Check This Out: 45 Pounds

With me on the blog today is the fabulous Kelly Barson, whose young adult novel, 45 Pounds (More or Less), debuts today, people! Exciting times! And yes, if you’re curious, I know Kelly from VCFA!


Kelly is represented by Sara Crowe at Harvey Kilinger, Inc. Her publisher is Viking/Penguin.

Here is a synopsis of 45 Pounds (More or Less):

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks and wants Ann to be the bridesmaid.

So Ann makes up her mind:
Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less)
in two and a half months. 

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, endless wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—and some surprises about her not-so-perfect mother. 

And don’t forget the last part of the equation: It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin—no matter how you add it up!

To celebrate, I’m giving away one copy to a random commenter. More on that later. Let’s talk to Kelly right now!


El Space: Happy Release Day! Please share four quick facts about yourself.
Kelly: I have four dogs and four kids. I love bright colors. I’ve lived in Jackson my whole life—Jackson, Michigan for most of it, except for sixth and part of seventh grade, when I lived in Jackson, Mississippi. I’m both introverted and extraverted, in equal parts.

El Space: When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
Kelly: I don’t remember ever not wanting to write, but I decided to commit to it seriously in 2004, when I was 34. Before that, I thought it was a pie-in-the-sky kind of dream, like being a pro basketball player or an astronaut. It wasn’t until I’d met several other author/friends that I realized that not everyone is Judy Blume or J. K. Rowling, but lots of people are writers, and I could be, too.

El Space: Which authors inspire you? Why?
Kelly: Authors like Rita Williams-Garcia and Cynthia Leitich Smith inspire me because even though they’re accomplished and talented and extremely busy, they always make time to encourage other writers. Children’s lit writers, overall, are a lot more encouraging to their peers than other professions. We focus on camaraderie, rather than competition. I like that. That’s the kind of author I want to be.


El Space: What inspired you to write this book? Were the conflicting messages in the media about beauty a help or a hindrance?
Kelly: Both the media and prevailing perceptions of people made it hard. I think overall people are against discrimination on any level, yet when it comes to obesity, there are a lot of misconceptions. I wanted to show that overweight people aren’t lazy or unaware, and that they do care about their health. I wanted to show that the issue isn’t as simple as going on a diet, losing weight, and becoming happy.

El Space: What strengths do you have in common with Ann? How is she different from you?
Kelly: I’m like Ann because when I decide to do something, I commit wholeheartedly. She and I also share the tendency to procrastinate. Our family lives are different, though. My parents never divorced, so I’ve never had step-parents or step-siblings. I did have a kooky grandma, though, who called people “fat ass,” but just like Gram, she wasn’t mean-spirited about it.

El Space: What would you say to teen you if you could?
Kelly: I would tell teen Kelly to lighten up. I took everything too seriously and worried too much what people thought—more like, what I thought they thought. I wish I could invent a magical mirror that showed teen girls how people really see them. Maybe then they could appreciate all they have going for them. Most every teen girl I’ve ever met is prettier than she realizes.

El Space: Ann’s goal is to lose weight for a wedding. Why do you think weddings are such a catalyst for change for those attending (other than the bride and groom)?
Kelly: It’s a tangible goal. A ticking clock is more likely to motivate than a vague idea of “someday.” Besides, wedding pictures last forever, sometimes longer than the marriages themselves, unfortunately. Everyone wants to look their best in them.

El Space: You’re married, but have you ever been a bridesmaid? If so, what was the most fun aspect of that experience?
Kelly: I was a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding, about a year after my wedding. We picked out floral dresses that I imagined I could wear again someday. Don’t we say that a lot? Who ever really wears them again, aside from maybe Halloween? I loved that we also bought the matching hats. I loved that hat. Why, I don’t know. I’ve never worn it since.

El Space: I haven’t worn any of mine either! So, what are you working on now?
Kelly: I’m working on another YA contemporary, again for Viking (Penguin). It’s about a high school cosmetology student who thinks she has her whole life planned and under control, until everything falls apart.

El Space: Cool! What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Kelly: If you find that subbing to agents and editors isn’t going where you’d like it to, take a break from submitting to really work on craft. Go to workshops. The Highlights Foundation has great ones. There are many others, too. Read tons and tons of great books and not just in your genre. Study them. What makes them great? Never give up writing, and never give up submitting totally. Be bold. You go from unpublished to published in a moment, and you never know when that moment will be.

Thanks, Kelly, for being such an awesome guest today!

Thanks to all who stopped by. You can find Kelly at her website or on Twitter. Also, you can get 45 Pounds (More or Less) here:
Barnes and Noble
Powell’s Books
Anderson’s Bookshop

If you order from Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan, you can get it autographed or, for one week only, personalized. For autographed or personalized autograph, please specify in the comments section at checkout.

