Inside Creative Minds: Jenn Castro, Children’s Author

Well, I know it’s not summer anymore, but this blog series seemed too good to truncate when I got an interview with Jenn Castro, author of the charming picture book MOM ME. Listen in as she talks about her writing process, urban homesteading, and how to get kids to love reading.

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1.     Welcome, Jenn! So tell us–how did you first discover that you loved writing?

When I was 10, I read Marjorie’s New Friend by Carolyn Wells. Reading about her red diary made me want to keep one. That year, I bought a diary. It’s green tweed and has a lock. Since then, I’ve kept many many journals, quote books, and scraps of paper in boxes. When I get an idea, I have to write it down. Eventually the need to write the story is so strong, I have to tell the story.

2.     What are some of your favorite books/authors?

My favorite children’s picture book authors are Margaret Wise Brown (Wait Til The Moon is Full), Leo Leonni (Swimmy), and Marie Hall Ets, (In the Forest). I love these authors because they respect and honor children’s imagination and intelligence. In elementary school, Beverly Cleary was a favorite. As an adult, I enjoy reading her books because she is very skilled at structuring a story. In high school, I liked books about seemingly real teen experiences (i.e., Mr. Pigman, by Paul Zindel). As an adult I am pulled to books about day-to-day life. Barbara Kingsolver’s series including Pigs in Heaven still top my list because of her fresh use of metaphors.

3.     How did you develop the idea for MOM ME?

I can’t say I developed the idea for MOM ME because the story came directly from funny things my kids did, including wiping their noses and mouths on my clothing! Some of the material came from how I played as a child: adults offering their shoulders as diving boards and carrying me across a pool on their backs name two.

4.     What’s one thing you wish someone had told you before you started the book publishing process?

Since publishing MOM ME and starting Hippowl Press, I’ve developed huge respect for the publishing industry. The writing, illustrating, front and back matter, printing, marketing, distributing, etc. is a huge endeavor. I think if anyone had told me all the steps, I might never have done it. So perhaps it’s better that I jumped in without knowing all that.

5.     Which came first for your book–the words or the illustrations?

The words came first. When my youngest was learning to sleep through the night, I’d wake to help him. While awake, I’d grab any nearby piece of paper and scribble a memory from the day. Images for illustrations followed quickly. I loved working with my illustrator on the story images because we saw the story so similarly.

6.     What divides your time from writing? How do you balance it all?

Without my kids, family, and community commitments, I’d have nothing competing for my time. Having so little time to write forces me to become very efficient and put any free time I have to writing. The stronger the story, the more compelled I am to sit and finish. My husband is very supportive and encouraging.

7.     What are some of your hobbies?

Coloring with magic markers on vellum paper is relaxing. I also enjoy painting fabric, bike riding with my teenager, playing cards with my youngest, and urban homesteading with my husband.

8.     What’s the best thing about being a published author? The hardest?

The best thing about being a published author is the satisfaction of finishing my first project. The hardest is finishing my next one.

9.     What do you think is the best way to help a child develop a love of reading?

Children learn to love reading when they see adults in their lives who enjoy reading. Kids (and adults) like to talk about books. I frequently ask kids what they’re reading and talk to them about the books. My own kids tell me about the stories they’re reading and I stop and listen to them. Showing I’m interested, shows them that discussing books is important and valuable. When they see that I value reading, it develops their love of reading.

10.    Are you working on another book project now?

Yes, I’m working on a young adult novel. I also keep a regular blog, jenncastro.com, where I write about daily life as a mom, including searching for termites under my house, hiring myself to pull weeds, and many seemingly mundane activities like cooking pancakes for dinner and hanging laundry to dry.

11.    What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?

When you have an idea, write it down. Inspiration is fleeting and it’s important to hang on to it so it doesn’t slip away.

Thanks for stopping by, Jenn! 

To find more information about Jenn or MOM ME, check out her website!

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