Monday, March 21, 2011

Interview with Jacqueline Jules

(Comment on this post to be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of, Picnic at Camp Shalom!)

Continuing on with our celebration week, here is an interview with author, Jacqueline Jules. Jacqueline is the award winning author of 22 children's books including the delightful, Picnic at Camp Shalom. Thanks for spending time with us, Jacqueline!

1. What was the inspiration behind, Picnic at Camp Shalom?

The idea for Picnic at Camp Shalom was originally sparked by my editor at Kar-Ben. She told me she was interested in a summer camp story. My first internal response was: “Huh? I don’t have any ideas!”

Then I mulled it over and began recalling my own summer camp days (More years ago than I want to count). I remembered singing at Shabbat dinner and wearing white. I love to sing, so any place associated with music has fond memories for me. Then I remembered a character named Carly from a middle grade novel I had been working on sporadically for a few years. The novel was in the doldrums. Maybe taking Carly out of that setting and putting her in a new situation would give her the life she lacked in the stalled novel. Why not try it? I often play around with ideas, letting one thought lead me to another when I write. After awhile, I saw a story in which Carly, a victim of bullying at school, accidentally found a friend with a similar problem at sleepaway summer camp. My own life experiences have shown me that sometimes a person with problems in one place can be more successful in a new environment. And that’s the magic of summer camp. Children get the opportunity to bond with others who do not know their history. A fresh start in a new place is exactly what some children need to make new friends.

2. Have you always been interested in writing?

I declared my intention to be a writer when I was in third grade and from then on, I was happy to tell anyone who asked that I planned to be a writer when I grew up. My desire to write grew out of my love of reading. It was natural for me to want to create my own version of an activity I enjoyed so much. However, I talked about being a writer for a number of years before I actually knuckled down and did the work necessary to become published. In fact, my first book for young readers, The Grey Striped Shirt, came out in 1995, almost thirty years after the first time I expressed my desire to be an author.

3. How do you typically get your ideas and what is your favorite part of the process?

I get most of my ideas lately from the classroom. Elementary schools are fertile grounds for ideas. Students say cute things. Funny things happen. For instance, not too long ago, I saw a mouse scurry under a cabinet in a second grade classroom. Teachers in the room (myself included) simply ignored the mouse because we wanted the students to stay quiet and focused on their work. Can you imagine doing that at home? One day, that scene will pop up in one of my stories.

My favorite part of writing is revision. I love figuring out a way to say the same thing more concisely or more vividly. I often tell students at author visits that writing is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes you have to turn those pieces around and around to make them fit. And that’s the way it is with words in a story. You can’t be afraid to move a sentence or a paragraph from the middle of a story to the beginning or even the end. Experiment when you’re stuck. If something isn’t working one way, try a different direction. As a child, I played obsessively with jigsaw puzzles. Now, I play with words—turning them around and around until they finally make the picture I want to see.

4. Please share a typical writing day with us.

I am a part-time teacher and I do as many speaking engagements as I can, so the days available for writing are precious to me. A typical day dedicated to writing starts around 8:30 a.m. I eat breakfast and work until a morning exercise break (usually my exercise bike). I eat lunch at my computer and work until the late afternoon when I take another exercise break (usually a walk). After dinner, I usually work until bedtime (around 11:30 p.m.) Now that might seem like a lot of time stuck in a chair. I keep my body moving by running downstairs for tea, coffee, or gum at regular intervals.

On days when I teach and don’t have homework from school, I try to put in a couple of hours in the evening. Sometimes, I just make notes for revision or sketch out ideas or do research. Whenever there is available time, I get busy on my computer. I am not much of a TV watcher and have given up most of my other hobbies in favor of writing.

5. What are you currently working on?

After finishing Picnic at Camp Shalom, I decided to go back to the middle grade novel the character of Carly came from. I did extensive revisions and now the main character is Carly’s aunt during her 1970’s childhood in a small southern Virginia town. Putting Carly into a picture book did help me jump start the original novel. Sometimes characters need a new environment just like children who are having trouble at school.

6. One piece of advice for an aspiring author?

Join SCBWI, The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) will connect you with other writers, teach you how to submit manuscripts, and explain the publishing business.


Michelle Henninger said...

Great interview! (And the cover illustration is so cute!)

Ride Operator said...

As an aspiring writer, I really enjoyed this post. It always interesting for me to hear how other's go about the writing process. Thank you!

Deb said...

Thank you Jacqueline and Roz for such a great interview! Very inspiring and informational. And thank you Jacqueline for such a fun story. I had so much fun with this book!

Jeanne said...

you remind us all that being creative is hard work and commitment mixed in with talent! jeanne

Jackson said...

Excellent interview. Very interesting to see Jacqueline reuse a character from years ago and finding a very fitting place in what we are seeing and hearing about today. I’m not a writer or illustrator but love seeing what you all do in creating stories for our youth. Thank you for the hard work you put into children’s books.

Deb said...

Aww, thank you Jeanne.

Thanks Jackson. It is a great interview and I also found it interesting that she reused a character....illustrators do that a lot with sketches and doodles laying around on pieces of paper :)

Goadingthepen said...

Love the interview. What a great treat to be let in to the inside scoop. I love the mouse in the class room...I would so not have been calm.

Going Doodling said...

Great interview! Quite enjoyable to read! Thanks for sharing this insightful bit of smacks of good sense! ;)