Interview Questions Part 2

Hello friends. Super excited to say that I had a call with a literary agent last week! I can’t reveal anything at the moment (I know, I know, I hate to be a tease, but you’ll get no spoilers from me…) so WATCH THIS SPACE for an exciting announcement soon!

Back to the point of this post…Stop Two on the BLOG TOUR!

I chatted with the ever personable and super nice Vivian Kirkfield on her blog. You can read the actual interview here. She asked questions that were more personal and less about Listening to the Stars, so I’ve copied my answers here:

Vivian: Welcome, Jodie! I’m so glad you stopped by for a visit. Congratulations on THREE books out this year! I know everyone is excited to learn more about you, so let’s get started.

Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child? 

HI Vivian, Thanks for chatting with me! I had a zillion favorites as a kid, many of which were obscure books of the 70s. Sit back, relax, and take in what could have been a HUGE list (but I’ll spare you):

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business written and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina. Still one of the most fun read-alouds that I know.

There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent. Starring the absolute cutest pet of all time.

Corduroy / A Pocket for Corduroy by Dan Freeman. Talk about emotions, I had all the feels reading this. 

Just for You by Mercer Mayer. This Little Creature (porcupine? hamster?) made my day with all his (her?) mistakes and mishaps.

But my mostest favoritest, read-under-the-covers-until-mom-yells-at-me-to-put-the-flashlight-away books of childhood were Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. I memorized his poems, copied them, made them into “performance art” to my parents’ chagrin, and when I was old enough (9 or 10, double digits!), wrote and illustrated my own and sent them to Shel (I felt I could be on a first name basis with him) for him to “include” in his next book. Sadly, he didn’t comply. 

Now that I have kids of my own, I find it fascinating to be raising them in Britain, where none of these books are known/loved. Happily, it has allowed me to learn about a whole host of British classics that I never knew, such as Zagazoo by Quentin Blake and The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing? 

Take your time. Like many wannabe writers, I rushed into sending out my work too early to agents/publishers on the hunt for that illusive acceptance. First drafts are never brilliant (very few of us are (evil) geniuses that way), so take a step back and recognize that writing is a process that evolves over time. Critique partners can really help you see your work more clearly (and point out your weaknesses, which sounds awful, but be open to it and the results may surprise you.) 

Getting published isn’t always the validation that many people are seeking. Sure, there are some cheery moments, but mostly writers just “crack on” and get back to work. As Anne Lamott puts it in the wonderful Bird by Bird (still one of my favorite books on the craft): 

“the odds of … getting published and of it bringing … financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. …[W]rite anyway.”

Anne Lamott

 Good advice, in my mind.

Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper? 

I don’t have a writing room or office but I feel most comfortable writing in bed, anyway (which annoys my husband to no end. But he’s also my muse, so he tolerates it for the sake of “Art.”  

Like many writers, ideas strike everywhere, and I’ve had to learn to write in short bursts—fitting it in between the rest of life (including homeschooling during the extensive lockdowns we’ve had in England.)

This past year I wrote most of my nonfiction books sitting in the car during my daughter’s soccer practice (parents weren’t allowed to congregate near the field). I tend to have great ideas in the shower, too, so I often have soggy first drafts. 

When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes? 

I envy those writers who have schedules (from the 5 am writers’ clubs to those who keep their butt in chairs until they have 1,000 words on the page).  Maybe someday I’ll make a structure I can stick to, but that doesn’t fit my life right now. Even so, I continually remind myself that I AM a real writer, even if I’m just jotting ideas or scribbling notes. Every finished draft is a super-mega-WIN in my book, and one to be celebrated (even if it’s rubbish). 

STARRED REVIEW! “As gorgeous as it is informative.”―Kirkus Reviews starred review

Why do you write for children? 

Your question reminds me of a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke: “Go into yourself,” Rilke suggests in Letters to a Young Poet. “Find out the reason that commands you to write; [and] see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart.” 

Formerly, I had a love/hate relationship with writing, having written everything from essays to plays to short stories to poetry. Taking Rilke’s suggestion, I think the “reason that commands” me to write is a primal need to express myself, but I always felt compelled to do so in an angst-ridden, soul-plumbing, adult-y way. 

When I began writing for children I found that the love/hate dichotomy disappeared and it became pure joy. And who doesn’t want more pure joy in their life?

I’m also fascinated about the idea of being “in the zone.” Artists, athletes, musicians all aim for that moment when the dopamine or serotonin kicks in and the world around you disappears. In a sense, I’m always striving for that feeling of calm transcendence that for me comes from being creative, and I tend to get that feeling a lot when I’m writing for kids. 

Having said all that, I also think writing for kids is like giving them the most wonderful gift in the world. Sharing a book with a child—and watching their eyes light up, their senses heightened, their focus concentrated, and their creative mind sparked—has to be one of my highlights of parenthood. So, by extension, I’m hoping that other families and teachers get to experience more of this through my writing. 

That’s it! Now you hopefully know a bit more about me. Happy writing everyone!

(And of course don’t forget, Listening to the Stars is available NOW!)

STARRED REVIEW! “An inspiring picture book biography of an inquisitive girl who became a world-renowned scientist, told in accessible language.”―School Library Journal starred review

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