Interview with Author Jeanette Larson
I was raised as a military kid so my family traveled all over. In a lot of ways, I think that experience allowed me to appreciate and understand people from every walk of life.
I went to school inNew Mexicoand earned a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. While I loved the subject, the degree doesn’t really prepare you for anything other than going on to get another degree! It proved to be a great background for library science. I met my husband at theUniversityofNew Mexico, but we never dated. In the early 1970s, a person did not date the other people who lived in the same dorm. They were more like family. After I graduated, we realized that our connection was stronger than friendship and we got married.
When it finally dawned on me that I loved libraries and books and information, I went to theUniversityofSouthern Californiato get a Master of Science degree in Library Science. While in school I worked for Anaheim Public Library but we wanted to move back to the Southwest. We moved to theDallasarea and I worked for Irving Public Library and Mesquite Public Library before I was offered the opportunity to move toAustin. Who wouldn’t want to live and work in the beautiful Hill Country of Central Texas? I worked for the Texas State Library for a little over nine years before moving over to Austin Public Library where I headed up the Youth Services Division. At age 55, I decided it was time to have more control over my schedule and flexibility in my projects so I started Larson Library Consulting, a catch-all company for my work as a trainer, consultant, and writer.
It’s wonderful to spend my days working with librarians around the country but I also help other writers market their books to libraries. I’m honored to have been named Librarian of the Year by the Texas Library Association (1998) and to have received the Siddie Joe Johnson Award (2003), also from TLA for my work with library youth services. http://www.jeanettelarson.com/
Jeanette Larson co author of Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore fromAmericas
I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog
What is the last book you read?
This is always hard for me to answer because I’m usually reading a couple of books at the same time. The book I just finished was In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson. It was a very heavy historical look at Hitler’s rise to power. I also just read an advance copy of Giant Peach Yodel! by Jan Peck. It’s a delightful Southern version of a familiar Russian folktale.
What were your earliest memories of writing?
Well, I remember playing “school” and teaching my younger siblings to write. When my mother passed away I found that she had saved some of my truly terrible poetry. I didn’t really write creatively as a child but do remember writing a lot of school term papers and essays that probably laid the foundation for my writing non-fiction.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?
Both of my parents were English majors so we always had a lot of books around. My mother always aspired to be a writer and she wrote some short stories that were never published so I was encouraged in that way. I wouldn’t say it came naturally because for many years I didn’t believe I had anything to write about or any stories to tell. Writing was part of my work as a librarian so I guess the evolution to writing for fun was a natural progression.
Are you working on a new book?
I hope to be! I talked with my editor, Randi Rivers, about a sort of sequel to Hummingbirds. It would focus on another creature and the facts and folklore surrounding that animal.
What inspired you to writeHummingbirds Facts and Folklore from the Americas?
Adrienne Yorinks and I were looking for a topic that interested us both and that would work well with her fabric art. I had helped her with Quilt of States but we wanted a project that was really “ours.” I love animals and we had considered some other subjects but nothing was working out. Then my husband and I took a weekend vacation to Rockport, TX. This small community on the Texas Gulf Coast hosts a hummingbird festival each year to celebrate their migration through the area and we happened to be there that weekend. When I walked out of the hotel I was literally surrounded by hummingbirds! I’ve always loved them and started thinking about the stories I had heard in my anthropology classes at the University of New Mexico. So I started thinking about combining facts and folktales. Then I learned that hummingbirds only exist in the Americas and that many native peoples have stories about them. I love a challenge so set out to find folktales to go with the facts.
Can you give us a brief reason why Hummingbirds only exist in America?
There is some fossil evidence that there may have been hummingbirds in Europe and perhaps Asia 30 million years ago. Scientists don’t know why they went extinct in other areas although there is some speculation that it was due to climate changes. The more intriguing question for me is why they have not been introduced to Hawaii, the only one of the 50 states that lacks hummers. It’s too far for them migrate on their own and Hawaii is very careful about introducing non-native species even though they would probably thrive there.
What was your favorite children’s book?
That is a really hard question for a librarian to answer! Growing up I don’t recall having a lot of children’s books. I read adult books like Sherlock Holmes when I was about 9 years old. I do remember getting the Landmark history and biography books in the mail and reading all of the Nancy Drew stories. I guess my favorite children’s book, if pushed to pick just one, was The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley. I still have the copy my parents had when we were kids but I’m pleased to see that it has been re-issued as it was out of print for many years.
