Arlo and Vida Kelly with Echo, Arlo’s first professionally published novel.
The beauty of writing is that all you need is pen and paper – and a little passion, 15-year-old Arlo Kelly has discovered.
Supported by parents who work as artists and designers, teenager Kāpiti Arlo has published his first novel Echo, inspired by his adventurous vacation in the small town of Gisborne.
“I decided to write this book because I’ve always loved writing,” Arlo said.
“It’s something I can do whenever I want as long as I have something to write about.”
With a notebook in hand from a young age, Arlo has always enjoyed writing, from non-fiction weather books to adventure stories.
Spurred on by his parents who published his books for him, first stapled together, then as they grew up, sewn together on the sewing machine, this is Arlo’s first professionally published novel. .
While the support of her parents was tremendous, it was also the encouragement of her teachers, who also played a big role in inspiring her love of writing.
“His sixth-grade teacher, Steve Aiken, would start each day off by having the students write for about half an hour,” Arlo’s mother, Vida Kelly, said.
By encouraging them to find a comfortable spot anywhere in the classroom, they could write about anything they wanted with just “Mr A”, themselves and whoever they wanted to see.
“Nothing was marked, it was purely for themselves, and it had such a positive impact on the students in so many ways.
“I think that helped cement Arlo’s passion for storytelling.”
Echo is about Eric, a visually impaired young boy who struggles for his independence from his parents as he grows up.
Set on the east coast of New Zealand, the book is inspired by Arlo’s summer vacation at Makorori Beach.
“My vacation at Makorori Beach where my dad grew up is some of the best times of my life,” Arlo said.
“It’s a beautiful area with an expansive beach and a reef full of interesting marine life.
“All of my personal adventures in the area, such as kayaking, reefs, long beach walks, and more, helped me a lot with the descriptive storyline.”
While walking along the beach while on vacation with his sister, Arlo had an idea.
“I thought and wondered what kind of sea life was out there, maybe animals like dolphins, sharks, turtles or even whales.
“The idea came to me in seconds and it was almost like a flood of images and scenes that circled me.
“I ran as fast as I could to get back to the vacation house, grabbed my laptop and started typing everything I could to remember this idea.”
Five months later, Arlo completed the first draft of the book, followed by another six months of editing and perfecting.
“The book took me about five to six months to write, then at least another six months to edit and perfect.
“Probably the hardest part of the process was the editing stage.
“While it’s great to have a book finally finished, it was a long experience to make it what it is today.”
Arlo’s mother, Vida, is an experienced book illustrator and designer who illustrated and designed the cover and inside pages for him.
“Arlo’s dad and I had said for a while that if Arlo wrote a book he was happy with, we’d love to help him get it published,” Vida said.
“It was great to be able to use my skills as a children’s book designer to help Arlo realize his dream of having a book published, and it was a great experience for me too, as he was a very grateful customer. “
Vida regularly showed Arlo her drafts of the cover, with Arlo providing feedback along the way.
“I wanted the illustration and design to reflect what he had envisioned for the book.
“It was a different experience working for other publishers in that we only had ourselves to please, rather than a whole team of people – it was a much more personal project.”
Arlo said: “Having my mother’s support throughout this journey of a lifetime has been better than I could ever describe.
“She did so many things for me to help me get to where I am today and I could never have done it without her.
“It was truly an amazing journey that is definitely not over yet.”
The book was financed by Arlo himself, who collected the money from the sale of previous books and prints of his works at the Kāpiti Arts Trail.
It will be available from late May at Books & Co, Ōtaki, Paperplus and Moby Dickens in Paraparaumu, and Good Books, The Children’s Book Shop and Unity in Wellington.
You can also purchase a copy by emailing Vida at email@example.com.