Today for "Faculty Spotlight” we’re sitting down with Brynne Barnes, an English Professor who was invited to the March is Reading Month Michigan Children’s Author Recognition at the Michigan State Capitol.
Schoolcraft College: Hello, Professor Barnes! To start out, could you please tell us your position at Schoolcraft College, how long you have been with us and what classes you teach?
Brynne Barnes: I have been teaching college-level English courses for 12 years now, and I have taught in the English Department at Schoolcraft College since 2014. Courses that I teach include ENG 050, ENG 055, ENG 101, ENG 102 and ENG 203.
SC: You have written two books for younger readers: “Books Do Not Have Wings” and “Colors Of Me.” Could you please tell us about those books and how you got into writing them?
Brynne Barnes: “Colors Of Me” is my first book, and it is a celebration of living in a diverse world. “Books Do Not Have Wings” is my second title, and it’s my love letter to the joy of reading. I discovered Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni when I was 9 or 10, and that sparked my love of poetry. After that, I found Frost, Shakespeare, Gibran and Neruda. I loved the way that poetry made me feel, and I started writing because I wanted to give other people that same feeling.
What made me gravitate toward writing picture books is a service project that I did as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. Through The Detroit Project, I volunteered to help create after-school programs for elementary school children who lacked creative writing in their curriculum. As a result, the other volunteers and I wrote stories for the students and helped them write their own stories to fill their classroom library shelves. We even got them printed and bound. That experience stayed with me, and that’s what made me want to become a children’s author.
SC: “Books Do Not Have Wings” recently was translated into Polish. Please tell us about the significance of this translation.
Brynne Barnes: This translation was especially significant for me because not only is this my first translation, but the publisher, Amber Publishing, is the first private publishing house in Poland. After the democratic transformations that took place in 1989, Amber Publishing became a force in the modern publishing movement in order to make up for all of the books that were previously banned in Poland. This was a major push to introduce reading to mass culture, and make the literature that the whole world reads available in Poland, too. I feel so proud that “Books Do Not Have Wings” is a part of that. In 2020, “Books Do Not Have Wings” was also translated into Russian, as well. It’s so exciting to see children across the globe reading and enjoying this story.
SC: You earned a Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology and Cognitive Science from the University of Michigan. Could you please explain what those studies entail?
Brynne Barnes: Yes. Biopsychology and Cognitive Science is a field that focuses on the science behind psychological theories; it’s a field that focuses on neuroscience, and this piqued my interest because I was pre-medicine, also, and pursuing in a career in neurology at the time. I still have a great appreciation of this field, but my heart is with writing and teaching.
SC: What do you like best about teaching at Schoolcraft College?
Brynne Barnes: I love that Schoolcraft College feels like a family. It’s like another home for me. The students and faculty make Schoolcraft such a wonderful place to work.
SC: Thank you, Professor Barnes. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Brynne Barnes: Yes! I’d like to add that my third and fourth picture books are currently under contract with Chronicle Books and are slated for release in 2023 and 2025. Just prior to Easter weekend, my agent just sold my fifth picture book to Simon & Schuster (Penguin/Random House), slated for release in the summer of 2023. I’m currently working on my sixth book — a middle grade novel for Macmillan.