One of YOU will get a free copy simply by commenting below! This offer is good TODAY only. The drawing is NOT limited to the U.S. Winner to be announced on Sunday.

Author photo by by Hal Folk. Book covers other than 45 Pounds are from Goodreads.

43 thoughts on “Check This Out: 45 Pounds

  1. Congrats on the launch, Kelly! It’s great to see someone tackling these sorts of issues; I hate the stereotypes the media present. Even when they appear to be actually doing a good job of it on the surface, it’s often still problematic when you actually look closer. From what you say in the interview, though, sounds like you’ve done a good job of presenting a realistic attitude in your book.

  2. I agree with Kelly’s comments on teens. They are (we were) a self-conscious, low on self esteem, unconfident lot, struggling under peer pressure to fit in to what is demed ‘cool’. Or maybe that was just me! Either way, we can look back from the safe vantage point of middle age and see how ridiculous it was, then relive it again through the struggles of our teenage kids. Oh to be fourteen again, with a forty year old head. Best wishes, Frankenstein.

    • While I miss some aspects of being a teen, there are some that I don’t miss–like all of the angst. In the pre-frontal lobe days, I did some pretty stupid things. Come to think of it, life isn’t all that different now. Sigh.

    • My grandpa used to say that you can’t put an old head on young shoulders. Unfortunately, some of us don’t outgrow the self-esteem issues we deal with as teens. Some of them stick with us. May we all grow to love ourselves…

  3. This book sounds fantastic! Sometimes I wonder how we all survived being teenagers, with the insecurities, the uncertainties and everything we’re trying to figure out about the adult world and what’s expected of us. I hope I get a chance to read this book soon. Sounds entertaining, and maybe even challenging.

    (Love the wedding questions, BTW. My bridesmaids wore black cocktail dresses so they could wear them again, but I don’t know how that worked out. I do know that I’ve never re-worn the beautiful pink number I got the one time I was a bridesmaid! Maybe if I could get it dyed black?)

    • I had a floral print dress that was halfway decent. Never wore it again though. The other two were a little hideous. A black cocktail-length dress sounds fab, Kate.

      • I think dresses today are more easily worn again, but the 80s? The 80s were a whole different story!

  4. Ya, yay, yay, Kelly! I preordered your book months ago and can’t wait to read it!!

  5. I can’t wait to read this book! Enjoy your book birthday, and I know it will be the beginning of many more. I loved what you said about Rita and Cyn being so encouraging to other writers, and I want everybody reading this to know that when I started at VCFA, YOU were the person who really “got” my story in workshop and encouraged me to push forward with it.

  6. Add me to the crowd clamoring to read the whole book. I’m so glad there’s a book with this perspective. It’s shocking, amidst our “obesity epidemic” that nobody has offered a more balanced look, or really an examination of what this does to young girls. Now that I have a daughter, I’ve become even more aware of the world around us and all I want is for her to read things that say, “Be healthy, be happy.”

    • Shelby, this book is awesome and should be pubbed to the max. When I think about Violet (though she’s so young) and my nieces, I definitely want them to love the people they are, rather than who society says they should be.

      • Kids pick up on this stuff so early on. They are so smart and observant. We’re the dumb ones if we think we can act and speak one way, but our kids to believe something else. Unfortunately, even if the kids have wonderful parents who care–like Shelby–the kids get messages from other places. I’m so glad there are so many people who care about the conversation.

  7. Ah the teen girl magical mirror, could someone hurry and invent that? I think as women, we get older and look back at pictures of ourselves, we can see it so easily. It’s a lot harder to process when you’re a teen.
    Everyone becomes beautiful when they are doing exactly what makes them happy, they glow.
    Can’t wait for my copy to arrive. 🙂

    • “Everyone becomes beautiful when they are doing exactly what makes them happy, they glow.” Great quote, Nicole!!! So true!

      • Everyone is beautiful because of their differences too. Beauty is not a one-size-fits-all thing. And by that, I’m not just talking about size, but everything.

        You’re so right, Nicole. When I’m in a room with someone who is happy, that’s all I see. It’s gorgeous! It’s a whole person. When girls are being self-conscious they’re picking apart tiny details about themselves that really get lost when someone is looking at the whole person.

  8. This – and a number of other VCFA recent releases – is at the top of my TBR pile! Very nice interview, and, Kelly, a fabulous premise.

  9. What a fabulous, inspiring interview! Kelly, you ARE just like Rita and Cynthia, and this interview proves it. So encouraging, so positive. Thank you.

    • Good point, Sandra! I can’t help recalling the helpful advice Kelly gave us when we were students. It’s so cool to see her book launched.

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