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November 2021

Kelley Donner is wearing a white blouse and suit jacket. She smiles for the camera against a neutral background.

Kelley Donner

MA Illustration and Book Arts 2020

1. Tell us about yourself

Originally from Kansas in the US, I have spent half of my life living in Europe. In 2018, after a move from Germany to England, I took a break from teaching to illustrate a children’s book that I had written. Although the book was not successful in itself, it taught me about the industry and pushed me to continue as I loved the process of writing and illustrating.

I decided to do more research, immerse myself in my field, and get a Masters degree in Illustration and Book Arts. Now, three years later, I have sold almost 10,000 copies of 6 children’s books that I self-published. My children’s book The Day the Lines Changed, which was featured in the Washington Post as one of the top ten children’s books about the pandemic, and my latest book School is More Than a Building, is being used in schools across the globe.

I love taking an idea and turning it into a book. Although publishing is not an easy profession, it is really rewarding seeing other people enjoy something that you have created.

2. What is your fondest memory of Anglia Ruskin University?

Honestly, what I loved most about Anglia Ruskin was the conversations with my peers and with the professors. It was wonderful being around such creative people.

3. What has been your favourite job?

I have had many jobs from management to teaching piano. Nevertheless, my favourite job has been self-publishing my own children’s books. I love the process of creating a book from start to finish.

4. In one word, how would you describe Anglia Ruskin University?


5. How did your time at ARU help you?

My professors were really knowledgeable in their field, and helped push me to think outside the box and go outside of my comfort zone. It’s important to try things and see where your creativity can take you.

6. What did you love about your chosen course?

I really enjoyed being part of a small group; we all knew each other and could work together.

7. What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?

Any experience is good experience, even if it is not in your chosen field. You will have more possibilities in the workforce if you remain flexible and open to new things.

8. What do you know now that you wish you had known whilst studying?

That there would be a pandemic.

9. Who was the biggest influence on your career?

My children. They inspire me every day.

10. What advice would you give your younger self?

If you really want to do something, always find a way to make it happen.

11. Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

I grew up on a farm.

12. What’s next?

My family and I have just moved back to Germany so I am quite busy at the moment. Nevertheless, I would like to find a publisher for a book called Seeing Empathy, which I wrote originally for my Masters project about how the way we see the world affects our ability to react with compassion. It isn’t a children’s book but it is a very fascinating topic!