Author Spotlight: Jessie Oliveros
August 24, 2018
We are excited to feature debut picture book author Jessie Oliveros and her book, THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte (Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, Aug. 28, 2018).
Enter to win a copy below!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I was always a reader. I remember going to my childhood friend's house who lived just behind me to borrow all her Baby-Sitters Club books. (I also remember being jealous that she had all the books in the series and she didn't have to share a room with her sister.) Books were such a happy place for me.
I journaled for years, but I began writing fiction in college. I never thought of writing for anyone but children—probably because I fell in love with books as a child.
I graduated from BYU Nursing School and worked as a cardiac nurse for six years before staying home with my kids full-time. I found that quiet hours with my children offered more creativity than placing IV's. So the writing began! I loved being a nurse and I miss it sometimes—the energy of the night shift, the patients, the technical side of it all—but writing wins.
Congrats on your debut PB, THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Thank you! THE REMEMBER BALLOONS is about a boy and his grandpa and the memories they share. The memories are represented by balloons, and as the story progresses, Grandpa's balloons begin to float away. The boy tries to catch them, but he can't. This saddens him, as he loved Grandpa's stories. However, his parents show him how he can still keep Grandpa's memories alive.
I was inspired to write this book after spending time with my own grandpa. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years back. I wanted a way to explain the disease to my children but also show them that life can be hopeful in spite of trials, even impossible-seeming ones. I started recording my grandparents' stories on a voice recorder. This made the memories a more tangible thing for me because the recorder was physically holding their memories. This, and the need to record their stories before I didn’t have them anymore, led to the creation of THE REMEMBER BALLOONS.
Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
My road to publication started out long and windy, then "ended" short and sweet. (I say "ended" because it's never really over. Published authors are still always trying to get published again!) The funny thing is, I started out writing a picture book but then gravitated toward YA and MG. I wrote a tragic YA (as in, its very existence was tragic, not the story). Then I wrote a middle grade which I loved and queried a million times (well, close). I learned the most about querying and rejections with my little middle grade. While I flirted with YA and MG, I still scribbled down picture books. With picture books ever on my mind, I wrote THE REMEMBER BALLOONS after visiting my Grandpa in Kansas three years ago.
This is the part where it "ends" short and sweet: I queried only a handful of agents. Then I entered a pitch contest the Friday before Christmas 2015 (#pitchmas) and my awesome agent Mike Hoogland of DG&B "liked" my tweet. I sent him my manuscript Saturday. We were on the phone talking about representation on Tuesday. At the new year we started revising. THE REMEMBER BALLOONS was on sub for a month before I had an offer from S&S BFYR. (Things don't usually happen this fast. I really felt like it was a matter of THE REMEMBER BALLOONS landing on the perfect desk at the perfect time.) Fun fact: The offer came the day after I brought my Baby Number Four home from the hospital.
What projects are you working on now?
We're currently subbing a picture book biography. That was so much fun to write. I'm also working on a couple middle grades and a book that is in the same emotional vein as THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. I always have more than one project going on at once. It keeps me sane!
What are the one or two things you did that most helped you in your writing and publishing career?
Getting rejections and feedback helped the most. It sounds kind of brutal but rejections do thicken your skin and help you appreciate the successes more. Like I mentioned before, even if you are published, you are still always getting rejections. It's not as though the first house that likes your manuscript is going to love every manuscript you ever write. Your agent is still shopping. A thick skin is a must, and it's all about having a good perspective. And of course, you can't have a manuscript without feedback. It's impossible. Critique partners and my agent have been invaluable with their feedback. This is not a solo journey, even if yours is the only name next to "written by" on the book cover.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I play the piano. I took lessons from age six until I graduated from high school. I was terrible at practicing so I could probably be much better than I am—but now, playing the piano is something I just really enjoy. Sometimes I will accompany the women's choir or children's choir at church.
Where can people find you online?
My website is jessieoliveros.com.
I'm most active on Twitter: @JessieOliveros
You can also find me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jessie.oliveros.5) and Instagram (@jessieoliveros).
Jessie Oliveros grew up watching Kansas sunsets, and she’ll always have wild sunflowers and gold-tipped corn fields in her heart. She spent her college-life climbing mountains in Utah and striving for higher vistas. After a fulfilling career as a registered nurse, Jessie hung up her stethoscope to grow children and stories. She loves root beer floats, autumn, and running in the rain. These days you can find her in the Texas hill country with her husband and their four kids.
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