Author Illustrator Spotlight: Jenna Grodzicki




Sept. 27, 2019

We are excited to feature author Jenna Grodzicki and her picture book debut, I SEE SEA FOOD! (Millbrook/Lerner July 2019).

 Be sure to enter to win a copy!




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

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I studied elementary education at Boston College and was hired right after graduation to teach third grade. A few years later I moved to first grade, and that was when I rediscovered my love of picture books. My favorite part of the day was reading to my students and introducing them to incredible authors. I realized I had a new dream – to be a picture book author. It wasn’t until several years later that I felt brave enough to try my hand at writing. And I haven’t looked back since!

Congrats on your recent picture book, I SEE SEA FOOD. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

I SEE SEA FOOD features nine different sea animals that actually look like foods we eat, including the egg yolk jellyfish, the Australian pineapplefish, and the pizza crust sea slug.  

I came across this topic completely by accident. I was researching lemon sharks for what would later become FINN FINDS A FRIEND (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017), when I came across an online article titled “Fish Food: 15 Marine Animals Named by Hungry Biologists.” I read the article, fascinated by these creatures I’d never heard of. Some of them looked just like the foods they were named after. I jotted down their names in my notebook and continued my lemon shark research. As time went on, I couldn’t get these sea animals out of my head. If I found them so interesting, I knew children would, too. I had never planned to write nonfiction, but this idea changed my outlook.





Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

I’d say it was somewhere in between. It was early 2016 when I first learned about these animals. I spent months researching them, and my first draft was completed by the end of that year. However, it took me quite a long time to find the right format. I submitted to agents and they all agreed the topic was intriguing, but none of them liked the execution. It wasn’t until I decided to try layered text and sidebars that it started to fall into place. 

In March of 2018, Carol Hinz of Lerner/Millbrook Press posted an open call for manuscripts on the Lerner Blog. She was looking for STEM or STEAM geared towards grades K-3 that could be illustrated with photos. I thought my manuscript fit that description perfectly, so I submitted it. Less than a month later, Carol emailed me and said she was taking my manuscript to acquisitions. Shortly after that she emailed me with an offer! It was literally a dream come true.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m juggling several things at the moment. I’m working on edits for a 2020 book that hasn’t been announced yet. I’m also working on two work-for-hire projects. My agent is getting ready to send out another nonfiction manuscript. And in between I’m revising a couple of fiction manuscripts. I’m truly so blessed to be able to do what I love.

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

I dreamed of writing picture books for years before I did anything about it. I would probably tell my younger self not to hesitate and just go for it.   

My biggest piece of advice for aspiring authors is to enjoy the journey. The road to publication is long and filled with rejections. It’s easy to get frustrated. Don’t forget why you started writing in the first place. Celebrate every accomplishment, whether it’s finishing a first draft, sending off your first submission, or something as simple as finding the right word.

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

My family and I are HUGE fans of the TV show Survivor. My husband and I have never missed an episode, and we got our children into it a couple of years ago. Our dog, Ozzy, is named after one of our favorite Survivor contestants. Many years ago, I even applied to be on it.

Where can people find you online?

www.jennagrodzicki.com 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennawritesPB/
Twitter: @jennawritesPB
Instagram: @jennawritespb


Jenna Grodzicki has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College, and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of New England. After spending 15 years as an educator, Jenna is now a full-time writer. She is the author of Pixie’s Adventure (eTreasures Publishing, 2017), Finn Finds A Friend (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017), I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures that Look Like Food (Millbrook Press, 2019), and HARMONY HUMBOLT - PERFECT PETS QUEEN (Clear Fork Publishing, 2020). Jenna lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. She is represented by Victoria Selvaggio of Storm Literary Agency.







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39 comments:

  1. So happy for my critique partner! LOVE this book!!!

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  2. Congratulations! This looks like such a cool book!

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  3. I myself have enjoyed sea creatures that looked like food, like the crusty breaded, drizzled-with-lemon fried calimari that I enjoyed years ago in its native habitat, a cafe at a cool, hip movie theatre complex they used to have in downtown Houston. It was so crunchy and delicious!

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  4. What a clever & unique idea for a book.

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  5. I started my journey into writing for children like many others do -- in fiction. But when I began to dive into non-fiction, I found a whole new exciting world! I love the ideas and the facts presented in such new and interesting ways! I just finished my first project and can't wait to get started on another. And, I look forward to reading this book!

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn! Yes, it's funny where this writing journey can take you. But writing NF is so exciting.

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  6. Kids will devour this book. Isn’t it neat how research can send us down a different path? Celebrating with you.

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  7. I think this idea is inspiring. I enjoy writing nonfiction for kids and the research opens doors to new ideas. Survivor fans here too!

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    1. Thank you! I love finding other Survivor fans. We are a rare breed. :-)

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  8. I think I SEE SEA FOOD is such a clever book. Congrats on your success, Jenna!

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  9. This looks so fun - can't wait to see more!

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  10. Looking forward to reading this.

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  11. It's great stumbling upon ideas during research...I find many of mine that way!

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  12. Thank you for this interview. I appreciate how you offered a reminder to celebrate the small steps, and to remember why we write! Congrats on your book...it looks amazing!

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  13. Thank you for sharing your path and process and congratulations on your latest project!

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  14. Fantastic interview! I can’t wait to read the book!

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  15. This sounds like such a wonderful book! Congratulations!

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  16. Another thing that connects us. I have never missed Survivor either. If I am away, I tape it!

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  17. What a fun premise for a book!

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