BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
When Marybeth Kelsey opened Moon Stones in March 2001, she posted the first dollar she made, for luck. It worked. More than a decade later, the small boutique and its huge selection of stones and jewelry is still nestled in the same building as Laughing Planet Café at East Kirkwood and Grant Street. Yet few people know about the other hat that Kelsey wears—that of children’s book author.
The native of Arcadia, Indiana, had been living in the Washington, D.C. area for eight years, working as a writer for the banking industry, when she decided to come back to Bloomington in 1988.
“I loved my time at IU, and this is where I wanted to be,” says Kelsey, who graduated from IU’s theater program in 1970. Initially she wrote for an education-software company but became self-employed when she was pregnant with the youngest of her three sons in 1992.
“My interest in stones was really growing. First I had a kiosk, then a store in the mall, called Wild Things,” she says. “Eventually, the mall became too expensive. I found this space as a total fluke when I was walking my dog. It was pure serendipity.”
Kelsey had always been a wordsmith and had long toyed with the idea of writing a children’s book. She got to work on it seriously in 2006, and two years later Tracking Daddy Down was published by HarperCollins Children’s Books. Intended for readers ages 8 through 12, the novel is set in Indiana and features an 11-year-old female protagonist searching for her biological father, who is a bank robber. The New York Public Library listed the book as one of the 100 best children’s books for 2008, and it also received a starred review from School Library Journal. Kelsey’s second young-reader book, A Recipe 4 Robbery, a humorous mystery set in Florida, was published under Harper-Collins’ Greenwillow Books imprint in 2009.
Kelsey is currently working on a fantasy book, but it has been slow going.
“I used to get up to write at 5 am, but lately it’s been scattered. I’m excited when I can get in the groove,” she says. “I used to write at the store sometimes, but not anymore. When I’m there I just prefer to interact with the customers. It’s a nice relaxed atmosphere.”