Today, Jenna Grodzicki popped in to visit. I first met Jenna at Kristen Fulton’s WOW retreat in July 2016. I clearly remember talking to her on a shuttle on the way into town. She was telling me about her upcoming book, Pixie’s Adventure, and I was really pleased for her, but I had no idea at the time that we would be “Spork Sisters.” What I mean by that is that we have new books being released from Spork, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing. I am thrilled to have Jenna visit me on my blog to discuss writing and her new book, Finn Finds a Friend. I can’t wait to read it!
I asked Jenna a few questions, and I hope you enjoy learning about this fabulous writer who, by the way, can rock some go-go boots. But that’s for a different post! 🙂
- Why picture books? What drew you to them?
I’ve always loved picture books. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my parents reading books like Miss Nelson is Missing and Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! to me and my sister and brother. When I was a classroom teacher, my favorite thing to do was read aloud picture books and help children discover new authors to love. And reading picture books with my own children is truly a magical experience.
- I know that Finn Finds a Friend is about a Lemon Shark. How did you come up with that idea?
The idea for Finn Finds a Friend came out of a discussion I had with my husband. We go to Chatham on Cape Cod every summer, and because of the seal population, there are always shark sightings. People get really freaked out about them. So, my husband and I were joking around and saying, “What if the sharks were just looking for friends?” When I started writing the story, I knew I wanted Finn to attempt to make friends with humans, so he had to be a type of shark that’s not considered dangerous to people. After spending some time researching, I came across the lemon shark. I knew right away I had found my main character.
- Do you write other things aside from picture books? If so, what?
Currently, I haven’t written anything other than picture books. I do have some ideas floating around for chapter books and one for a middle grade novel, though, so it’s likely I’ll branch out.
- How long have you been writing?
I dreamed about writing picture books long before I actually started. It was always something I thought I’d do “some day.” It wasn’t until early 2015 that I started putting pen to paper. I remember the exact day. Through the PTA, I had organized a visit with author Leslie Bulion for my children’s school. Between presentations, she and I sat down and talked about writing. She told me about SCBWI and encouraged me to follow my dream. That night, I started my first manuscript and signed up for the NESCBWI Spring Conference! I haven’t stopped writing since.
- Do you have a “day job?”
I was in education for over 15 years. I taught kindergarten, first grade, and third grade. Most recently, I was a library media specialist at a K-5 school. At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, I decided to resign from my LMS position. I took a huge leap of faith to pursue writing full time.
- Tell us a little bit about your process, your critique group, etc.
When I get an idea, it has to marinate in my brain for a little while before I can start writing anything. I usually complete my first draft in a day or two. That’s the easy part. I find editing, revising, and rewriting to be really hard. Luckily, I am part of two wonderful critique groups. The feedback from my CPs is invaluable. They make me a better writer, and I’m so thankful for them!
- Do you have an agent? Do you think that is an important part of being a professional writer?
I don’t have an agent, but I’m actively looking for one. I’m fortunate to have had two books published without an agent, but I do think they are important. Many publishing houses, including the Big 5, don’t accept unagented manuscripts.
- When and where do you do most of your writing?
I have my own office/library where I do most of my writing. It’s a beautiful spaced filled with books. I do most of my writing when my children are at school. However, I have had some ideas in the middle of the night. When that happens, it doesn’t matter what time it is. You have to write when inspiration strikes!
9. Are you a planner or a pantster? (Flying by the seat of your pants).
I’m definitely a pantster! Unless I’m working on a nonfiction manuscript, I don’t outline anything ahead of time. Once the idea’s had time to marinate, I sit at my computer and start typing.
- What are some specific things that you feel helped you with your journey?
Wow, so many things have helped me with my writing journey! Being a member of both SCBWI and 12×12 has helped me grow as a writer. Attending conferences, online classes, FB groups, and critique groups have helped me to improve my craft. But I think the people I’ve met along the way have had the most impact. The connections I’ve made with other writers have been vital to my success.
- You signed with a small press. What drew you to CFP?
Last fall, a few writers I know, including you, announced their book deals with Clear Fork Publishing. When I looked into it, CFP seemed like a good fit for my manuscript, so I took a chance and submitted. When I spoke with Callie Metler-Smith, the owner of CFP, I knew Finn had found his home. She was just as excited about the manuscript as I was. Now, I’m so grateful to be a part of the Clear Fork family. Callie has included me in every step of the publication process. I don’t think this would have been the case if I was with a bigger press. Plus, I’ve made so many amazing friends. I can’t say enough good things about Callie and CFP.
- Tell us a bit about your personal life…your background, your family, other jobs, etc.
I live in Connecticut with my husband and our two crazy awesome children, Tessa (9) and Tanner (7). When I’m not writing, I love to read. I’m the leader of my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. I also love skiing and the Boston Red Sox. I can’t live without iced coffee, and I’m a sucker for chocolate chip cookies.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Ellen!
Thank YOU for stopping in, Jenna! Good luck on all your writing journeys.
Here are some links:
- My website jennagrodzicki.com
- Twitter handle: @jennawritesPB
- Facebook: Jenna Grodzicki
- Instagram: @jennawritesPB
- Finn Finds a Friend is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Clear Fork Publishing