What is the most difficult part of writing?
For me it is hard to stop researching and start writing. I also find that I get bored with myself and have to put the work away for awhile before editing and revising. I also need to write before I forget. Frequently I “write” a lot in my head but before I actually write it on paper I forget what I wanted to say!
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?
I also teach for Texas Woman’s University and do freelance training and consulting for librarians. My husband and I enjoy traveling and I like walking my dogs. Oh, and of course I spend a lot of time reading.
How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
I actually am a reviewer so I’ve been on both sides of bad reviews! It’s natural I think to remember all the negatives and criticism but I try to remember that it is one person’s opinion. Sometimes the criticism is valid but often it is just a difference of opinion or preferences. I’m sure I’ve suffered from writer’s block! It’s hard sometimes to sit down and just write. I can find so many other things to do.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?
I hope readers gain an appreciation for the birds and what amazing creatures they are. I also hope they take time to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in ugliness and negativity but we really do live in a beautiful world. I also hope that readers take away an appreciation for the folktales and how there is some element of reality in every story.
Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with?
I’ve actually been fortunate to dine with some of those people like Jack Gantos, Jeanette Ingold, and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I would have loved to meet James Michener.
What author inspires you the most and why?
I’m inspired by writers like Jane Yolen who are so prolific and write in so many different genres. I’m also inspired by people like Eric A. Kimmel who take old stories and revitalize them for new readers.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I’m so undisciplined! I do try to set goals and I’m much better now about meeting deadlines. I work from home so I’m always distracted by other things. I have found that I do work best with some pressure so it’s good when I have deadlines. When I’m really under a tight schedule I do have to shut off Facebook (I’m way too social!) and stop reading email until I’ve done my work.
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?
The right book is any book their child wants to read. Don’t worry about grade levels or Accelerated Reader levels. Let your child pick what is of interest. If the book is too hard, read it together! Surround your children with books. Use audiobooks in the car. So many great books for children are also great books for anyone so adults are often surprised to find that they loved listening to The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan or The Giver by Lois Lowry. And don’t overlook non-fiction! There are so many fabulous true stories.
What advice you would give to new writers?
Get involved with an organization like SCBWI. You will find so much inspiration and support from your fellow writers. Get to know other writers. I have found my fellow writers to be the most caring and sharing people I know. Most are very generous with their time and willingness to help other writers. Be patient. It takes a long time to get a manuscript ready and for a book to be published. Also read a lot!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I love hearing from readers and enjoy their stories about encounters with hummingbirds. My website, jeanettelarson.com, has my contact information and some resources for teachers and parents to use with kids who are reading my book. I’ve also been delighted that the book has been popular with adults as well. Many people are giving the book as a gift to aunts, uncles, grandparents and others who love hummingbirds or quilting.
Thank you for this interview.
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My name is Ella Johnson. I started Mymcbooks to promote reading. As a former teacher, I know that making basic education fundamentals interesting to children can be challenging. Education can be fun, exciting and captivating for children with the right learning tools. So my goal is to “make learning interesting and fun” for the children while they learn, by introducing them to fun books with colorful and captivating illustrations.
In 2009, I start the giveaway program giving away free school supplies at random to 2 winners each year. I also started a monthly free giveaways for books and gifts.
August 2010, I extended the free school supplies from 2 to 5 winners at random on my blog and also give away 20 bags full of school supplies to familes in need at Chick-fil-A in Brandon, Florida during their family nights. And in 2012, I beat my that number and gave away a lot of school supplies to needy families. Hopefully, I can continue to do this each year.
In 2011, I started writing reviews on children’s books then giving these books away free on Mymcbooks Blog. I increase the number of books we giveaway free to help support parent. My goal is to give away as many as I can each year. This is also a great way to introduce parents to new books.
Mymcbooks blog is always looking for other ways to give kids free books. So I started Mymcbooks Birthday Library http://mymcbooksbirthdaylibrary.wordpress.com/
My goal is to giveaway at least 300 books to children each year.
Books Given in 2011: 315
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Read Interview about Ella Johnson, http://melangeofcultures.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/interview-with-ella-johnson-founder-of-memorable-children-books-gifts/ Interviewer: Nicole Weaver
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