Naomi Kinsman, the church-going child of two pastors, dreamed of being a writer. “Being able to slip away into the words of another world was magical to me,” she says. She just never imagined she’d write about faith. Her new book, Brilliant Hues, the fourth novel in the Christian middle-grade series, From Sadie’s Sketchbook (Zonderkidz), will be published in September.
Her progression from aspiring writer to published author, like her faith, involved challenges and changes. Her book Spilled Ink (Chimney Sweep Farms, 2008) won the 2009 Moonbeam Gold Medal for Educational/Activity book. When she started Shades of Truth (2011), the first novel in the Sketchbook series, faith was not the sole focus of the story. “I knew it was a coming of age story of a young girl trying to figure out what she believed about the world,” Kinsman says. “To me if a young person is asking, ‘Is this right or wrong?’ it’s not a very far leap to ask, ‘Is God real?’
Although she wanted her character to explore those questions, they made Kinsman, who is Christian, uncomfortable. “It was terrifying for me to write about faith,” she says. “I was taught that there was an essential right and wrong. Things were true or not true. To say out loud, to say what my questions are, was scary.” She chose to do the scary thing. Twelve-year-old Sadie Douglas, the series’ main character, finds her new faith challenged as she copes with cross-country moves, her mother’s illness, and, in the new book, changing friendships and threats to her safety. “For me,” Kinsman says, “faith has become a journey, as opposed to a set of answers.”
Kinsman grew up attending her parents’ Foursquare church in Oregon. In second grade, she won a writing contest; her prize was meeting writers who treated her stories seriously. “That shaped who I became,” she says. Kinsman studied theater at Seattle Pacific University and has written and directed more than 50 plays for young adults. She earned an MFA in YA writing from Hamline University and self-published her first book, Luconeth, a middle-grade fantasy, in 2003. That experience helped her appreciate working with a traditional publisher, but it also inspired her. “Seeing my book clutched in readers' hands motivated me through the long process of learning my craft and still motivates me,” she says.
Kinsman, who lives in San Jose with her husband, also works with the San Francisco South chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as an assistant regional adviser.
When she’s not writing, she nurtures aspiring young authors through her creative writing club, the Society of Young Inklings. Like her character Sadie, she also enjoys drawing. Writing and drawing both require perspective shifts, she says. “You slow down, see more nuances, and see other points of view.”