Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Interview with Circus Train author, Jennifer Cole Judd

Welcome to The Storyteller’s Scroll, Jenn. 

I’m so pleased to have you as a guest today. I thoroughly enjoyed your picture book, The Circus Train and would like you to share a little bit about yourself and your writing goals for my readers.

 The first few questions relate to your “writing life.”

1. How long have you been writing?  

Thanks so much for having me, Gayle!  I have been writing for a long time--my very first poems I wrote when I was around five years old.  My mom still has  scraps of paper with a poem I wrote about Christmas, Halloween, and, interestingly enough--a train! (Only this one was a train to heaven, not the circus--still kind of a cool train, but without the prancing poodles.)

2. Where do you write?  

I have a little desk space right next to my laundry room with my computer, a pinboard of quotes and inspiration, and a picture of a lovely view of Ireland (it doesn't have a window, so I have to improvise). But I do sometimes scribble ideas on scratch paper, notebook paper, etc.  I have been known to talk into my phone if an idea bonks me on the head while I'm doing my other jobs (including carpooling a circus of kids around town). 

3. How long ago did you get the idea for Circus Train?  

The inspiration for CIRCUS TRAIN came way back in 2006 when I took my young family to the circus one August afternoon. Watching my preschool daughter's eyes widen and hearing her gasp or giggle with each new act was an experience I wanted to bottle up and open again and again...I came home with that imagery fresh in my mind.

4. When did you start the first draft and how long, from that point, until the book was completed? 

CIRCUS TRAIN began as a poem--short, tight verses that focused on the sensory experience of a day at the circus. At the time, I was also in Anastasia Suen's Intensive Picture Book Workshop (a wonderful course!), which helped me learn the bones of picture book writing, and flesh the story out to picture book length.  

I was only just beginning my journey as a children's writer back then, and my focus had been on poetry (and still tends to be my focus).  I was still new and shy about submitting back then, so I only subbed it twice before I decided to put it on the shelf.  

I put it on the shelf so long that I didn't pull it out again until 2012, as a matter of fact.  Talk about fresh eyes!  This time, however, I had had six years of writing and learning the craft a bit more (plus some really awesome critique partners) that helped me get the story in shape to send out again.  

Still, I was thrilled and (honestly) shocked when my editor contacted me to say they wanted to acquire the book, a few short months after submitting it. Definitely a (happy) surprise!

5. What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?  

I have learned that the publishing process takes a long time--CIRCUS TRAIN was acquired in 2012, but wasn't published until 2015.  Having patience is definitely part of the experience! Book promoting has also been a big learning experience for me; fortunately there are wonderful resources available to children's writers now, from SCBWI to great online groups like 12x12, PiBoIdMo, ReFoReMo...learning how to be a partner in the success of a published book has been an exciting (if sometimes overwhelming!) process.  I definitely recommend that all writers start early, getting involved and learning the aspects of the trade.

6. Can you share a favorite circus memory?  

Definitely, my favorite experience was that day that inspired the book.  When the clowns, walking on stilts, fired streams of confetti into the crowd and my kids squealed, well, that was kinda magical. Along with our bright blue tongues from all the cotton candy we ate that day.

7. If you were a circus performer, what would you be and why?  

In my dreams, I would be a trapeze artist--I think it's the closest thing to feeling like you're flying, and I have always wished I could fly! 

But if I were to get hired based on talent alone?  I would definitely be a circus clown--I am really good at tripping, being goofy, and cramming lots of people into a car.
8. What’s next for you, Jenn? Will you write another picture book? Or maybe a poetry collection or something in between? 

I've been focusing on poems lately, with a few picture books percolating at varying degrees.  I've been feeling the pull to write something lengthier as of late, too, but we will see if my attention span will hold out for that!

Thanks so much for sharing your precious time. Please list the links below so my readers can easily access your book for purchase.

Where to buy the book:


Fall Frenzy Writing Contest 2020

 I entered this last year and it was a great writing experience. This year’s rules: 1. Choose a fall image from Lydia Lukidis’s blog