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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Jane Smith

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? I believe the world is a better, happier, more empathetic place when we connect with each other, and books are the perfect medium in which to do that. Books affirm that we are never alone and that there has always been someone, somewhere who is just like us in ways both big and small, visible and invisible. For me, writing children’s books, is my way of connecting to the world at large and serves as my contribution to our collective body of arts and culture. It is my sincere hope that my own stories offer a fun, heartfelt opportunity for children, families and communities to connect, celebrate and support one another.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? In my experience, the simplest remedies are often the best and most effective: take a nap, go for a walk outside, read a book, work on a different project for a little while, watch a movie, go out to eat! So much of writing is actually thinking and often a simple activity shift helps gets the wheels turning more naturally and with much, much less pressure.

What is your favorite time to write? I am neither a morning person nor a night owl. My favorite time to write is smack dab in the middle of day—afternoon time!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? One of the best pieces of picture book writing advice I ever received is actually a revision technique called a “cut-and-tape mini dummy book,” which helps assess structure and pacing, and also serves as a lens for broader visualization. The technique begins with a mini blank dummy book made from cutting four 8-1/2×11 sheets of paper into eight 8-1/2×5-1/2 sheets, stacking and folding the papers in half and stapling them along the spine. The resulting mini dummy book will have 32 pages. Number them 1-32. Then print out your manuscript and cut-and-tape it into the blank dummy book page by page. It will become immediately clear where text is flowing/bunching up, whether or not the page turns are effective and if the pacing from intro to rising action to climax to resolution are balanced. And then if revisions are needed, the text can be moved around. Written notes and text revisions can be made on the blank pages. Writers who are also illustrators can add thumbnails and art notes, too. This revision technique offers a lot of flexibility and is very organic. And because picture books are a visual medium, this highly visual technique is highly effective!

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? To be honest, I would be excited to be a writer in any age because ultimately the draw for me is in the picture book format itself. Picture books are my passion, and the constant challenge of puzzling out how to tell a story within the framework of 32 pages is what excites and drives me as an artist. To me, the beauty of storytelling is that the universal story at the heart of all well-told stories is timeless.

Jane Smith’s Miss Meow is out now with West Margin Press.