Visiting writer talks about the power of hope in creating change

Children’s author and environmental writer Elin Kelsey spent time with Santa Catalina School English classes as this year’s Writer in Residence.

Kelsey gave virtual presentations to each class March 6-9 to share how she uses writing to influence social change around climate justice. She is a proponent of evidence-based hope, arguing that stories of successes and solutions do more to move the needle on climate change than fear-based messages of doom and gloom. In addition to children’s books, Kelsey has written nonfiction books, popular and scholarly articles, and an animated short film. Her most recent book is Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis.

Kelsey’s children’s books seek to combat eco-anxiety by connecting readers to the world around them, from Not Your Typical Book About the Environment, which raises awareness about alternative and sustainable lifestyles, to You Are Never Alone, which shows how we are always surrounded and supported by nature. She talked about how she researched the scientific concepts in each book, how she distilled the science into emotional narratives, and how she works with her illustrator, Soyeon Kim, to bring it all together.

One student asked why she does the research. Kelsey replied, “It’s a social justice issue. Children have a right to know all of the up-to-date information about the state of the world.” She added, “When you feel hopeless, it’s hard to trust and believe that things are moving in the right direction. Specific examples are trustworthy.”

Kelsey left students with a challenge to think about how they try to influence others with their own writing, whether that be through stories or social media posts. “Hope lies in the capacity of stories to transform,” she said.

(Author photo by Agathe Bernard)

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