1. How long have you been an author?
I feel like I’ve always been an author. I was the kid who wrote stories and plays for my friends, and then as a teen and eventually as an adult I always managed to add creative writing into my school work and career. I started to write seriously though in 2013 when my son went to kindergarten and I had a little more time on my hands to learn the craft of writing and practice those skills.
2. What made you want to become an author?
When I first gave writing a shot I was 19 and at that point I wanted to be an author because of the way writing made me feel. When I started really writing at 35 I wanted to become an author because I saw how reading made my son feel. He loved (and still does) to read and so reading books and telling stories became an important part of how we connected and how he explored his own imagination. I had to be part of something that had such a significant effect on him.
3. Tell us about your most recent book, PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE. Where did you get this idea?
Pencil’s Perfect Picture started out as a companion book to Where Are The Words?, my first book. In the end of Where Are The Words? the Period says that Pencil can help finish the story by drawing the perfect pictures. While my editor liked the story, she suggested that we make it a stand-alone and add a family touch. I definitely agreed with that vision and so I gave Pencil the goal of drawing a perfect picture for his dad. The rest of the story takes Pencil through art school where he asks the other artists like Paintbrush, Marker, and Pastel what makes their pictures perfect. His inability to get a straight answer combined with his dad’s reaction to Pencil’s picture was my way of telling kids that art is meant to be fun and there is no standard of perfection. What makes art perfect is that it comes from the heart.
Ugh, rejection can really hurt sometimes! I usually give myself a minute to deal with the loss of the excitement and hope that comes with submitting a beloved manuscript. After that I move on to the next story that makes me feel just as excited and hopeful.
5. Both of your picture books have a pencil as a character. What’s up with you and pencils?
Hahaha! I know, right? I promise that I am done with the pencil, and probably art supplies as well. I have to keep the punctuation going though, can’t have a story without punctuation.
6. What’s the hardest part about writing picture books? What’s the easiest?
For me, the hardest part of writing a picture book is making sure that I don’t get so wrapped up in the plot that I forget to include the heart of the story. It’s really easy to create the superficial stakes behind the character’s main goal, but adding in the underlying emotional risk or motivation takes a little more thought, actually a lot more thought. What comes easiest is probably the story structure. I’m not sure if it’s because of my relatively organized nature, but I know how to structure a story pretty well and well enough to be able to break from it occasionally and still have it work. It’s the first thing I look at when I revise and the first thing I talk about when I give critiques.
7. Describe what it’s like to hear the news that you’ve just gotten a book contract.
8. Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now?
I am in the final stages of revising a story with my agent that I really like even though I can’t stand to think about the main character. It’s… a spider (*gags*). I know, “why would you write about such a disgusting character?” Well, sometimes we have to push ourselves a bit. I just hope it goes out on submission soon so that I don’t have to keep thinking about it. (Blech)
9. What do you do when you’re not writing?
I read a ton! Thank goodness for the library or we would be in some massive book debt. I also try to stay active to counter the hours spent writing or reading and I have a ten year-old and a goofy dog who keep me out and about.
10. What advice would you give someone who wants to become an author?
Embrace patience; patience with the process of writing, patience with publishing, and patience with yourself. There really isn’t much that happens quickly in this world of writing and if you expect it to be then it will become more frustrating than rewarding. So, while you are in the midst of practicing patience, find ways to take your mind off of what you are waiting for. Go for a walk, spend time in the children’s section of the library or bookstore, be creative in other ways, or write about something other than a story- like answers to interview questions :0)
Bio: Jodi McKay lives in Michigan with her husband, son, and two furry friends. She is the PAL coordinator for SCBWI-MI, and is active in several online writing groups. She has two books published by Albert Whitman & Co., WHERE ARE THE WORDS? (2016) and the forthcoming picture book, PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE (May, 2019).
Jodi is represented by Linda Epstein of Emerald City Literary Agency.
Want to chat with Jodi? You can find her here: