Jan. 27, 2017
Today we are happy to present author Jackie Azúa Kramer. Jackie is the author of THE GREEN UMBRELLA. Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter below to win a copy.
Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.
Much of my life experiences in some way have been part of my journey as a writer. One of my earliest and happiest memories was reading the Sunday funnies or comics. I would go straight to the colorful pictures, cut them out, paste them onto white paper, and using my father’s old typewriter, I’d create a new story.
Flash forward and I’m now at Stony Brook University studying theatre. I acted in plays and musicals. Theatre has many similar elements to writing picture books. The page turns are like scenes and acts in a play or a movie. There’s a main character, dialogue and narrative arc. And, like illustrations, there are sets, costumes and props.
But it was my time as a school counselor where my storytelling had a purpose. I worked with preschool to middle grade students, where simple drawings and stories was a way to connect with them. So I’ve gone literally full circle in my journey creating stories from scraps of paper.
Congrats on your book, THE GREEN UMBRELLA! What inspired it?
I discovered a few fun illustrations that all revolved around a green umbrella. I wrote about reversing visual storytelling by starting with the image and ‘unlocking’ the story inside, in an article called "Light My Fire" in the Summer 2015 SCBWI Bulletin.
As I mentioned earlier, I envisioned the page turns as scenes in a movie. I imagined their dialogue, set, costumes and props. The experience of writing THE GREEN UMBRELLA (TGU) was quite profound for me…like I had the key to every door. As a matter of fact, once the seed of an idea is planted, I always envision the story as moving images. Here’s a classic, Singing in the Rain!
Who or what inspires you?
Anyone who is passionate. Passion is a beautiful and contagious thing. It makes me work harder and think about my place in this big world. And creators, like Matisse, who reflect in their work--truth, beauty and wonder. Wonder is the secret sauce. Wonder allows you to feel something without dictating what that should be.
And as for ‘what’ inspires me—where do I start? An inspiring place I go back to always is playing in the natural world.
What projects are you working on now?
I’ve just begun the publishing journey of my two upcoming picture books, THE BOY AND THE EIGHT HUNDRED POUND GORILLA (Candlewick Press, TBD) a story about the loss of a boy’s mother and IF YOU WANT TO FALL ASLEEP, a bedtime story (Clavis Books, 2018) illustrated by Lisa Brandenburg.
I’ve also begun research on a nonfiction picture book. I can’t say whom, but I’m amazed no one has written a children’s book about this person. History and people fascinate me. The key in writing nonfiction is to find that magical moment to enter into their life.
What is the hardest part about writing picture books?
Everything! I don’t physically write everyday. I dream, think, wonder and write in the ‘writerly corner of my mind’.
It could be months before I feel good about putting a story on paper. However, once I do, I have to force myself to wait between revisions. In other words, let the story breathe and then rediscover it with fresh eyes. At 240 words, THE BOY AND THE EIGHT HUNDRED POUND GORILLA lived in my imagination for two years.
What is the easiest part?
Finding ideas. Period. I try to be open, present and aware. Ideas float all around you. All you need do is pick them out of the air. In the end, the hard work is in the execution. I keep a virtual diary filled with lots of pictures and videos. Here are some busy Rhode Island Reds that had me giggling.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you’d give to aspiring authors?
Yes, absolutely. Like a child, ALWAYS stay curious. Be brave, be fearless and believe in yourself. And when you trip up, dust yourself off and start again, until it’s not fun anymore.
Inspiration + motivation + passion = Endless possibilities
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I can talk to animals with my eyes. I’m a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society and each time I visit the Bronx Zoo, I lock eyes with one of the lovely residents and stuff happens. I’m not sure what we’re saying, but at my last visit, sparks flew between Sanjay and me. At least, I thought so!
Where can people find you online?
Facebook Jackie Azúa Kramer
Jackie earned her Masters of Education from Queens College. She is a member of SCBWI and has written for the SCBWI Bulletin. In 2014, she was invited to be a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, Bank Street College. In 2015 Jackie was a presenter at the 1st nErDCamp Long Island. Her picture book, The Green Umbrella (North South Books) debuts February 2017 in English/German. Out soon --The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, TBD) and If You Want to Fall Asleep (Clavis Books, Spring 2018) in English/Dutch. Visit her at jackieazuakramer.com