Author Spotlight: Jodi McKay


Nov. 18, 2016

Today we welcome picture book debut author Jodi McKay! Be sure to enter her giveaway for her book, WHERE ARE THE WORDS?, illustrated by Denise Holmes (Albert Whitman, coming mid-December, winner will receive book then.)





Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

First, thanks for having me on your blog. This is very exciting!
I am from Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan and right now I am looking out the windows at the beautiful fall foliage that makes this mitten state so incredible. I live in a house full of boys, two of which are furry, so I’ve made sure to secure my own space where I can write without too much interruption.

I started writing when I was a kid, but not seriously until about 5 years ago. My happy place has always been in the children’s section of the bookstore, sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor reading as many picture books as time allows so it felt natural to write them as well. I am proud to say that I think of about 20 weird things on a daily basis and those are often fodder for my books. It also helps to live with a bunch of boys who say and do really strange things.

Congratulations on your debut PB, WHERE ARE THE WORDS? Tell us about it and what inspired it.

Thanks so much! Remember when I said I think of a handful of weird things a day? Well, this book came from a drought of weirdness. In despair over a dearth of creativity, I asked myself, “Where the (bleep) are the words?” 

Oddly enough, that was the spark I needed to formulate a story. I figured, why not write about not being able to write and what if the character that wants to write a story is usually part of the story? 
Cue the punctuation marks. The first character that came to mind was Exclamation Point. I saw him yelling everything he said. This meant that all of the other punctuation marks had to speak the way they act. So Period only makes statements, Question Mark asks all of the questions, and so on. Period is the main character and all he wants is to write a story, but he literally can’t find the words for it. His punctuation pals try to help him, but it is Exclamation Point who is able to see the bigger picture and he helps Period discover where the words are. 

Honestly, it’s a message to myself to step back and take a look around. Focusing too much on a problem (trying to find words) leaves a person blind to potential solutions (ideas for a story). I also added in a theme of collaboration and friendship because sometimes we need a little help from our friends (the kid lit community).



  
Can you tell us about how you got your first contract? How long was the process from writing the story to publication?

I wrote WHERE ARE THE WORDS? during the summer of 2014. It went through a couple of critiques, one of which gave it that extra shine (thank you SCBWI MI shop talk!) Then, when Venus was in retrograde and all of the planets aligned I got my break. I was the winner, out of hundreds of entrants, of a critique by an author who not only gave me great feedback, but then asked if I would be interested in sending it to her editor. Not needing to think twice about that one, I sent it off and waited for what felt like a life time. 

After a few months without a word, I figured it was a no so I started querying it. Two weeks later I received an email with an offer. A few weeks after that I signed with the incomparable Linda Epstein now at Emerald City Literary Agency. It has been roughly 2 ½ years from start to finish and I have learned a lot along the way!

What projects are you working on now?

I am rotating through a few different picture book revisions at the moment. Two are nursery rhyme spin offs showcasing a certain cow who has issues jumping over the moon and then three blind mice who prevail despite their disabilities. Quirky, humorous picture books are my comfort zone, but I am also working on a picture book that addresses differences and being open to the unfamiliar.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same you would give to aspiring authors?

The first thing that came to mind is, don’t get a perm and then rat out your bangs. It makes you look like a poodle.

The second, and perhaps more sage advice that can be applied to aspiring authors today is, don’t doubt yourself so much. There is a learning curve for everything and doubt gets in the way of learning.

Who or what inspires you?

Well-chosen words inspire me. Whether they are found in books, on the screen, or shouted from a pulpit, I am a sucker for words that make me feel. I often find that the words that are most inspirational can be found at the least expected times or in the most random places. It’s like they were meant for me to hear them at that very moment and that influences me greatly.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

Let’s see, what to choose from… How about, I played the saxophone for 7 years. Yep, the alto and baritone sax in about every band you can think of. Wow, I haven’t shared that little nugget of information in quite some time. Has anyone told you that interviews feel a bit therapeutic?

Where can people find you online?

