and held your hands and loved you this whole way: Darlings, we are so proud of you. We are so, so proud of you. We knew you could do it. And we love you so much.”