Julia Keirns poses with her dog, Forest, and her children’s books. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Julia Keirns poses with her dog, Forest, and her children’s books. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – Area resident Julia Keirns has taken her passion for writing and made it into a profitable side business by selling children’s books that she’s written and illustrated. Currently, Keirns has 17 published children’s books targeted at children aged 6-9. Three of her books are also translated into Spanish.

“I’ve been writing for 40 years and I’ve always written,” said Keirns. “It started when the kids were little and I wrote poems. Then I wrote stories, and I submitted them to magazines. I had a college professor a couple of years ago tell me they would make great books.”

Keirns said she had never considered that her stories could be made into books. She noted that her professor helped to change her mindset.

Keirns said the ideas for the stories just come to her.

“I’m a people watcher,” she noted. “A story will just come around when I’m just watching kids play in the yard.”

“When a kid loves the story and enjoys looking at the pictures, that’s the feeling of accomplishment,” she added.

Keirns illustrates her books with photos she’s taken during camping, hiking, and boating trips.

“We take lots of photos,” she explained. “I love nature and getting kids outside and intrigued by nature and animals.”

Keirns said she also loves to encourage children to read more.

Keirns noted that her overall goal is to sell the children’s books full-time. She explained that recently at the Peony Festival, where she had a booth set up, her books were a hit.

“I want to do what I love–write stories for kids; that’s my passion,” she said. “I love writing articles and adult stories too, but writing for kids is my passion and seeing the kids enjoy reading; I like that.”

Keirns said that writing for children isn’t necessarily easier than writing chapter books. She noted that she has to be careful about the words she uses. Often, she tests her stories out on her grandchildren. Haley, Keirns’s granddaughter, is 6 years old and is able to read the books on her own.

“You have to make sure kids understand it and you got to make it quick,” said Keirns who noted that the books also need to be colorful and contain not more than a few sentences per page. She aims for the books to take about five minutes total to read through. “If you’ve got a child sitting on your lap and you’re not flipping the pages fast enough… I can tell that when I’ve got more than three sentences on a page that’s too many depending on the age range.”

Keirns recently wrote two books that will be ready to publish soon. The books will be centered around her dog, Forest. Forest is a one-and-a-half-year-old Cavoodle and is training to become a nationally registered therapy dog so he can enter nursing homes and hospitals. Forest is currently a certified emotional support animal.

“His breed is a Cavoodle and he is just a smart, gentle dog,” she noted. “We began noticing his ability to be around people and let people pet him. The books are going to focus around him and his adventures.”

Keirns had a little advice for aspiring authors.

“Write the stories and keep them,” she said, explaining that she still has regrets about throwing away a story she wrote as a child. “Someday the opportunity will come and you never know.”

“Read more books,” she added. “Read to your children.”

Those interested in purchasing one of Keirns’s books can do so by visiting amazon.com/author/jakeirns. Keirns can also be found at jakeirns.com.