When did you decide to become an author?

I didn’t plan on being an author. It wasn’t until after my son was born and we started reading picture books that I was inspired to write one. Before that I was:

  • an elementary/middle school art teacher
  • a tree planter
  • an art therapist
  • a museum outreach coordinator
  • a lifeguard
  • a wilderness program canoe trip guide, and
  • an (absolutely terrible) waitress

Where do you get your ideas?

I’m inspired by things people — especially kids — say and do, and by random facts and new experiences. Also, memories, music, art, books, and the sounds of words. My ideas are like wild animals. They come around when they want to, and usually that’s when I least expect it.

How long does it take to write a book?

It depends. With some books, it feels like the story writes itself.  But with others, I struggle with every word. I usually revise a lot before giving the manuscript to my critique partners. They read it and give feedback. Then I revise again and repeat the process after letting the story sit for a while.

What else do you like to do?

The same things make me happy now as when I was a tot:

I want to be an author. What should I do?

Here are some things that have really helped me:

Read for fun, but also as a writer. Ask yourself why you like the books you like, and why you don’t like the ones you don’t. What is it about the characters, plot, language, and illustrations that grabs you—or doesn’t?

Find people who love to write and read. Writing can be solitary, but having friends to share the journey can bolster your perseverance, maximize your ability to brainstorm and revise, and make things a lot more fun! My critique partners are my teammates. We help each other through the creative process and the publishing process, sharing frustrations and celebrating successes along the way.

Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They offer helpful online resources and fantastic conferences and workshops. My first SCBWI retreat changed my life and put me on the path to publication.

? and ! Be curious, and be fiercely enthusiastic. Ask questions. Not just: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? But also: What if? Why not? Would you care to dance? and Got any chocolate?  Follow your story and blaze your path!

Find out more:

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Blog

Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children’s Books: The Purple Crayon

©2013 Jessica Young. All rights reserved.