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 that I started reading picture books and 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. I often have a lot of ideas, but not always the ones I’m looking for. 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? Familiarize yourself with what’s already out there, and let it inspire you to write something new.
Find people who love to write and read, and who appreciate the same types of books as you. Writing can be solitary, but having a team to share the journey can bolster your perseverance and maximize your ability to brainstorm and revise. You can also learn a lot about writing from editing other people’s work. My critique partners are my buddies, my comrades, my cheerleaders, and my secret weapons. We help each other through the creative process and the publishing process, sharing frustrations and celebrating successes along the way. They make me laugh—and they make me work!
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.
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©2013 Jessica Young. All rights reserved.