ONE OF THE local writing groups I meet with is made up of traditionally published authors, we call it Published Authors’ Liaison (PAL) and we even have a blog and a Facebook page. The group contains an eclectic group of writers which makes it so much fun. This week I’m pleased to have one of our PAL members, children’s author Rebecca Janni.
Mike: Thank you for taking the time to be with us today. Can we start with a little background about you?
Rebecca: I learned early on that biking was the best way to get around the neighborhood and reading was the best way to get around the world. On a bus ride home from school, I told a friend that I was working on a novel about a girl and her horse. I never finished the novel, but a horse of a different hoof shows up in Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse and Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots, both published by Dutton Children's Books. I have two more picture books forthcoming and several projects on my desk. Today, I divide my time between volunteering, adjunct teaching, and writing -- all of which take a back seat to motherhood! I live in Iowa with my husband, four children, and a big-hearted dog named Mickey. I love to read and bike with my family, but not at the same time.
M: Can you tell me a little bit about the idea for your “every cowgirl” books?
R: My daughter – five years old at the time – had just learned how to ride her bike without training wheels. Riding was her new obsession. She came inside dressed from head to toe in her cowgirl finest, all out of breath and rosy-cheeked. “How's my bicycle cowgirl?” I asked, and I couldn't stop thinking about that character. Then, our family would go riding on the local bike trails, and I found myself telling the kids to “get back in the saddle” or “whoa!” On the longest rides, I even felt saddle sore!
M: What is the age range of your target audience?
R: 3-8 years old
M: What is different about writing for children than other forms of writing? Are there any special challenges you face?
R: I believe the best writing crosses genres. As an adult, I still love to read picture books and YA novels. And if I come across a breathtaking passage or something hysterically funny in an adult novel (something appropriate, mind you), I will share it my children right away.
But writing picture books does require an economy of words. It's a challenge that makes the stories stronger in the end. Like a poet, a picture book writer chooses every word carefully and leaves space for the illustrations to tell part of the story.
M: In a picture book, like yours, how is an illustrator chosen and how well do writers and illustrators work together?
R: In my experience, when a publishing house acquires a manuscript, they have an art director and an editorial team who choose the illustrator for the book. I couldn't be happier with the choices they made! Lynne Avril is a dream – an artist, a cowgirl, a musician and a lovely person. I think her artwork is the perfect fit for Nellie Sue's adventures. And Tracy Dockray, the illustrator for Jammy Dance – is amazing too. I'm still in awe of the movement in her artwork for Jammy Dance – these characters really do dance!
M: How do you market you books?
|Rebecca and "fans" at a local B&N|
R: I'm learning more about the marketing end of publishing from groups like PAL (Published Authors Liaison), SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), DAWG (Des Moines Area Writers Group), and my own magical writing group, with authors Jan Blazanin, Eileen Boggess, and Sharelle Byars Moranville. And I try to say yes to as many events – online or in person – as I possibly can.
M: What started you writing?
R: I was very young. Reading, I guess. I loved getting lost in stories, loved traveling to other places and walking in so many shoes, loved the magic in words. I suppose I decided I wanted to try my hand at it, creating magic from words.
M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
R: I write when my youngest is at preschool or after the kids are in bed . . . in the cracks, whenever I can.
M: Anything upcoming?
R: Yes, Jammy Dance comes out February 14, with FSG and my third cowgirl book, Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo, comes out in May 2012 with Dial Books for Young Readers.
M: Any hobbies, etc. for spare time?
R: Besides horseback riding, I mean, bike riding? I enjoy hiking, traveling, singing, praying, reading, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.
M: How can readers contact you?
R: There's an “email me” button on my website, www.rebeccajanni.com.
M: Are any of your books available in ebook form?
R: I'm so glad you asked. Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse is available on the Nook and soon to be available on the I-Pad.
M: Thank you so much for taking time with us, and good luck with your upcoming releases.
R: Thank you, it was my pleasure.