Jacqueline Woodson has written seven picture books, six middle grade titles, and ten Young Adult novels. Four of her books have significant GLBTQ content, and are included on this blog's lists. She has won major awards in every genre, including the Newbery Honor (THREE TIMES!!!), the Caldecott Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award & Honor, was a National Book Award Finalist & Honoree, and on and on...
She is wise, and amazing, and I had the privilege of seeing her speak at the 2009 SCBWI Golden Gate Conference. Among the many pearls of wisdom she shared was the idea of being "emotionally autobiographical" when you write for kids. She also said, to some vigorous head-nodding from a rapt audience, including me:
"the great thing as a writer, you get to go back and fix things you jacked up as a kid."
I was inspired, and I learned so much.
Jacqueline is another incredible reason to attend the upcoming SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference in New York City. (Early registration ends January 4, 2010...) She will be giving the Saturday Luncheon Keynote on January 30, 2010, “Locking the Door Upon Ourselves: The Importance of Writing In Today’s World.”
In the run-up and excitement of the upcoming SCBWI Conference, Jacqueline was kind enough to answer a few questions to get us rolling...
Lee: Hi Jacqueline!
There are so many ways to tell a story – I often say that in a room full of writers, we could all write the same “story” – like “The Ugly Duckling,” but each version would be vastly different.
How much is experimentation part of your process?
Jacqueline: I just start writing and hope no one interrupts me. I guess that's the experiment -- to see if I can write for an hour without something 'urgent' needing to be taking care of.
Lee: When you set out to write Peace, Locomotion did you know it was going to take the form of letters, or did that evolve?
Jacqueline: Nope. What I DID know is that it WASN'T going to be poetry. The novel in verse [Locomotion] was because Lonnie was just discovering his writer's voice in school. In Peace, Locomotion, his 'voice' has been silenced by a lame teacher so it wouldn't make sense to have it written in poems. The whole 'show don't tell' rule.
Lee: Getting all choked up is an emotional peak moment in life, and in reading the best writing. Your books have made me tear up more than once: Feathers, After Tupac & D Foster, and on multiple readings Our Gracie Aunt, and Show Way. Do you find yourself going back on revisions to make something more emotionally powerful, or less? How do you know when you’ve hit it just right?
Jacqueline: I know it's right when *I* get choked up reading it. My editor never intervenes in that way. She's amazing.
Lee: Do you have a piece of advice for writers and illustrators who are planning on attending the conference?
Jacqueline: This is my first time coming to SCBWI in NYC so I'm as much of a neophyte as the next person.
Lee: Do you want to assign any homework – any books (of yours or others?) we should read ahead of time to get the MOST out of your keynote presentation?
Jacqueline: Probably just my website -- I don't sell books on it but it has a lot of info about my books and who I am so that people don't confuse me with Angela Johnson or Rita Williams Garcia - both amazing, amazing writers but I'm not them. If one person hands me a copy of Jumped or The First Part Last to sign, I'm going to be so, so cranky.
Lee: (laughing.) Okay, Bonus Holiday Question: Eggnog or Hot Chocolate?
Jacqueline: Hot Chocolate. Not to, in the words of my daughter's teacher "yuck anyone's yum" but I really, really, really don't like eggnog.
I can't wait to see Jacqueline Woodson at the 2010 SCWBI Winter Conference... and I hope you seize the opportunity to see her, too!