Jane: I may have MORE of it than some, but honestly, anyone who wants to be a writer needs to work at developing that story-spotting gene or hire a mighty muse or both. You have seen me at work—I say, "That's a picture book" or "There's a novel there." It is part of paying attention to where one is, who one is with, what is going on in one's corner of the universe. It's like bird watching. Or painting en plaine aire.
e: When you spot a story, what is your initial approach? What questions do you ask to find your plot? I have two divertingly opposite reactions. Either I sit down and bang out something, anything, to remind myself of that catchable moment. Or I go sit with it, dream with it, till I am ready to procede. As I have gotten older (and am 82 now — how did that happen?) I have enough memory loss to know I have to get stuff down right away or it's gone. I travel with pens and pieces of paper to jot things down and come at them sideways when I rediscover the paper days later.
Jane: I remember about ten years in, I worried about that, asked my then agent, Marilyn Marlow of sainted memory, if I should write some stuff under a psuedonym. She looked down her nose at me and in her deepest, most prophetic voice, said, "Too late."
e: You are an inspiration to so many creators, sharing your rejections as readily as you do your sales on facebook. Was there anyone you admired who inspired you to be so open and sharing?
Jane: Three people really, and from three very different places in my life and on my literary scale. Lee Bennett Hopkins, who mentored an enormous number of children's poets, often starting their poetry careers, such as my daughter Heidi's, by buying a poem for one of his many anthologies. Also Ursula Le Guin, who wrote excellent adult poetry as well as science fiction and fantasy, and made no apologies to the Literary set, plus she wrote several gorgeous books on writing. And Marilyn Marlow herself (MEM), who took so many people under her wings and went to her grave with more of their secrets than anyone knew. And who was always there for new writers (like me) still green about the gills and worried about revising enough or too much. She also taught me that writers and editors are colleagues, not enemies.
Jane: Yea--if I could have one shape-changing wish, it would be to be an artist. But alas, I find drawing stick figures challenging.
e: Many thanks for being so supportive! If the others are like me, they’ve sent you work from the books they’ve done with you. Have you ever thought of having a retrospective of your illustration collection?
Jane: Already had a small show at the Carle Museum and hope for a larger one as I get older.
Jane wrote a poem especially to celebrate her book and this post:
Not the short nights,
but the long one,
where dreams unfold
in languorous progression,
like bees entering and exiting the hive.
Does she remember them
when the snow melt rouses her,
and hunger, like an old friend,
brings her to her feet?
Or does she just shake her head,
growl to the cubs,
and leave the messy bed behind.
©2021 Jane Yolen all rights reserved
e: Thank you so much, Jane, dear friend! And CONGRATULATIONS!