Hello, Jan. Thank you so much for participating in this
interview series. You are one busy lady. How do you balance all
of your different roles and find balance?
Poorly. A lot of the time, I don’t find balance and I have this “not
doing enough” feeling, but ultimately you do what you can do.
My husband’s company fell victim to the economy so my income
is “the” income and that’s a fair bit of pressure for a children’s
writer. We’ve done well, but the increase in hours I have to spend
writing meant something had to give. So now my husband does
the cooking (though he’s been making noises about jumping ship
on that chore lately.)
How do you keep all of your writing deadlines from drowning
your life as a wife, mother, instructor and writer?
In terms of mother, I realize my daughter has this amazing
opportunity that few kids have. Both her parents are now at home
all the time. Now, a lot of the time I have to work, but when she
needs me everything has to take shape around that. She’s first
because she”s really the future. Whatever I contribute to the
world, the biggest thing is her because she’s going to continue
contributing long after I’m gone. But anyway, she literally has a
parent handy whenever she needs one. Also with my husband
home and me working at home we’re together way more than
we were when I worked less and he worked more.
Now, writing my own no contracts yet projects is on perpetual
hold. I have to focus on things I can get paid for. So I’m doing
work-for-hire and I’m doing my ICL instructor duties and my ICL
web editor duties. Being web editor is just fun that’s almost
my goof off time. Being an instructor is tough sometimes, but I’ve
been careful not to let that swamp me. And my writing is always a
joy. Really, I love to write. So whether it’s work-for-hire or a
magazine story that pops into my head, I’m having a good time if
I”m writing. The pleasure of much of what I do goes a long way
toward helping me not to burn out on just how much I have. But
really, I probably don’t work much over 40 hours a week lots of
women carry that kind of load.
How long have you been with the ICL and approximately how
many writing credits do you have?
I started at an ICL instructor near the end of 2001, so not really all
that long. Now, writing credits is a little harder and I’m going to
cheat so I don’t have to go look them up. I’ve been published in
magazines both for kids and adults and newspapers. I have
done odd projects like the twenty storybooks I wrote for a toy
company to sell with their collectable dolls. I’ve done Children’s
Church Curriculum. And by the end of this year I will have
written 12 books JUST THIS YEAR as work-for-hire projects. Ten
of them were for an educational company and two are mystery
novels for adults that are part of a subscription service. I did 8
books last year. I’m also working on a fantasy series for girls that
will also sell with a subscription service I’ve done two of those
so far. Now, with such very recent finish times, I think I only have
about nine books you can track down on Amazon.
What influences your writing the most?
Story. Any kind of story. I realized last year during a really
intensely busy work time that it was getting harder to write. And
writing is just not something that “gets hard” for me. I mean,
plotting can be tricky sometimes and sometimes I have trouble
getting different things to work out but I’ve never felt
“blocked” the way people talk about it. I was just feeling like I was
dipping from an empty well creatively and it was freaking me out.
Then I took a moment and realized I’d been so busy I wasn’t
reading and I wasn’t watching story television or movies (my
husband loves sports and food shows and building shows but he’s
not much into story television so if I don’t actively seek out story
arc television, I don’t see it. Anyway, I realized that by not feeding
my creative brain on story, I was running from a dry well. I’m one
of those people who flatly needs to read and to schedule time for
at least a couple shows or it shows in my ease of writing.
Jan, from your experience at the ICL which skills are the most
important for a amateur writer to hone before (s)he starts
A good grasp of mechanics is invaluable. Really, you need to
know basic grammar and it helps if you get a good writing book
and read it through to understand some key concepts like point of
view and the balance of dialogue and narrative. I actually like the
From Inspiration to Publication book from ICL quite a bit for those
really key core concepts. I also love Anastasia Suen’s Picture
Writing as an amazing insight into how our basic nature as visual
beings really can be used to make all of our writing better
fiction and nonfiction. Anyway get as much of the basics
down as you can. Then read a lot and widely. That combination is
probably what I see in my strongest students the ones that will
be published soon and often.
What are you currently working on Jan?
I’m writing an adaptation of JANE EYRE for use in elementary
school libraries. The adaptations give the kids a taste of the book,
hopefully letting them whet their appetites for the real book.
That’s how I was introduced to a lot of classics I read while still in
elementary school we had these books that included story-like
excerpts from classic works and I feel in love with a lot of
wonderful books that way.
I’m also writing the second mystery novel for Annie’s Attic. And
I”m working on a science fiction series for upper
elementary/middle school for ABDO that series is one I
Jan, do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Read, read like there’s nothing more important to do. And don’t
worry about analyzing stuff to death. Mostly read to fill up that
creative well with story. Reading also feeds the analytical side of
your brain with structure which will make it easier to accomplish
story writing. And along with reading write. And try to enjoy
the writing. As long as you can enjoy the process, you’ll suffer less
when it comes to the whole job of selling.
Any final words, Jan?
Just thanks for asking me to do this. It’s always fun to think about