Kellie Byrnes is the debut picture book author of Cloud Conductor.
Do you conduct stories in the clouds?
In a figurative sense I certainly do. I think a big element of being a writer is having your "head in the clouds" all the time, daydreaming and thinking about "what if?" I've always been in my head quite a lot, whether pondering life's mysteries, or making up stories, or contemplating what characters might be doing after the story ends. I think daydreaming is a healthy thing and that adults and kids should be encouraged to do it every day! When we let our imaginations run away, we can come up with amazing goals, solve problems, and learn about ourselves.
I also spend a bit of time looking at the clouds and the sky. I love to take in beautiful sunsets or look up at the stars and the moon at night. I'd like to say I look at the sunrise too, but as a night owl, I have to admit, I am rarely awake for them!
The imagination plays a huge part in Cloud Conductor. Why is a child's imagination so important to you personally?
Children have the most amazing imaginations, and it tends to be one of the things adults love most about spending time with them. However, sadly, as people get older this way of looking at the world with wonder and creative eyes seems to gradually get pushed down. Even by the time kids are in late primary school, I notice they spend less time imagining.
It's important for adults to encourage children to explore their imaginations and find inventive ways of solving their own problems and seeing the world. I know how much stories, words, and ideas have helped me over the years, and I hate the thought that children may grow up believing they have to leave that behind.
How can we all be cloud conductors?
We can all be cloud conductors by spending more time out in nature. Whether you like to stare up at the sky, walk through a park, garden, hike, meditate outdoors, swim in the ocean etc., letting your imagination wander while you get some fresh air and forget your to-do list can really make a difference. Having a few hours to yourself to go off and pursue an interest or take in the world around you also helps to get your imagination firing.
As adults, we tend to forget how to live in the moment, or just don't do it often. As soon as you build a sandcastle with a child, or play tug-of-war with your dog, for instance, you are back in the present, and can find more joy and appreciation for life. Letting your subconscious mind romp about while your conscious mind is focused on something else is also a wonderful way to solve problems. I see all these activities as another type of cloud conducting, and something anyone can do, at any age.
Escapism is very important in Frankie's life. Why is that?
No matter our age, we all need escapism in our lives at some points. Sometimes when things are outside our control, the best thing to do is just escape for a time and leave our troubles behind. In the book, the main character, Frankie, is dealing with an illness and can't do the things she used to love. This is not only incredibly difficult, but isolating. By escaping through her imagination, Frankie can, for a time, feel more free, happy, and connected. She can also use this reprieve from real life to "power up", in a way, like avatars in video games do. She can also use it to help others.
How does it feel to have your first picture book published?
It feels amazing! This is a life-long dream of mine, and I am so excited and grateful that it has finally been realised. I can't wait to read the book to kids and learn what they see in the clouds. I'm sure I will be amazed by their creativity! I also really hope children who are struggling with illness or any other problem in their life find the book a useful tool to remind them of their own power and strength.
Cloud Conductor comes out 1 May. To pre-order your copy head to this link.