Happy Thursday, everyone! Wow, can you believe there’s only 16 days left until the Roads to Publication Conference?
(No, surely that can’t be true. That’s like saying there’s only 58 days until the holidays. Yeah, right. As if.)
Anyway, to celebrate, today we have the lovely Jacqueline Adams in the cyber cafe! She has written more than 100 articles and stories for magazines, including Science World, SuperScience, Highlights for Children, Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, Odyssey and Read. She’s also written three reference books for Lucent Books and 31 readers for SRA/McGraw-Hill and Macmillan/McGraw-Hill. Jacqueline won the Highlights Fiction Contest in 2003 and 2005, an SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in 2004, and was selected as a 2011 Ocean Science Journalism Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Say it with me. Nice!
Jacqueline will be giving a presentation called Boosting Your Career with Magazine Writing: Whether your goal is to break into magazines for the first time or to increase your magazine sales, this workshop will help you develop the strategies you need to succeed. It will also explain why targeting these often overlooked markets can benefit your writing career.
And while she is getting settled with her favorite coffeehouse drink, Starbucks French Roast, black . . .
. . . (girlfriend likes it bold,) and her favorite snack, Indulgent Trail Mix—the kind with plenty of chocolate chips, which is considered healthy because it’s trail mix, right? . . .
. . . let me remind you that if you’ve missed any of the previous pre-conferences interviews, then check out:
and Jim Murphy’s!
And now that Jacqueline is settled, let’s begin! First question: When did you decide to be a writer?
I’ve been writing stories since I was four. I sat at the coffee table, drawing pictures of people and animals with balloons coming out of their mouths, and asked my mom how to spell every single word. (Thanks, Mom!) I don’t remember at what point I decided to be a writer. It’s just something I’ve always done because I love it.
Throughout school, several teachers encouraged me to pursue my writing, so one of them probably planted the idea about writing for publication. I had this vague idea that I wanted to be published “someday,” but I didn’t do much about it until my kids were preschoolers. That’s when I fell in love with children’s literature, and I knew what I wanted to write.
How long did your path to your first book sale take, and what were your biggest hurdles?
I started submitting stories to book publishers and magazines in 1998. I think the first big hurdle was that I felt so lost. I kept getting form rejections that didn’t give me a clue if something was wrong with the stories, or if I was just sending them to the wrong places. So I took a class from the Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL) and found out what I was doing wrong—just about everything! But they taught me how to do it right. They also encouraged me to join the SCBWI, and I was no longer lost.
The other big hurdle was discouragement. When I sold my first story to a tiny literary magazine in 2000 after getting 20 plus rejections, I thought I was finally on my way! Wrong. After another 40 plus rejections, I started to wonder if getting published was like hitting the lottery, and no matter how long I tried, it might not happen again. I think the only thing that made me send the next submission was pure stubbornness. And that submission sold, to a magazine in Australia. After that, the magazine sales gained momentum.
In 2005, Lucent Books put out a call for experienced YA science writers. By then, I had a list of published science articles, so they offered me the chance to write Steroids, which turned out to be the first of three Lucent titles I’ve written.
Awesome! Okay, then, seeing as how hindsight is 20/20, what advice for beginners do you wish you would’ve followed?
I wish I had understood how the learning curve works, and that you may think you’re doing everything right, but a year or two later you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come. Because I was working hard and applying what I’d learned up until that point, I couldn’t understand why I was getting so many rejections. Later, when I’d learned more, I could see the flaws in some of those early stories. With other stories, the problem was that I was sending them to the wrong places—and that was true even though I was doing my homework. It takes a while to develop a feel for those kinds of things. If I’d realized that, I might not have gotten so discouraged.
Great advice! Now, what’s your favorite writing how-to book?
When I took the ICL class, the course materials included Lee Wyndham’s Writing for Children and Teenagers, which really helped bring me up to speed.
Where’s your favorite place to work? (Bonus point if you share a picture.)
I love my office, but I write just about anywhere my canine and feline office assistants can follow me—at the kitchen table, out on the deck, or in bed if I’m not feeling very ambitious.
Love it when authors share their workspace! 🙂 Okay, how were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?
On the book side, my latest release is Alzheimer’s Disease (Lucent Books, 2011). A few years ago, I read The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons With Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life, by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins. The authors included examples showing how different the outcome can be when people look at a problem through the eyes of the Alzheimer’s sufferer and address it accordingly, rather than argue with the person. I’ve seen it go the other way among people I know, so the idea that you can preserve a person’s dignity by using such insight fascinated me. When my Lucent editor sent me a list of available titles that included Alzheimer’s Disease, I knew right away which one I wanted to write.
On the magazine side, my latest publications are Science World articles on efforts to save Tasmanian devils from extinction and engineers’ strategies to control the Mississippi River flooding this past spring. Both of those were assignments based on ideas the editors developed in-house, so I guess technically you’d have to say that I was “inspired” to write them by getting assignments. But because I love science, the editors have never assigned me an article that didn’t inspire me once I dug into the research—even on topics as diverse as Tasmanian devils and civil engineering.
What is your favorite line(s) from this book?
In Alzheimer’s Disease, I quoted eighteenth-century physician William Cullen, who defined a condition he called Amentia senilis as “imbecility of judgement, by which men either do not perceive the relation of things or forget them due to diminished perception and memory when oppressed with age.” I know plenty of people who would agree that age is oppressive, but I’d never heard anyone word it quite that way!
Are there any other genres that you’d like to tackle some day? Or, what’s next on your agenda, any juicy projects you’d like to tell us about?
I’m in the middle of a large, leveled reader project, and those will be released in batches this year and next. On my own, I’m working on a couple of picture book manuscripts and a middle-grade novel manuscript.
Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!
Do you . . .
Outline or wing it? Always outline
Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped? Just a teaser
Sell by proposal or completed draft? Mostly proposal
Prefer writing rough drafts or editing? Editing is easier
Dread marketing/blogging or love it? Getting used to it
Read Kindle or traditional books? Books are cozy
And finally, what’s your favorite:
Time to work? Mornings with coffee
Music to listen to while writing? Complete silence
Writing tool? Addicted to my laptop
Pair of shoes? Nike running shoes
Guiltiest pleasure? Fair food every fall
Line from a movie? Hopper to his brother in A Bug’s Life: “I swear, if I hadn’t promised Mother on her deathbed that I wouldn’t kill you, I would kill you!” (Hey, I’m a kids’ writer. What did you expect?)
Love that movie! And thanks, Jacqueline, for stoppying by. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the conference!
Happy writing, everyone! 🙂