WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION
One of my favorite things is to connect with a new person in the kidlit community. Sometimes they are a newbie…new to writing and/or illustrating. And sometimes, they are not newbies…but they new to me.
Jodie Parachini (pear-ahh-key-knee) is an American/British author and editor who currently lives in Hertfordshire, England. Jodie has worked for museums around the world, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. She is the author of ten children’s books including Listening to the Stars, Half a Giraffe?, and This Is a Serious Book. She loves writing, researching, swimming, hiking, and animals, but refuses to buy her daughter a reticulated python, no matter how hard she begs. Jodie can be found at www.JodieParachini.com
ME: Welcome, Jodie! I’m so glad you stopped by for a visit. Congratulations on TWO books out this year! I know everyone is excited to learn more about you, so let’s get started.
Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?
Jodie: HI Vivian, Thanks for chatting with me! I had a zillion favorites as a kid, many of which were obscure books of the 70s. Sit back, relax, and take in what could have been a HUGE list (but I’ll spare you):
Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business written and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina. Still one of the most fun read-alouds that I know.
There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent. Starring the absolute cutest pet of all time.
Corduroy / A Pocket for Corduroy by Dan Freeman. Talk about emotions, I had all the feels reading this.
Just for You by Mercer Mayer. This Little Creature (porcupine? hamster?) made my day with all his (her?) mistakes and mishaps.
But my mostest favoritest, read-under-the-covers-until-mom-yells-at-me-to-put-the-flashlight-away books of childhood were Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. I memorized his poems, copied them, made them into “performance art” to my parents’ chagrin, and when I was old enough (9 or 10, double digits!), wrote and illustrated my own and sent them to Shel (I felt I could be on a first name basis with him) for him to “include” in his next book. Sadly, he didn’t comply.
Now that I have kids of my own, I find it fascinating to be raising them in Britain, where none of these books are known/loved. Happily, it has allowed me to learn about a whole host of British classics that I never knew, such as Zagazoo by Quentin Blake and The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr.
ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
JODIE: Take your time. Like many wannabe writers, I rushed into sending out my work too early to agents/publishers on the hunt for that illusive acceptance. First drafts are never brilliant (very few of us are (evil) geniuses that way), so take a step back and recognize that writing is a process that evolves over time. Critique partners can really help you see your work more clearly (and point out your weaknesses, which sounds awful, but be open to it and the results may surprise you.)
Getting published isn’t always the validation that many people are seeking. Sure, there are some cheery moments, but mostly writers just “crack on” and get back to work. As Anne Lamott puts it in the wonderful Bird by Bird (still one of my favorite books on the craft):
“the odds of … getting published and of it bringing … financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. …[W]rite anyway.”
Good advice, in my mind.
ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?
JODIE: I don’t have a writing room or office but I feel most comfortable writing in bed, anyway (which annoys my husband to no end. But he’s also my muse, so he tolerates it for the sake of “Art.”
Like many writers, ideas strike everywhere, and I’ve had to learn to write in short bursts—fitting it in between the rest of life (including homeschooling during the extensive lockdowns we’ve had in England.)
This past year I wrote most of my nonfiction books sitting in the car during my daughter’s soccer practice (parents weren’t allowed to congregate near the field). I tend to have great ideas in the shower, too, so I often have soggy first drafts.
ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?
JODIE: I envy those writers who have schedules (from the 5 am writers’ clubs to those who keep their butt in chairs until they have 1,000 words on the page). Maybe someday I’ll make a structure I can stick to, but that doesn’t fit my life right now. Even so, I continually remind myself that I AM a real writer, even if I’m just jotting ideas or scribbling notes. Every finished draft is a super-mega-WIN in my book, and one to be celebrated (even if it’s rubbish).
ME: Why do you write for children?
JODIE: Your question reminds me of a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke: “Go into yourself,” Rilke suggests in Letters to a Young Poet. “Find out the reason that commands you to write; [and] see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart.”
Formerly, I had a love/hate relationship with writing, having written everything from essays to plays to short stories to poetry. Taking Rilke’s suggestion, I think the “reason that commands” me to write is a primal need to express myself, but I always felt compelled to do so in an angst-ridden, soul-plumbing, adult-y way.
When I began writing for children I found that the love/hate dichotomy disappeared and it became pure joy. And who doesn’t want more pure joy in their life?
I’m also fascinated about the idea of being “in the zone.” Artists, athletes, musicians all aim for that moment when the dopamine or serotonin kicks in and the world around you disappears. In a sense, I’m always striving for that feeling of calm transcendence that for me comes from being creative, and I tend to get that feeling a lot when I’m writing for kids.
Having said all that, I also think writing for kids is like giving them the most wonderful gift in the world. Sharing a book with a child—and watching their eyes light up, their senses heightened, their focus concentrated, and their creative mind sparked—has to be one of my highlights of parenthood. So, by extension, I’m hoping that other families and teachers get to experience more of this through my writing.
ME: Oh, I love this, Jodie – and I can’t wait to add your books to my shelves. And another thing I want to add is your awesome recipe to my file.
JODIE: When I was a child I received a paper doll book. On one of the pages of the book, the doll, Kim, could be dressed as a chef, and the page came complete with a paper apron, chef’s toque, and a recipe for Kim’s Cookies. These wonderful, gooey molasses cookies have been my favorite treat ever since. In the interim 40 years, I’ve lost the book, so my apologies for not citing the recipe’s author!
¾ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup molasses
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon ground clove
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a large bowl, beat oil, molasses, sugar, and egg. In a separate bowl, sift all other ingredients. Combine the two and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When mixture is cool, roll into golfball-size balls and roll in a bowl of sugar to coat. Place on a greased or baking-paper-lined cookie sheet and bake, 8 minutes, until crisp on outside. Let cool.
YUMMY!!! These look like something that needs to be tried this weekend, Jodie. Thank you so much for stopping by.
And thank you, dear readers, for spending your precious time with me. Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway of a copy of LISTENING TO THE STARS…and please remember that the best way to thank a favorite author is to buy her book, review her book, put it on your Goodreads Want-to-Read list, tell friends about her book, and ask your local library to purchase copies.
JODIE: Such a GREAT post! THANK YOU (as well as Anne Lamott) for ALL the WONDERFUL advice! I especially LOVE (and will try harder to take to heart!): “I continually remind myself that I AM a real writer, even if I’m just jotting ideas or scribbling notes. Every finished draft is a super-mega-WIN in my book, and one to be celebrated (even if it’s rubbish).” THANK YOU for the INSPIRATION–and AMAZING cookie recipe!
I do enjoyed reading about your writing journey. Congratulations on being so successful in the midst of all the world’s chaos!
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