Shari: Jennifer, I am overwhelmed by your writing credits. How long have you been writing?
Jennifer: Well, if you include my first ever story, Harold The Hedgehog, written when I was in second grade, 32 years! But professionally about 20.
Shari: What were your first published efforts? Books? Magazines? Other?
Jennifer: I worked at an editorial assistant for Scuba Times Magazine when I graduated from college, then moved on to being the editor of a Navy publication out of Japan. I published my first children’s story in 1998 with Skipping Stones Magazine. Although I had lots of editorial experience, I found that publishing my work for children was both challenging and frustrating. I took the ICL course but it still took me 4 years to publish anything after I graduated. Perseverance is the key to being successful in this business.
Shari: What kind of writing is most appealing to you? Why?
Jennifer: I love both nonfiction and fiction each for different reasons. I’ve published mostly nonfiction books and I love the research. Writing nonfiction seems to come naturally to me. Creating a story, character and plot development, I find very challenging and always love a good challenge. When I get story work, it is the best feeling!
Shari: I know you have taught for the Institute of Children’s Literature. How long have you been teaching for them? It must be very rewarding to help others start their writing careers?
Jennifer: I’ve been teaching there for almost 9 years. It is very rewarding and I know I have helped launch many careers. Mostly though, I feel more like an encourager to students who often need confidence boosts and a bit of a reality check. The children’s publishing industry is rough- very difficult to get in to and frustration can run high. A lot of writers start taking the course thinking that writing and publishing for children is easy. It comes as a real shock when they learn that it’s anything but!
Shari: You are also moderator of Christian Children’s Writers at yahoogroups. Did you start the list or did you inherit it from someone else? Why?
Jennifer: A woman named Mel started the group back in 1998 and I co-moderated the group. It was known as CCWG at the time. Mel was the brainchild behind it and she did a great job, but we stopped hearing from Mel and suddenly I was in charge. So, I changed the name and continued moderating it up until the present date. It has truly been a blessing as I’ve seen God answer many prayers for the writers on our list.
Shari: I know your faith is very important to you. How does your faith influence your writing?
Jennifer: Lately, it has been more evident than ever- my faith influences the subjects I choose to write about whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. I won’t write explicit material and definitely won’t cover certain areas that may seem more appealing in the teen and YA markets right now. I feel God has given me the passion to write and the gift too, and so my writing career must reflect my love for Him. Sometimes it’s hard to see how what I write does this and it’s something I struggle with often. Being a writer has led to speaking engagements and other venues where my goal is to talk and connect with children and adults on a certain level.
Shari: How do you write? What is your process? What are your favorite writing tools?
Jennifer: When an idea pops in my head, I write down the idea first- it’s simple- I just state what the book is about. Then I “think write” sometimes for months and even up to a year. I lay out the book in my mind- how I will develop the character, which way the conflict will turn, the outcome and so forth. Then, when I feel ready, I write the entire story down and usually, because I’ve spent so much time think writing, it flows well onto the paper. I do this with picture books, novels and even my nonfiction books. Although with nonfiction, I do create a strong outline first. My computer is my favorite tool.
Shari: Where do you write? Describe your writing space.
Jennifer: Finally, my husband and I renovated an extra bedroom that is my office. I still work out of an old wardrobe that my husband converted into a work space. My dog’s bed is next to me and there is a futon where I can do my “think writing” I like to have some of my favorite things in this room- my husband bought 3 original paintings from the illustrator of my picture book, The Falling Flowers. I can look out the window onto the barns and corral, where the feral cats roam and my two mini horses venture. It’s a very warm room with 4 windows to let the sun in and I have all wood furniture- mission style.
Shari: What really fires up your muse? What can we expect from you next?
Jennifer: Good question! I’m not feeling particularly fired up at the moment and with the economy the way it is, how book sales will be affected, but I would love to see my rhyming picture book, Picking Greens get published. I am also excited about a YA I am working on. I have 3 middle grade novels I am eager to see published as well- all completed, all ready to find a publishing home!
Shari: What would others be surprised to know about you?
When I was traveling to Abu Dhabi with my husband (1992), we visited a camel souk (farm) and my husband was offered 2 racing camels for me. Fortunately, he didn’t accept. That was scary! I also love to vacuum.