Brynne Barnes grew up in a house full of books and cut her literary teeth on the likes of Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Kahlil Gibran. But it was in the magical, illustrated world of children’s literature that she has found her true calling.
“I was in college working on a project with other students, bringing meaningful literary experiences to kids in Detroit’s inner-city and I started thinking, I want to be a children’s books author,” relates Barnes.
It would be a few years and more than a little self doubt before Barnes would see her dream bound and printed for others to enjoy. And when that happened, she says, “I cried.”
Her first illustrated children’s book, Colors of Me ,was published by Sleeping Bear Press in 2011 and earned her a Friends of America Writers Award for Juvenile Literature. Her second book, Books Do Not Have Wings, was released late last year by Sleeping Bear.
“My professors at Eastern Michigan (where she earned a master’s degree in creative writing) shared their writing journeys with me and told me to hang in there and keep trying,” says Barnes. “And somehow, I started to feel deep down that it was going to happen.”
Before it did, however, Barnes began teaching, starting at Adrian College before joining Macomb’s English faculty five years ago. At Macomb, she teaches college composition, children’s literature and developmental writing and tries to impart to her students the same encouragement she received.
“Some of my students are not fans of writing and I like to be that positive exposure for them and help them find their own voice,” says Barnes. “Because I love writing so much, I love to share that with students.”
And if her students were to read only one book, which one might she recommend?
“The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran,” says Barnes. “I loved it. It was magical, and made me want to make people feel that way with my own writing.”