Who Is Jacki Kellum? and Why?

“I am part of all that I have met.”
– Tennyson –

Many years ago, I read Tennyson’s words about how life’s experiences become the core of who we are, and today, as I continue to celebrate my debut picture book, The Donkey’s Song, I thought that I’d tell you a bit more about who I am.  The Donkey’s Song is illustrated by Sydney Hanson and published by Random House Children’s Books.

I can validate that I truly am a product of the life that I have lived:

  1. I had supportive parents and grandparents who literally did without to see that I had all that I needed.
  2. My dad was a cartoonist, and I grew up surrounded by his cartooning books and by watching him create. I attribute some of my picture book illustrations to my childhood, living with a dad who was a cartoonist.

The Cow Must be Milked – Jacki Kellum Illustration

3. My mother was a writer-at-heart, and some of her magazine articles were published in the 1950s and 1960s. I have definitely been influenced by my mother’s interest in writing.

4. My grandmother was an avid gardener and quilter.

Jacki Kellum Garden August 2015

Jacki Kellum Garden May 2019

I am also an avid gardener, and flowers are among my favorite things to paint.


When I have time, I also like quilting and other types of needlework.

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5. Even though I grew up in a small, rural town, I had the same fabulous English teacher both in the 7th grade and in the 10th grade. She taught me how to write, and she introduced me to William Blake, who was an English Romantic writer and illustrator and whose work, The Songs of Innocence and Experience, focused on the vulnerability of children. That is when I determined that I would both write and paint about childhood and its vulnerabilities.

Boy with Curls – Jacki Kellum Drawing in Red Chalk

Boy with Curls – Jacki Kellum Watercolor Study

5. In graduate school, I studied both English [writing] and art [painting].

6, My earliest training in painting was as an abstract expressionist.

Sunset – Jacki Kellum Abstract

7, In abstract expressionism, I discovered a way to paint with bravura and to paint emotionally–in a painterly way.


8. You still remnants of my training as an abstract expressionist in my brushstrokes, even when my approach is essentially not abstract.

Blue Neck Scarf – Jaci Kellum Mixed Media Painting Created March 2, 2021.

9. Allow me to return to my early childhood for a moment. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church, and I had one of those mothers who made sure that I never missed Sunday School and/or church. While I am probably not a true Southern Baptist now, the stories of the Bible are completely ingrained in my mind. Although I have written several picture books now, the manuscript for my debut picture book A Donkey’s Song is unique in that it literally wrote itself: It is the story of the donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem. I wrote that story from the donkey’s perspective, which I imagined might have been true, but the facts of the nativity remain true to the Bible stories that I heard as a child. Because I knew the nativity story so very well, I had no need to research it, and after I began writing, the words simply tumbled into place. As I said, that picture book manuscript wrote itself because of my childhood, growing up in the Baptist church.

Many years ago, I was offered a great piece of advice: Paint What You Know. I would say that the same thing is true for writing. When you understand and know somethings deeply, you don’t have to think when you create about it. It simply pours itself out.

10. Until the past two years, I have continuously worked several jobs simultaneously, and I have had little time to seriously pursue either my writing or my art, but almost two years ago, I began trying to finish some of my picture book manuscripts and to seek publication for them. In February of 2020, Frances Gilbert, who is the Executive Editor at Doubleday for Young Readers, purchased my debut picture book A Donkey’s Song. That picture book will be published during the fall of 2022. Doubleday for Young Readers is a division of Penguin Random House.


At last, I will be a published author for children. One of my dreams has come true, and again, I can say that it is because I am part of all that I have met.