Home > Writing and Poetry > Monday’s Interview with Jane Yolen

Monday’s Interview with Jane Yolen

I’m so glad to say that Jane Yolen chose to grace the visitor’s chair today. This beautiful standard of children’s authors is as down-to-earth as the   local librarian and just has helpful to many. Help me welcome her, please.

Claudsy: I want to thank you so much for visiting me, Jane. Now, I know that your new book, “How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You” just debuted at #10 on the NY Times Best-Seller list. That must please you no end. Does it ever get old, all of the marketing hubbub and ratings hooplah?

Jane: No–and I do the Happy Dance in my writing room or kitchen whenever something wonderful happens.

Claudsy: I’m with you on that one. You’ve accomplished more than most writers dream of during your career. What’s the one thing that you still dream of doing in the writing world?

Jane: Oh Claudsy–I have a dozen books in my head that I am hoping I will find time and energy to write, and some I despair that I will ever have the writing chops to accomplish. There are few books that I think are still out of my intellectual and skill reach.

Claudsy: Now I know you’ve worked with each of your sons on different projects, one for photo illustrations and other for writing. What’s the chemistry that comes into having a good working relationship with your children?

Jane: I write with my daughter as well. I think the three most important things are that we each agree the other has talent, we are honest with our co-author, and we are always careful to say “I love you and your work” before offering any kind of critique.

Claudsy: In your journal you said you’d had a manuscript rejected not long ago. That fact alone should make newbies feel better. Yet, after you’ve resubmitted elsewhere, what’s your honest response when that formerly-rejected piece get accepted at a different publisher?

Jane: I hope that when it’s published, the folks who rejected it, read it and weep. Small of me, I know. I felt great after OWL MOON won the Caldecott and the five editors who had rejected it each came to me and apologized! But that only happens rarely (and most of the time only in my secret fantasies.)

Claudsy: Here you are with more awards than math has numbers, and you’ve talked about the Muse eluding you until you aren’t looking, when she sneaks in to whisper in your ear. Do you think perhaps many writers worry too much about waiting for the Muse to whisper in their ears?

Jane: Of course. Writers should sit down every single day and write, not wait for some mythical Muse creature to help them. Exercise the fingers and brain, and get SOMETHING down. Even if it is half-baked, even if it is bad. You can always work with it later and make it better.

Claudsy: You’re an essayist, a poet, teacher, reviewer. When are you going to do a play? Don’t you think some of your books would make good children’s stage plays?

Jane: I have written (and had produced) two musicals, written several short animated movie scripts that have been produced. Do those count?

Claudsy: Boy, I wish I’d known. I’d have read them for the instructive use, if nothing else. But, tell us about your poetry, Jane. What do you write most about and why?

Jane: I write both realistic poems, such as THE RADIATION SONNETS that Algonquin published, about my husband’s first battle with the cancer that eventually killed him. And a lot more mystical, mythical, fantastic poems that have been published in places like Asimov’s Magazine and anthologies of fantasy and science fiction.

Most weeks I write at least several poems, though I go back over and over them both before they get published (about half of them do) and after as well. I began my writing career as a poet and expect to end it that way! I naturally think in poetry.

Claudsy: Your speech to the SCBWI conference years ago reads like a text book for newbies. I know because I’ve read it and thoroughly enjoyed it, and think it ought to be a writer‘s handbook. I especially liked your portion on metaphors. Do you still contend that we live our lives through metaphors?

Jane: Of course. Today, for example, I almost drowned in doctor’s appointments, sat a bit with a revision over a cup of tea, sold a bit of fluff to an anthology, and am being interviewed by a virtual friend. If those aren’t a bunch of metaphors, I don’t know what is.

Here are some more: I also know friends going through dark days as a crab eats at the wife’s brain; another who had a year of sunshine, culminating in his proposal to his sweetie; a third who has climbed up from the slough of despond, selling his first book in eight years. More metaphors.

Claudsy: You are an especially well-read lady in all genres, it seems, and through history. If you could only take five books with you before disaster hit, which books would you choose and why?

Jane: Okay–cheating, I would take both books of the Bible (Old and New Testaments) not for religious reasons but for story. A complete Shakespeare. A complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. THE BAT POET by Randall Jarrell. MOBY DICK. (And sneak in James Thurber’s THIRTEEN CLOCKS when no one was looking.)

Claudsy: Now that’s variety. One last questions, Jane. Why do you live part of the year in Scotland and when did you first take up a residence there?

Jane: Snarky answer: Wouldn’t you?

Real answer: When my husband had his first sabbatical, we took it in Scotland and fell in love with the country, its people and history. Also its songs and literature and landscapes. We ended up buying the house we rented on his second sabbatical. It is a place of peace, where I can read and write quietly, and yet also have a wonderful social life with the many friends I have made there. 

Claudsy: And just for the record, I’d love to take a year or two in Scotland. I want to thank you again, Jane, for being so kind to take the time to be with us today. Your work schedule must keep you hopping as it is.

Short Personal Biography:

Best-selling author, Jane Yolen, splits her time now between the U.S. and Scotland since the death of her husband of 44 years. She continues to work with each of her children on various projects. This woman of letters also continues to teach on and off throughout the U.S. and Great Britain. Jane remarks that she’s had too many awards to remember.

Her most recent books schedule is:
2010  Spring

Foiled, graphic novel, from First/Second

The Egret’s Day: poetry and photographs (by son Jason Stemple) from Boyds Mills

Bedtime for Bunny, novelty book from Simon & Schuster

My Father Knows the Names of Things, picture book Simon & Schuster

All-Star picture book bio of Honus Wagner, Philomel

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, picture book with daughter Heidi Stemple, Simon and Schuster


Except the Queen, adult fantasy novel with Midori Snyder from Roc/NAL


Lost Boy, picture book bio of James Barrie, Dutton Books

Hush Little Horsie, picture book from Random House

Switching on the Moon, poetry anthology with Andrew Fusek Peters, Candlewick

And just in case anyone’s wondering, her 300th book is coming out this year, though she‘s not sure which one it is going to be.

Be sure to check out her website: www.janeyolen.com/ It is a wonderful and informatative website, and I can hightly recommend it. 

Remember, readers, to post your comments on this interview or any of the other interviews. Tomorrow, as usual, I hope to take some aspect of this interview for a commentary. I hope all of you will stop by again to read and comment on it.

But, if you can’t make it tomorrow, keep in mind that illustrator, Aidana WillowRaven, will be our guest on Wednesday.

Have a productive and creative week everyone and feel free to stop by any time to just say hello, and hopefully, learn something new.

A bientot,


Categories: Writing and Poetry
  1. December 7, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    You have a great article here, truly informative. Very fine written I shall be bookmarking your server and subscribing to your feed so i can regularly read posts of this quality.

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