About Kelly Cunnane ~ Author and Educator

Kelly Cunnane

During my teaching and travels, I've explored the Caribbean, Europe, South America, and China, but nowhere calls me like the continent of Africa.

I've been exploring and writing about East Africa since 1979, teaching in the Secondary School of a Kalenjin village, 9000 feet high on the Great Rift Valley. I have an MA in English with emphasis on Creative Nonfiction - which I published for many years in various anthologies and magazines, all the while teaching K-8 art and culture, English at the high school and university, and writing in the community.

Readers and picture books for children have become a wonderful way for me to share my lifelong love of Africa. I have tremendous faith in the power of the arts to create bridges between cultures and within ourselves, thus I use drama, drawing, and writing to bring alive the world of the Kalenjin tribe and the Sahara as I've experienced them. The arts motivate and make learning alive and joyful for me; cultural workshops are hands-on and interactive as together we examine pieces from Africa and engage in discovery.

The workshops involve a sense of place, a taste of language, global issues, collaboration and self-reflection. I have a special fondness for rural places, both far and near, and the cultural workshops are a way to begin meaningful connections between isolated places.


Parent: four children

MA: English/Creative Nonfiction

TESL/TEFTL Certified

Author: 30 years (Down East, Christian Science Monitor, various anthologies, children's picture books with Simon & Schuster, Random House, and Heinemann International)


  • TEFL in Kenya, Colombia, China, Mauritania, W. Africa, Belgium, and Czech Republic
  • K-8 Art & Culture program Beals Elementary School, 10 yrs.
  • Adult and Community Education, 15 yrs.
  • Writing Facilitator, 18 yrs. 
  • University of Maine at Machias: English, Writing, Children's Literature, and Creative Nonfiction,  7 yrs.  UMM Young Authors Presenter, 3 years
  • Initiated established Beals Elementary School PTO, Library, and Art program


  • ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book (for Chirchir is Singing)
  • Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year 2012 (for Chirchir is Singing)
  • The Maine Lupine Award: Most Outstanding Children's Picture Book writing
  • The Ezra Jack Keats Award: Outstanding Children's Picture Book writing: award given for "a story that exemplifies the universal world of family, community, and the child"
  • The New York Library List of 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
  • The PEN New England North Award for New Authors in Creative Nonfiction
  • Women in the Media First Place Creative Nonfiction: Personal Essay
  • UMI Distinguished Master's Thesis Award (Midwestern Association of Graduate Sachools) with illustrated publication Come Out on the Daylight

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Read an article about Kelly
in the Down East Coastal Press.

Ilustration from the book Deep in the Sahara

Artwork for Deep in the Sahara
by illustrator Hoda Hadadi.

"Roosters crow, and you wake one morning in the green hills of Africa,
sun lemon bright over eucalyptus trees full of doves..."

Kelly Cunnane's Creative Cultural Workshops for Kids & Communities ~ www.kellycunnaneauthor.com

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