My love of the ocean came from my grandparents. They lived in Seaside, Oregon and I spent many summers and holidays living on the beach - playing in the surf, collecting seashells & sand dollars, and climbing rocks.
The crash of waves and the varied motions of the surf still enthrall and relax me. Although I never saw a shark off the Oregon Coast, a good friend encountered one and kept his surfboard, with a shark bite out of the end, as a souvenir.
Today, I am excited to share with you my talk with Connecticut author Jenna Grodzicki. A former librarian, her newest picture book, Finn Finds a Friend, wonders whether a shark could be lonely and just seeking friends. Hmm, what an interesting question and fun book.
ME: Welcome Jenna. Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write?)
JENNA: I’ve wanted to write picture books for most of my adult life, but it was always something I thought I’d do “someday.” Well, I realized that “someday” would never come unless I made the decision to try. So, early 2015, I began working on my first manuscript. I was an educator for many years, but I resigned at the end of the 2016-2017 school year to focus on writing full time. It was a huge leap of faith, but I’m so glad I did it.
What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
In 2011, I had a stroke. I was only 32 years old, and my children were really little (3 and 17 months). It was incredibly scary, and it took a long time for me to recover. Thankfully, the only residual effect is some tingling and numbness in my left hand. This experience taught me not to take anything for granted and to live life to the fullest.
Holy Cow! Definitely not what I was expecting. I am glad that you recovered and are fulfilling your dream. Your newest picture book Finn Finds a Friend is being released tomorrow (November 7th). Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
My family and I spend a lot of time on Cape Cod every summer. We stay in Chatham, and because of its large seal population, there are always sightings of great white sharks. People get really freaked out about it. One day, my husband and I were discussing this, and he jokingly said, “What if the sharks were just looking for friends?” That sparked the idea for Finn Finds a Friend.
Inspiration comes from the most interesting places! Your first book Pixie’s Adventure was published by eTreasures Publishing (a small, traditional house that publishes eBooks and print (POD) books) earlier this year (3/4/17). How has working with Spork been different?
It was a very different experience than working with Spork. Callie Metler-Smith, the owner, has included me in every step of the process. We communicate at least once a week. I can tell she puts her heart and soul into every book she publishes. In addition, I have found a family with all the other Spork authors. We support each other in all aspects of our writing. I couldn’t be happier that Finn found his home with Spork.
Knowing what you do now, would you still publish your first book with eTreasures Publishing or wait for a more "traditional" publisher? What, if any, unique challenges did epublishing entail? And what advice would you give to an unpublished author weighing both options?
My illustrator for Pixie's Adventure, Kerri Lockwood-Doody, is incredibly talented. I love the way the final illustrations came out, so for that, I'm glad I signed with eTreasures. However, there were some things about eTreasures that made the experience difficult, so my queries are currently being sent elsewhere. I would advise unpublished authors to do their due diligence. Receiving an offer of publication is exciting and wonderful, but it's important to do research to make sure the house is a good fit for you.
Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
Wow, this is a tough question. I can think of so many! Reading was such a huge part of my childhood. Some of my favorite picture books were Miss Nelson is Missing and Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. When I was a little older, I loved Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Nancy Drew and The Babysitters Club.
What is the hardest thing about writing for you? The most amazing?
I find revising to be the hardest thing for me. I tend to get stuck, thinking my story needs to be written a certain way. I’m so thankful for my critique partners who help me see my stories in a different light. The most amazing part is reading my story after I’ve made those difficult revisions. I get butterflies in my stomach when I see how much better it has become.
Is there something you want your readers to know about Finn Finds a Friend?
Finn has trouble making new friends because the sea creatures are frightened by his appearance. I hope readers take away the idea that friends come in all shapes and sizes; they don’t have to look like you.
We need more people thinking this way. What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (as a child or now as a writer.)
My mother has always been a source of inspiration for me. Like me, she was a teacher, but she left that behind to follow her dream of opening a gymnastics school. As a writer, I’d have to say my children are my greatest source of inspiration. My 7 year-old-son is the funniest person I know. Almost everything that comes out of his mouth sparks new ideas.
Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I have many stories that are in various stages of completion. Most of them are fiction, but I do have one nonfiction PB that I’m particularly excited about. It’s a concept book about marine animals that look like foods we eat. I’ve been working on this one for almost two years, and I just started a complete rewrite based on feedback I received from an editor.
That nonfiction piece sounds interesting. Good luck with these stories. Is there anything about writing or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or anything you’re glad you didn’t know about in advance?
I wish I had known how much patience I would need. At every step of the way, there is so much waiting involved. If I had known this ahead of time, I would have started my writing journey with more realistic expectations. I’m glad I didn’t know how many rejections I would receive. That may have deterred me from pursuing my dream.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
I could be boring and say cats, but right now I’m going to go with sea turtles. We went snorkeling with sea turtles in Barbados last spring, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Watching them glide through the water up close gave me a new appreciation for this animal.
Thank you, Jenna for stopping by. It was wonderful to get to know you and chat with you.
Be sure to comment on this post or Friday's #PPBF post for a chance to win a signed copy of Finn Finds a Friend and some book swag.
To find out more about Jenna Grodzicki or get in touch with her: