Jennifer is also a Motivational Speaker and a Radio Host!
How long have you been writing children's books?
That’s a great question! Although I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a young child, I started writing children’s books during the summer of 2011. The first story I wrote was actually the third book I published, Einstein & Moo and the Quest for the Catnip. It went through several iterations while I also worked on the first two books of the series, Einstein and the Leaf and Moo and the Case of the Mistaken Identity.
First, let me tell you a little about the two characters, as they are our family’s real-life brother and sister tuxedo kitties, Einstein and Moo. We adopted them in 2009 when they were about three and half months old. They have brought our family so much joy! They are loving, sweet, and curious, but they have very different personalities. Einstein is quite talkative and will talk even more when it is close to mealtime; sometimes, he will play fetch. Moo squeaks more than meows, and she loves to hide underneath the coffee table and wave one paw at your feet, like the monster under the bed.
It originally started as a creative outlet to make up stories from their perspectives, especially considering they are indoor kitties. What might they think when they see a hummingbird go to the feeder by the window? What might they say to the squirrel or skink venturing on the porch during their backyard watch? My husband would play along, and we would create some funny dialogues. So, during that summer, I decided to take some of the ideas that I was verbally creating and put them to paper. The first three stories started out as poems with minimal punctuation just because that was how I preferred to read them, unless there was dialogue or a specific inflection was needed, then appropriate punctuation was used.
As I was tweaking and polishing Einstein and the Leaf and Moo and the Case of the Mistaken Identity, I started to shift my thinking about how to turn them into published books and proceeded to figure how to make it happen. For instance, I wanted to introduce each kitty individually, and then together, so the fact that the third story was still being revised was good.
That’s correct. My stickmen are wonderful, but I wanted something more for the Einstein and Moo series. Before I share some advice, let me share a little background for perspective.
The first publisher I approached was concerned that there were no pictures and said I should find a friend or family member to do them for me. I knew some talented people and reached out to them, but they all declined. They did not feel they could do the stories justice, but I continued to keep my ears open to new opportunities and eyes open to beautiful talent. I also took each door closing as moving me forward to where I was supposed to be and not as rejection. At face value, it was a form of rejection, but I did not take it as a deterrent from my goal.
After a couple of years and lots of “doors” ☺, but I connected with my publisher, who in turn, connected me with my illustrator. It was important to me that the illustrations looked real because the kitties are real. I included pictures of the kitties to show what they look like and my publisher helped me by providing samples from various illustrators to see how they would capture a part of the story and the kitties. My illustrator not only captured Einstein and Moo's look beautifully, but also their personalities. When I saw the samples, I saw love, and that was important to me. I knew I found the right person for my stories.
So for advice, I would say:
Stay true to your vision. There are many talented people, but you will know you found the right illustrator when you get that little feeling inside that lets you know this is the right step. You will find the right publisher, illustrator, and path for you.
- Read a lot – different genres, different authors. The different styles will help you improve your abilities as well as better articulate what you would like from an illustrator.
- Be open to feedback
- Don't give up
- You can do anything you set your mind to – tell yourself positive things and really believe what you say
- Take each door closing as moving you forward to where you are supposed to be - not as rejection
What is your biggest challenge/challenges being a children's author?
From the business perspective, I am challenged by how to increase marketing in an effective and efficient manner, but I see it more as an opportunity to creatively reach readers. From a writing perspective, I am trying my hand at non-picture book writing, and there are times when I question myself, especially when I feel stumped or something isn't flowing. Writing about the kitties comes very easily to me. So when I feel stumped with other writing, I take a break from working on that piece and focus on another part of the business (i.e. read, lining up events, radio show, marketing, blog). I try it from a different angle, like changing the point of view or writing from a different point in the story. I also make sure that I am kind to myself by recognizing I'm doing the best I can do. I tend to think we can be our own worst critics, so sometimes the inner editor needs to be silenced until you are ready for that voice/helper to come out. When I feel the inner critic, I will color or journal about what is on my mind, then when something starts to flow for the story I was working on, I'll resume that writing. I think it is important to make sure the inner dialogue going on is reminding you of your positive attributes. Let those positive thoughts encourage you, just like you would want them to do if you said them to a dear friend.
Sure! Encouraging people is one of my passions. I believe that each of us have something special to offer, but sometimes it takes a leap of faith to be willing to share that gift. I think this belief started when I was three. I was in the children’s choir at my church, and one Sunday we were going to sing “This Little Light of Mine” during a service. We were all told to put one finger in the air while we sang these lyrics: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine”. My parents said I was the one who dared to be different by putting my whole arm in the air while wiggling it and my hips while I sang, grinning from ear to ear. I let my little light shine that day and believe that when we are following our passions, our little light shines because we radiate the joy we feel. We feel empowered and that what we are doing is adding value.
So writing, co-hosting the radio show with my friend and fellow author Doug Huggins, and doing speaking engagements are extensions of that passion. On our radio show, Encouraging the You in Success, we talk about concepts and applications around employee engagement, understanding and leveraging individual strengths, effective communications, and process improvement efforts while considering both a personal and a business perspective. Whether you are an individual contributor or team leader, a spouse or your child’s team coach, you can make a positive difference in all your endeavors, and our show is about enabling people to do that.
Sometimes the encouragement needed is not about sharing your gift, but coming through uncertain times. Change can be difficult, even if the change is expected.
I believe that our thoughts are powerful and that it makes a difference what we tell ourselves, so I focus on positive, encouraging thoughts. Being able to engage with people and offer support and encouragement to others has enabled that light in me to shine brighter than before.
Thank you for your interview Jennifer! You are so inspiring!
Click on the links below to find Jennifer's website and books.
In addition to my website, my books are available at the following locations (I’ve included the links to my works directly):
Barnes and Noble
Books A Million
Rocket Science Productions (Publisher)