Indy Style

Local Indiana children’s book author on shortlist for award

She’s a children’s book author with Broad Ripple roots, and now she’s up for an Indiana Author Award!

Joining us to share more are Keira Amstutz, President and CEO, Indiana Humanities, and Gabrielle Balkan, Author, “Book of Flight.”

About Gabrielle:

Gabrielle Balkan is best known for non-fiction books that delight readers ages 5-12 with curious and essential facts about the United States and animal record-breakers. Reviewers have called her books “playful”, “thought-provoking”, “rib-tickling”, “engaging”, and “splendid.” Recommended by the National Council for the Social Studies-Children’s Book Council and International Literacy Association, Gabrielle’s books include The 50 States, 50 CitiesBook of BonesBook of Flight, and, coming in September, Whose Bones? An Animal Guessing Game. She grew up across from the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis with oodles of cats, a handful of dogs, and teacher parents. Visit her online at and chat with her on social media at @gabriellebalkan. 

  • The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards honor the best books written by Indiana authors.
  • The awards introduce more readers to Indiana authors and the incredible works of literature they create.
  • We’re in the process of announcing the 2020 shortlist of books in seven categories. We’ve already announced the shortlists for children’s, young adult, poetry, genre and emerging. The fiction and nonfiction shortlists will be announced on our social media over the weekend. Then, on Sept. 1, we’ll announce the winner of each category.
  • In putting together these shortlists, our judges have created a collection of books that show the world that Indiana’s literary scene is vibrant, varied and exciting. I’m confident that every Hoosier and every book club in Indiana can find a number of books on these lists that they will enjoy reading and discussing.
  • The shortlists are part of the new format for the awards, designed by Indiana Humanities with support from Glick Philanthropies. Awards are now made every other year. In between award years, starting in 2021, local honorees will have the opportunity to participate in a statewide tour to connect with readers, teachers and students.
  • Nominated authors must have significant connections to Indiana or have lived in Indiana for at least five years.
  • Gabrielle Balkan is author of one of the eight books shortlisted in the children’s category.
  • If you want to buy a book, check out where there’s an Indiana Authors Awards page. You can pick your local bookstore to buy from or have proceeds distributed to local independent book stores.

Here’s more from Gabrielle and her background:

  • When and how did you become interested in writing?

The first time I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment around something I had written happened in sixth grade. I wrote a story about an elephant who was hiding from a bath at a circus. I thought myself very clever–an elephant! hiding! at the circus! 

I took writing more seriously when I studied with Barbara Shoup (recipient of the 2012 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Regional Indiana Author Award) at Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis. 

From there, my interest grew and grew, though I never imagined it would grow beyond something for my personal enjoyment.  

  • Who inspired you?

I find people in general so inspiring, but I have to give a shout out to the OG: my mom, Mary Nicolini. For so many reasons she holds a pretty significant place in my life as a writer. She’s a writer, she’s a reader, and she’s a teacher. She’s even been my teacher.

My sophomore year in high school I had my mom as my English teacher. She always had the greatest writing prompts. One day, she brought in a 10-lb bag of russet potatoes and passed one to each 15 year old. We had to write a series of critical and creative passages using this…potato as a prompt. My favorite was “Argue For or Against….the potato.” The result was very hilarious, very joyous, and really allowed the students to loosen up and stretch their creativity. It made a big impression on me.

  • What are some favorite childhood reading or writing memories?

here are so many! I read a LOT. My dad would beg me to put my book away while we walked on the street. I grew up in a house full of books and loved to sit on the floor looking at book covers. The cover of The Last Unicorn both terrified and captivated me.

One of my go-to games as a seven-year-old was “library.” I’d set up a check-out station and let my stuffies pick-out books to take home. My mom loves to share the story of me as a 4th grader, reading Where the Red Fern Grows byWIlson Rawls for the first (of many) times. She heard me sniffling in the back seat of the car, where I was making my way through a particularly dramatic part of the story. After she asked what was up, I wailed, “Why did you let me read this? It’s so good!” 

  • Why write children’s books as opposed to another genre?

While I was growing up, I planned on becoming a 4th or 5th grade teacher. Most of the people in my family teach and we are always running into their “kids”—full-grown adults who fling themselves into my mom’s arms, reeling off some of their favorite memories of her as their high school teacher. I’ve never quite had the guts to commit to a full-time teaching position, but I LOVE being in the classroom, I love hearing what kids think about what they are reading. Writing for children allows me to connect with kids…but isn’t as difficult as teaching!

To learn more, visit: 

Social Media at @gabriellebalkan