Thanks for asking! I would love to chat with folks about books, writing, or maybe even saxophones so please find me on:

My website- www.JodiMcKayBooks.com (Look for the teacher’s guide!)
Email- Jodi@JodiMcKayBooks.com
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/JLMcKayBooks/

And you have a blog tour. Here are the dates to Jodi’s Blog tour:

November 14th- https://albertwhitman.wordpress.com
November 18th- www.kidlit411.com
November 28th- http://jumpingthecandlestick.blogspot.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Jodi lives in Grosse Pointe, Michigan with her husband, son, a couple of mischievous pets, and at least one ghost. She discovered that she loved to write when she was 8 years old, but decided to finish school before pursuing it full time. Now she is an active member of the incredible kid lit community and is proud to be represented by Linda Epstein at Emerald City Literary Agency. Jodi’s debut picture book, WHERE ARE THE WORDS? is set to release on November 29th and she can’t wait to share it!    

48 comments:

  1. A very inspiring interview! Congratulations on your new book Jodi.

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  2. What a clever concept. I critique group member shared this book with me, and I've been eagerly anticipating it. Congrats, Jodi!

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten. That means a lot to me!

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  3. Congratulations on your upcoming book, it looks wonderful! Also, I love your sense of humor (having gone through a poodle phase myself).

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    1. Thanks, Susi! Ugh, the dog and cat situation is crazy. It's not often a person gets to yell, "Leave his butt alone!" :0)

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  4. This is such a great idea...really inspired by your true story. Kudos and I look forward to reading.

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  5. Congrats on your book! I can't wait to read it and since I also am from MI, maybe I'll catch you at a book signing!

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  6. Congrats on your success! It sounds like a really fun book and I can't wait to get a copy.

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    1. Thanks, Debra, I really appreciate that!

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  7. As a retired classroom teacher I often experienced my students' dilemma which is so well represented by your book's title! Congratulations on it. Looking forward to scooping it up as a gift for a special young reader/writer in the family!

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    1. Thanks so much! Hoping this helps kids find the words to their own stories.

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  8. I love this concept. And who knew punctuation marks good look so cute!

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    1. I know right? Denise Holmes really brought punctuation to life. So grateful to have worked with her!

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  9. Kudos to Jodi on her amazing success! I can't wait to read Where Are the Words...it's the kind of clever concept that tickles my funny bone. :)

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  10. I love how your book came together! Congratulations, Jodi!

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    1. Thank you! I learned a lot about myself in that process, namely that swearing sometimes knocks stuff loose in the old brain;0)

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  11. Your advice is spot on: never get a perm and then rat out your bangs! Congratulations on your success! I look forward to reading your book. #justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting

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    1. Right? The 80's really messed with my self esteem. Thanks for your support, Traci!

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  12. Congrats Jodi! This book looks so fun!

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! I had fun writing it and I hope it shows :0)

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  13. Congratulations, Jodi! Sounds like a fun book. Looking forward to reading it soon!

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  14. I can't wait to read this! Congratulations!

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  15. Great to see you here, Jodi! So excited about your book!

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  16. Sounds like a funny book! Would love to read it. And how funny about your perm advice :)

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    1. Oh my gosh, I cringe when I look at old photos of myself. Never again!

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  17. Great concept! This month, I have focused on problems. I will take your advice and take a step back. Thanks!

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    1. I hear you. There have been a lot of problems recently that warrant our focus. I love the kid lit communities initiative to combat those issues by writing about compassion, acceptance and love. I'm doing my best to look around and find those positive examples to inspire my writing. I hope you find those moments of inspiration too!

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  18. Thrilled to know the author of a PB book. Congratulations, Jodi! Looking forward to many more quirky stories.

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  19. Congratulations, Jodi! I can't wait to read this book!

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  20. What a clever idea! ANd so glad to see a fellow SCBWI-MIer in the spotlight! Can't wait to read it :)

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    1. Thanks, Joanne! I hope my book makes MI proud :0)

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  21. This book looks great! Thanks for the giveaway!

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  22. I feel so normal to hear someone else has 20 weird thoughts a day! Love it

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  23. This book would be a great asset to have in the school where I teach!

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  24. Congrats! It's nice to know that if you keep plugging away at your writing, it can and will pay off. Thanks for sharing.

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  25. This book looks so cute! Congrats and thank you for sharing your success story :)

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  26. The book sounds adorable! Can't wait to read it!

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  27. I loved reading your process for this book! I also like to write quirky humor so I can't wait to read it. Thanks!

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  28. I really want to read this book! It looks adorable. Thanks for the great interview. It was fun to read.

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