(Photo Credit: Melissa R. Campbell)

As I look back over the past year, I’m so grateful for the many ways we’ve connected. You attended children’s book classes and programs, celebrated Juneteenth with me, listened to readalouds and got to know NC children’s book creators through posts and webinars. My heart is full from our journey. Thank you for the warm welcome and support. It has been an honor to be Piedmont Laureate and walk in the footsteps of the amazing writers who came before. Get ready for the magic of 2022 Piedmont Laureate Heather Bell Adams!

Much love to the United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council and Orange County Arts Commission for choosing me for this incredible role. What a gift to build bridges through children’s literature. Thank you to all of my children’s book creator friends who participated in programs and spread the word about my work.

We’re blessed to have some of the best children’s book authors and illustrators in our state. Want to learn more about their books, connect or consider booking them for a program? Please visit Writers and Illustrators of North Carolina and the Carolinas Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Want to keep up with me? You can visit my website or connect on Twitter and Instagram @kelstarly.

I’m excited that the NC Humanities Council and the Erik Jones Foundation started a fantastic partnership to salute NC children’s book creators and spread the love of reading. Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom, my easy reader with illustrator Nina Mata, was chosen as the first title. See NASCAR Driver Erik read the book here and learn more about the program here. Stay tuned for more exciting reads.

There have been lots of challenges this year. But so many blessings too. I’m immensely proud of my final project as Piedmont Laureate, the Hope Shines Through writing contest. We asked fourth and fifth graders in Wake, Durham and Orange counties to share a challenge they faced and how they overcame it. With the many demands and stresses on kids today, it means so much that they took the time to open their hearts and share what they’re feeling. Inspiring doesn’t do their beautiful stories justice.

Thank you to children’s book authors Judy Allen Dodson and Frances O’Roark Dowell for helping me judge the entries and to all of the sponsors who made the contest possible and donated prizes.

As we enjoy the holiday season and look forward to the promise of 2022, I’ll close by showcasing excerpts from some of the winning entries:

” . . . I wish I could do a triple turn,” I thought and I walked out of the classroom. I grabbed my bag tightly and left the dance studio. I sunk into my mom’s car feeling bad. She looked at me and asked in a quiet voice, “Are you okay?” I didn’t answer. I rode home in silence.

The next day I was sitting at my desk in school when my teacher said, “this man kept trying until he got it!” She was talking about Thomas Edison but I felt like that she was talking to me. I practiced every day. At recess, during breakfast, after school, in the bathroom. I was determined to get my triple turn. The next week at turns class we got to work. First, singles. Then, doubles. And last, triples. I took a deep breath and pushed everything out of my head except what my school teacher said. I turned. “3…2…1” I counted as I spun. “I just did a triple!” This time, I did not need to pray. Miss Claire walked towards me and put her hand out for a high five. “Amazing work, Lila,” she said.

– Lila

“On Friday, March 13, 2020, my school closed for the Covid-19 pandemic, but that wasn’t the only devastating news I received that month. One week later, I learned my best friend, Blake, was moving to Rhode Island in two months. We’d been neighborhood friends before kindergarten, and when I heard that she was moving away, it felt like my newly isolated world had crumbled.

Blake was a special part of my life and we were suddenly separated by an invisible virus and soon to be hundreds of miles. With masks on, our parents let us play outside one last time. The mask protected us, but it seemed to block our smiles and our ability to tell each other how much we meant to each other. We hugged each other, hoping it wouldn’t be our last.

Over the next year, Blake and I learned to connect virtually online. But my favorite way to share my feelings was by writing letters. Opening her letter felt just like a big hug I needed from my friend . . . ”


“Life is full of challenges that come like unwanted visitors on a stormy day. One of my challenges is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). When I was eight, I was experiencing severe ankle pain. It felt like an elephant was stepping on my ankle. My parents took me to a Foot Doctor. I was told that I had a fractured growth plate. I had frequent check-ins with the doctor but did not get better. I had to get a boot and use crutches. They didn’t work. After nothing worked, frustration added to my challenge. I was referred to a Rheumatologist and diagnosed with JRA.

I was doing gymnastics but had to quit when my ankle got super sore. Activities that involve a lot of movement in the area with arthritis can worsen the swelling and soreness. It was like someone snatched what I loved and replaced it with pain. The Rheumatologist prescribed medicine that had to be taken by injection. It felt like I got poked by a thorn every week. Eventually, the shots became too much for me, so I switched to pills.

I have ankle pain sometimes and check-ins with my doctor, but I’d still say I’ve overcome. I’m in remission. I had to stop gymnastics but started Taekwondo. I didn’t think I would like Taekwondo, but I tried it and loved it! I recently earned my purple belt. I have learned that challenges may be unwanted, but they make you stronger, more courageous and can open new doors.”

– Alivia

Here’s to peace, love, big dreams and rainbows after storms.

Wishing you blessings,