Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome Jenna Grodzicki. Her debut nonfiction picture book I See Sea Food published by Millbrook Press (a division of Lerner) has a unique hook. She explains her journey below.
But first, YAY- Jenna is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a comment below. (US residents only, ends Oct 25, 2019)
Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I See Sea Food went through MANY rounds of revisions before it was submission ready. I can look back and see that clearly now. However, I submitted it to a lot of agents before it was at that point. Needless to say, I racked up lots of rejections. The one comment I heard over and again was that they loved the topic but not the execution. It wasn’t until early 2018 that I found the right format and voice. Then, Lerner editor Carol Hinz posted an open call for nonfiction manuscripts that would best be illustrated with photographs. I had always envisioned this story with photographs, so I submitted it right away. Less than a month later, I received an offer. It was a dream come true.
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for this book came from a website I just happened to click on while researching lemon sharks (for what would later become Finn Finds a Friend (Clear Fork Publishing)). It was an article about marine animals that looked like foods we eat. It was a total OMG moment for me. I knew that kids would be as fascinated by these creatures as I was. I never planned to write nonfiction, though, so I didn’t do anything with this idea for a few months. But I couldn’t stop thinking about these sea creatures that really did look like food. So, I decided to go for it and began the research process. And I’m so happy I did.
Please share some of your writing process.
I write both fiction and nonfiction. I See Sea Food was my first attempt at nonfiction, and now I’m hooked. I love finding a new and interesting topic. I tend to be drawn to weird animals, so that’s what I’ve been researching and writing about. But I also really enjoy writing fiction.
My writing process is similar for both. I have the hardest time with the first draft. I have an unfortunate habit of agonizing over EVERY SINGLE WORD. I constantly have to remind myself that I just need to get a bunch of words down on paper, and they don’t have to be perfect. That’s what revising is for.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I first started dreaming about writing picture books when I was teaching first grade. My favorite part of the day was when I read to my students. I loved talking about and sharing amazing books with them. Slowly, I came to the realization that I wanted to try writing picture books. It remained only a dream for several years, something I would do “some day.” Finally, I took the leap and haven’t looked back since.
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I hope to continue to create picture books, both fiction and nonfiction. I’m a full-time writer now with no plans to stop. I have two books coming out in 2020. HARMONY HUMBOLT – PERFECT PETS QUEEN (Clear Fork Publishing) is about a girl named Harmony who learns that her special Perfect Pets collection is even more special when shared with friends. The second book is nonfiction. It hasn’t been announced yet, so I can’t say much more about it. I also have several WIPs, and my agent is getting ready to send a couple more manuscripts out on submission. Lots of exciting things happening, and I’m thankful every day that I get to do what I love.
Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
Wow, this is a difficult question. So many books have served as mentor texts for me. I’d have to say one of my absolute favorite picture books is Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. This was one I read to my first graders every year. It certainly influenced my dream to become a writer.
When I was working on I See Sea Food, I used many of Melissa Stewart’s books as mentor texts. Two of the most helpful ones were Feathers: Not Just for Flying and No Monkeys, No Chocolate. I’m a huge fan of all of her work.
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Immerse yourself in the Kidlit community. No one understands this crazy journey like other writers. And join a critique group. These will be your people. They’ll be there for you every step of the way, and their support is invaluable.
And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’d be the rainbow sprinkles on top of the ice cream. Rainbow sprinkles make a dish of ice cream more cheerful looking. I’m naturally a very happy person, and I try to spread that positivity to everyone around me.
Jenna Grodzicki has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College, and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of New England. After spending 15 years as an educator, Jenna is now a full-time writer. She is the author of Pixie’s Adventure (eTreasures Publishing, 2017), Finn Finds A Friend (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017), I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures that Look Like Food (Millbrook Press, 2019), and HARMONY HUMBOLT – PERFECT PETS QUEEN (Clear Fork Publishing, 2020). Jenna lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. She is represented by Victoria Selvaggio of Storm Literary Agency.
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