Friday, February 4, 2011

Interview with Debut Picture Book Author, Jodi Moore

Today I have an extra special treat for you, the first interview of debut picture book author, Jodi Moore. J

I met Jodi two years ago at the SCBWI Eastern PA Pocono Retreat (coming up again April 8-10, 2011 at the Shawnee Golf Resort), a great conference to make new friendships and foster old ones. Scholastic had just published my first picture book, ROCK STAR SANTA and Jodi was such an enthusiastic fan. Now, I get to reciprocate the enthusiasm. I’ve pre-ordered her first book and I can’t wait for her to sign it.

Here is her interview.

1. Can you tell us your latest news?

My first picture book, WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN (Flashlight Press) will be released May 1, 2011. It’s about a little boy who builds the “perfect” sandcastle and a dragon moves in. He’s delighted, of course, until his family doesn’t believe him and the dragon becomes a bit mischievous. It’s up to the readers to decide whether the dragon is real or is just a figment of the child’s imagination. I also have a second PB contracted with Story Pie Press called GOOD NEWS NELSON (publishing date to be determined).

2. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Wow. This is the question that has most likely held up this interview – LOL! How do I choose? While it may sound cliché, I really do feel that I have learned something from each and every writer I know – from those I personally have met, who have critiqued my work and shared their own – to those I have only had the great privilege of reading their stories. They’ve all been mentors in their own way. However, if I had to choose just one, I would have to say Jacqueline Woodson.  She writes with such passion, with such quiet strength, lending her unique voice to such believable characters. I had the great honor of hearing her speak – and read! – at the 2010 SCBWI winter conference in NYC. To hear her actual voice breathe life into her stories, to give volume and expression to her characters…there was a musicality nothing short of spiritual. Yeah. I’d love to be able to move people like that.

3. What is/was your first published title?

I’ve worked on various fiction and non-fiction magazine articles; however, my first picture book title is WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN.

4. What inspired you to write your first book?

In a word? Family.

My parents, my siblings, my husband, our two sons. They are my inspirations, my support system. My mother worked outside the home when I was a baby and would surprise me each night with a new book. It didn’t take me long to associate reading with love. I began writing picture book manuscripts when my own boys were toddlers. What could be better than producing something that others could love – that could
foster love?

It would seem that I didn’t hit on the right manuscript until my boys left for college. (As you can see, I’m not exactly an overnight sensation – LOL – although in all fairness to me, I stopped working on my picture books stories to pursue some nonfiction opportunities for about 15 of those years!) Feeling the sting of empty nest, I was encouraged by my husband to return to my roots, my passion for writing fiction, specifically, children’s fiction.

“Do you know how hard it is to get published in this business?” I protested. “Yes,” he said (probably having no idea). “Give it the four years the boys are in college, then you can argue with me. I believe in you.”

Admittedly, we were both a bit depressed that first Labor Day as we made our way to a local beach. It’s not that we didn’t love being with each other. It’s just that this was the very first holiday we didn’t have the kids with us. We missed our boys.

My husband brought our satchel of sand toys anyway. Buckets, shovels, molds. He began to build a sandcastle. And, as happens when one builds a sandcastle, he began to also attract the little children on the beach. I flitted around to the ever-growing gaggle of anxious moms, explaining why a mature man would be building a sandcastle, seemingly alone, and resulting in luring their babies toward him. “Please excuse us,” I implored. “We’re going through empty nest. My husband just misses our boys. This is something they always did together.” Anxiety was replaced by understanding smiles as the army of toddlers grew, each one “helping” my husband in his/her own way. At one point, one of the children stuck a piece of seaweed in the opening. “Look,” my husband enthused, “it’s a dragon tail. A dragon moved in to our castle!”

And the heavens opened while the angels sang.  J

The idea germinated in my head for about a month and then I wrote it down. A book idea was conceived.

Of course that was in 2007. So we’re looking at about a four-year gestation period!

What a wonderful inspiration, truly a story born of love and family. J Some of the best ideas come from real events.

The hardest thing was finding an editor who could see what others could not – literally! I didn’t realize until after several publishers passed that it wasn’t necessarily the story that was the issue, but rather, the illustrations. How does one illustrate something that may – or may not – be there? What a challenge! Thankfully (and I am TREMENDOUSLY thankful!), my amazing editor, Shari Dash Greenspan of Flashlight Press, had such vision! And then she assigned my illustrator, the incredibly talented Howard McWilliam, who brought my dragon – and my story – to life. I am so blessed!

The best thing? There are lots of best things, but I’ll try to name just a few.

First? That my first picture book really WAS born out of love, not only as a solid reminder of how precious our boys are to us, but also as a tribute to my husband’s support of my writing, of my dream.

Which leads to my second best thing: showing our kids that you’re never too old to follow your heart.

Third, my family, both immediate and extended – my amazing support system – is proud of me.

BONUS. Finally, I have concrete evidence that I can do this, that I am meant to do this. And I’ve got lots more stories to share. * grin *

5. What is your most recently released book or upcoming book about?

(I explained the premise of Dragon in my opening…!) My upcoming picture book GOOD NEWS NELSON features a young paperboy who decides it’s not enough to just deliver the news, sometimes we have to get involved to change it. The story enforces the notion that little people can make a big difference.

6. What are your current projects?

In addition to several other PB manuscripts, I am also currently working on a contemporary YA novel called Damaged Goods, which I have sworn to complete sometime this century.

7. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Follow your dreams and nurture your imagination, but always be kind and encouraging to others along the way. Oh, and please buy my books so my editors know they made the right decision. * grin *

8. And for fun, something that not a lot of people know about you:

I love to dip my French fries in a chocolate milkshake before I eat them.

Hmm. I’ll have to try that.

Thank you for sharing your story with us Jodi. I’m sure you’ve inspired children’s writers everywhere. You’ll have to share your newest manuscript with me at this year’s Pocono Retreat.

Happy writing!


  1. Gayle, it was an honor to be interviewed by you. Thanks for helping to spread the good news about my upcoming books! Can't wait to hug you in person at the Pocono Retreat! Major cyber hugs for now - Jodi :)

  2. What a lovely interview! Jodi you have such a beautiful spirit. I especially enjoyed this line, "It didn’t take me long to associate reading with love." *sigh*

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Gayle. Best of luck with your book, Jodi. I can't wait to read it.

  3. I love all of these interviews, Gayle and I am super excited for Jodi and her debut picture book! I'll be sure to look for it in May.

  4. What a fun interview! Can't wait until a dragon moves into my house in May (grin). It was a pleasure to meet you in person at the SCBWINY11, Jodi! Hope to see you again, soon, as well as to featured you over at during release week!

  5. Thank you, Jodi, for sharing such wonderful insights -- and your husband also deserves a "bravo" for not letting you back down on what you're meant to be doing. I loved the story about your story...

    Thank you, Gayle, for bringing us Jodi!

    And to Shari Dash Greenspan (also my AMAZING editor:), you do have an eye for spotting talent *grin*

  6. It looks like a great book, and I love dragons, even invisible ones! :) Thanks everyone for sharing Jodi's joy.

  7. Nice interview! I agree with Kai. Jodi you do have a beautiful spirit - very kind and loving. I enjoyed your story behind the picture book.

  8. Awww, thanks, everyone for your sweet comments, and especially to you, Gayle, for this interview! * heart squish *

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