Interview – Jaqueline Jules

pluto

With more than 40 books under her belt in a wide variety of genres, Jacqueline Jules has quite the collection. But who could blame her.  As a librarian, teacher, author, and poet, there is no escape from the written word for Jacqueline! 

Hi Jacqueline! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk a little about your work with our Story Monsters! As a teacher, librarian, poet, and author, your whole world has centered around books! Before we get into your work, can you tell us a bit about how this love of words started? Do you remember a moment in your childhood perhaps where you were bitten by the book bug?

I have this distinct memory of myself as a child, sitting in a high-backed white chair, reading a book. My cousins are nagging me to get up and play but I want to finish my book. This may seem like an ordinary memory for a bookworm except the white chair was in Switzerland on a trip to see relatives I only visited twice. That may be the moment I realized that I was addicted to reading. 

For as long as I can remember, I have been an avid reader, with an eclectic appetite. If I connect with the story or the character, I’m hooked. The genre makes no difference to me. I can name favorites in just about every genre except horror. This served me well in my work as a librarian because I read a sampling of everything in my collection to provide honest reader advisory to students and teachers.   

Looking over your published works, you have some popular series books like the Zapato Power series and the Sofia Series, some picture books, some poetry…  At the end of the day, which formats do you feel you connect with the best? Which seem to resonate the best with your students?

Some people prefer historical fiction. Others read mostly nonfiction or autobiography or fantasy. As I said above, my reading tastes are all over the place. Variety keeps me entertained. It is the same with my writing. Some days I am in the mood to work with metaphors and I write poetry. Other days, I want to be inside the head of my characters Freddie Ramos or Sofia Martinez. And then there are the days when I become engrossed by a scientific or historical event and I can’t stop researching. The freedom to work in different genres spurs my creativity. Not every idea works as a picture book. Maybe it is better as a poem or a chapter book or a novel.

Writers work in isolation so I am not sure I can judge what resonates the best with my readers. However, I have been thrilled to receive feedback from readers all over the world about my books. Recently I heard from a bilingual teacher in Honduras who told me her third graders were obsessed with Freddie Ramos and his super-powered sneakers in the Zapato Power series. My heart is very full when I hear that Zapato Power is the first chapter book a young reader has finished on his or her own. Freddie Ramos is directly based on the students I taught while working as a school librarian. My students kept asking me for books on super heroes. This inspired me to imagine what it would be like if one of my students had a secret superpower. Where would he find superhero jobs in an elementary school? How would it complicate his everyday life?

Your latest release, Pluto is Peeved!, is a graphic novel style picture book; how did that come about? Was it a conscious decision to write for that style of illustration or did it evolve after the story was completed?

Pluto is Peeved: An Ex-Planet Searches for Answers is my second book in this format. Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation is also a graphic novel style picture book. After writing the story of the 1787 Constitutional Convention as a comic book, I began searching for another topic that would work well in this format. It took me a number of years and a number of revisions, but finally Pluto is Peeved! came together. I love theater and frequently attend plays. Writing the text for a comic book is like writing a theater script. The dialogue for each character must express that character’s personality. I worked hard, with the help of a wonderful editor, to create unique dialogue for Pluto, Dinosaur, Rock, and all the other museum characters in Pluto is Peeved! 

I love that you have a Reader’s Theater on your website where teachers can download (for free!) a script to engage the students in the content by reading out loud different speaking parts. This is such an awesome idea to accompany the book and make the content really stick. How was it writing the theatrical version of Pluto and is that something you’ll consider for your upcoming books?

The Reader’s Theater for Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation (also available for free on my website) was a hit with teachers across the country. I received many letters about how much the students enjoyed it and I even had the chance to see a school assembly where a fifth grade class performed it. So when Pluto is Peeved! came out, I knew right away I wanted to do a Reader’s Theater. It was a little tricky to condense the essence of Pluto is Peeved! and make the scenes flow. I had to include a narrator, something the book does not have. I also had to change the dialogue in a few places. The Pluto is Peeved Reader’s Theater provides a taste of the book along with an opportunity for interactive reading practice. I hope students will have fun with it.

Your website, Jacquelinejules.com, is overflowing with activities. All of your books, your school visit information–what is next on the list? What kind of sneak peaks can you offer into upcoming projects for which we should watch?

The seventh book in the Zapato Power series, Freddie Ramos Hears It All, will be released in the fall. In this adventure, Freddie Ramos has a new Zapato Power—super hearing! He can listen in on conversations and find hero jobs. But soon Freddie realizes the temptation to eavesdrop on everyone is too great. Can Freddie find a way to use his super hearing without snooping? 

Now, you are the author of over 40 books, have appeared in over 100 publications, and have won multiple awards. Our Story Monsters are big readers, but we also have many aspiring authors. Any tips or tricks you’ve picked up along the way? Any advice nuggets that stick out in your mind and that you’d be willing to share?

My first nugget of advice for aspiring authors is to READ, READ, READ. Go to the library and be familiar with not only the classics in children’s literature but the trends. Examine how stories are constructed. Identify the beginning, middle, and end. Note the details which create a character as a unique being. Think about what hooks you as a reader on the first page. Learn from that and use it in your writing.

My second nugget of advice for aspiring authors is to REVISE, REVISE, REVISE. Don’t be afraid to turn your story inside out and try it from a different perspective. Most of my work goes through at least twenty drafts if not fifty. Good writing is only re-writing. Put each word on trial. Does it express what you want to say? Could you do better? I love rewriting. First drafts are hard for me. But I absolutely adore rearranging the words and saying the same thing, only better. I often tell students that writing is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You turn the words around and around until they fit together to make the picture you want.  

Happy Reading and Writing!

***

You can learn more on Jaqueline Jones at Jacquelinejules.com and even download her PDF Writing for Kids! You can also check out her blog there, Pencil Tips Writing Workshop, complete with writing prompts and ideas on a bi-weekly basis. http://penciltipswritingworkshop.blogspot.com/ 

Julianne DiBlasi Black has written and illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet, the multi-award winning Augmented Reality picture book. www.KrakenSky.com

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