When my kids were toddlers we would go to the community library once a week and load up my beach bag with children’s books… I’m talking 40-50 books at a time. I was determined to read them the entire children’s library from A-Z by the time they were in public school (we never made it!). So I was so excited to meet Candy Wellins, a real life children’s book author, here in Dripping Springs two weeks ago at her home in Howard Ranch! I felt like I was meeting a kindred spirit after learning more about her journey.
Meet my new friend, Candy!
Tell us about yourself, Candy…
I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and never saw myself living in Texas. Our summers rarely get above the high 80s and I was really scared of the heat! When my husband was offered a great job in Austin in 2007, I was sure I was going to hate it here and we’d be moving back right away. I’m so glad we came though. We both fell in love with the friendly people, delicious food and, yes, even the warm weather. Summers are still rough, but I’m not going to lie. I like seeing the sun between September and June.
I have degrees in journalism and education and spent nearly ten years as a classroom teacher until my oldest was born in 2010. Since then, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. (We now have three kids ranging in age from 2.5 to almost 11.) Since 2016, I’ve been pursuing my dream of becoming a picture book writer.
My first book SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA released in August 2020 to critical acclaim. (It earned a coveted Kirkus star and was selected as one of their top picture books of the year.) My latest picture book, THE STARS BECKONED: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space just released in April. It is the only picture book biography of Edward White, the first American to walk in space (and also the first Texan in space). Publishers Weekly has called it “an introduction to a space pioneer that’s ideal for the youngest nonfiction readers.”
How long have you been in Dripping Springs and what do you love about living here?
We’ve been in Dripping Springs since 2013. Originally we moved here from South Austin to get a little more space and now it’s hard to imagine ever going back. We love having more room to roam and the quiet and dark skies of night.
What made you decide to write your first children’s book?
As a teacher and then mom, I’ve spent decades reading children’s literature. I love the art form. Done well, a picture book can pack a powerful message that appeals to readers of all ages. I wanted to write one for years, but didn’t get serious about it until 2016. I started by taking some classes at The Writing Barn–a South Austin haven for writers of all genres. I met a network of writing friends and mentors, found an agent and wrote, wrote, wrote.
What was the inspiration for becoming an author?
I love words, telling stories and books. Being a children’s author always felt like a bit of a fantasy job though. Kind of like becoming an Olympian or rock star. I was at a Camp Gladiator class and was paired with a neighbor who I didn’t know very well. We started talking and she revealed that she was a children’s author. She told me a bit about her journey and I decided then and there that I was going to take the leap and pursue my dream as well. It was a lot of hard work, but I’m glad I went for it.
My first book, SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA, was inspired by own grandmothers. They both died within a two month window while I was pregnant with my oldest child. I was super close to both of them and wanted to keep their memories alive with my own children who would never meet them. In the book, George is a boy who loves spending Saturdays with his Grandma Stella. When she dies suddenly, he doesn’t think he’ll ever recover until a new Stella enters his life and gives his Saturdays meanings again.
THE STARS BECKONED was inspired by a discussion I had with some middle school students I was teaching a few years ago. We were discussing the US/Soviet space race and one boy asked which country was the first to have someone space walk. I didn’t know and had to look up the information. Even though Edward White’s space walk came after Soviet Alexei Leonov’s by a couple of months, I was moved by his experience. He so enjoyed the space walk and resisted coming back in the spacecraft. When he finally did come back in, he said, “This is the saddest moment of my life.” I immediately saw the kid appeal of such a story and set to writing it. I learned so much more about Edward along the way (he flew the first supersonic jets and nearly made the Olympics as a hurdler).
Did your kids help you with creating the stories or ideas for your books?
Well, they keep me inspired with their adventures and cute sayings. Plus they give me a great opportunity to read lots and lots of picture books. My two oldest both love to create stories. My daughter keeps pitching a story to work on together and my son would love to be my illustrator some day.
Where can we buy your books?
You can purchase them wherever books are sold. Both are on Amazon and you can order signed copies through BookPeople in Austin. (www.BookPeople.com)
What are your favorite places to go to explore new books?
I love the Texas Book Festival, held in Austin every fall. Last year was virtual, but I’m hoping it will be in person this year. It’s a good opportunity to meet authors and illustrators and talk books with kindred spirits.
We are members of the Dripping Springs Library as well as the Bee Cave library and use both quite a bit. If you are members of any public library, you can get a TexShare card which allows you borrowing privileges at any other library in Texas. We use our TexShare cards to borrow from Austin when we’re looking for something hard to find locally. The new downtown Austin library is stunning and worth a day trip.
And, of course, I love a good independent bookstore. Book People in Austin is my favorite. I recently preordered a picture book for my youngest there. I paid the same price I would have anywhere else and they threw in free coloring sheets, crayons, a unicorn headband and a personalized drawing of my daughter by the book’s illustrator! Wow! You can’t beat that.
If you could spend the perfect day in DS, what would you do?
I’d sleep in late and get in a really good run–maybe in my neighborhood or the Ranch Park. For lunch, my favorite place is Raza’s Taco Truck. My son plays baseball for DSYSA and I love to watch him play so maybe that in the afternoon or if this is a really perfect day a visit to Milk and Honey Spa up at the Galleria. In the evening, I’d love to meet up with some friends at an outdoor brewery. The Shady Llama is one of our favorite places. The kids can come and play and check out all the llamas. I’m not a big drinker, but pre-Covid they used to host a regular trivia night and pub trivia is a bit of a passion.
What secret would you share?
It’s not much of a secret because the line is always crazy, but Drippin’ Doughnuts has amazing chocolate old fashioned doughnuts.
Also, Johnson City is fairly close. Our family loves the top notch Science Mill museum plus they have a pretty cool city park (complete with pool and skate park). Fat Boy Burgers is a fun restaurant right when you get into town. Great burgers, outdoor seating and oftentimes, live music.
Tell us more about your goal to run half marathons in every state…
I think the half marathon is the perfect distance. I did one full marathon and that was good enough for me. A few years ago, we did a huge cross country road trip and I completed five half marathons in five of the states we drove through (including one through Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina). I’ve had another baby since then and then Covid shut everything down. I’m hoping to resume them again soon—maybe this fall if things open up again.
Have you done any in the Hill Country?
My Texas contribution was the Austin Half Marathon back when we first moved here–maybe 2008? My full marathon was in San Antonio. The finish was the Alamodome. You can see it from miles away so it feels close, but of course, it isn’t. Plus the finish line was the very far end of the parking lot. I still wince whenever we drive by it.
What are your favorite places to run in Dripping Springs?
We used to live in Belterra and I miss the trails there the most. I had some really good routes winding through the neighborhoods.
Where can we follow you on social media?
If you are coming to visit Dripping Springs, Texas for a vacation or are in town to house hunt then I would love to help you with suggestions on places to visit or show you some homes to buy! Contact me at 512-569-8480 and I would love to speak with you about your trip or your move into Dripping Springs, Texas!