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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Hacket

The Backstory: THE LOUD LIBRARIAN

It is my pleasure to welcome Jenna Beatrice and Erika Lynne Jones, the dynamic duo behind the forthcoming, THE LOUD LIBRARIAN (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2023) to the blog today. Read on to learn all about this wonderful book and for a chance to win yourself a copy.

Welcome to The Backstory and thank you both for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind THE LOUD LIBRARIAN. Let's kick things off with Jenna and the story behind this wonderful book.



First off, please tell us a little bit about the story.


In THE LOUD LIBRARIAN, Penelope is perfect for the job of student-librarian. But there’s just one snag. Penelope is...LOUD. Bookcases may topple and the ground may quake at the sound of her voice, but Penelope is determined to prove she’s perfect for the job and stay true to herself.


What a fun concept! I am sure most teachers, parents, and students know (or are) a Penelope and this is a great way to show self-acceptance while adding humor.


What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?


I was brainstorming ideas one day and the thought occurred to me that it could be funny if a very loud student (so loud she could be heard in space!) was picked to be the student-librarian. Astronauts make an appearance in the book, which was inspired by my time as a summer space camp counselor. It’s fun to incorporate different parts of yourself into a story as you write!


I can already hear kids giggling at the antics that will ensue as a result of Penelope's boisterousness. I love how this personality trait is in direct conflict with the expectations of a library. Instant humor!


How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now THE LOUD LIBRARIAN? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?


Once the idea came to me, I quickly jotted down a first draft and captured Penelope’s (loud) voice and energy right away. But I needed to sit with the character to see where she (and the story) would take me. This was done through many, many rounds of revisions! I was also incredibly lucky to be offered a mentorship with the amazing Lindsay Leslie through Justin Colón’s #PBChat mentorship program. Lindsay taught me so much about storytelling and helped me fine-tune this story (and others) to make it submission-ready. But by the time Lindsay worked with me, I had already been sitting with this story for over a year! Getting a story from idea to finished product takes time and that’s a good thing. Different ideas for a story will come at different times, plus don’t ever underestimate the power of “fresh eyes” when writing!


This is a great example of how that spark of an idea can ignite our imagination and motivation to get a new draft down. I also love your acknowledgment of the power of revision and time. It can be hard to put those shiny, new drafts aside, but those weeks, months, or even years away let us look at our manuscripts more objectively.


Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?


Truthfully, ideas come to me randomly. Sometimes I’m actively brainstorming and other times something will catch my eye or I’ll hear something which will get my imagination rolling. What I think is most important about channeling creative energy is having the time and space for quiet thinking, which I know is hard in our very busy lives! But when a thought crosses my mind, I try to make space for it (and I write it down right away!) so I can reexamine it at a quieter time.


You are right on the money. I don't think there is any shortage of ideas floating around creators, but it is that very important and all too hard to come by time and quiet that is often missing.


What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?


I love silly and sweet stories and stories that make me laugh out loud while reading. Books like We Don't Eat Our Classmates; Dozens of Doughnuts; So You Want To Build a Library; Mostly Monsterly; and Chez Bob just to name a few. I take how these books make me feel and I try to make readers feel that, too, in my own stories.


This is a great selection!


What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?


I have a full (some might say messy) desk that includes tons of picture books stacked high for reference and inspiration, along with photos of my family, a Betty White pin for good luck, a bowl of nail polish (for distraction) and a mug of tea or coffee.


A messy desk is just proof of progress and process. At least that's what I tell myself.


Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?


READ-READ-READ! Read as much as you can and analyze the books as you read. Why do you like certain stories? What’s your favorite scene of the story and why? And the most important question: how does this story make you FEEL? I think asking yourself these kinds of questions as a reader will absolutely help you as a writer. Once I learned how to critically examine picture books, my writing got significantly better.


Noticing and analyzing how and why we feel what we do while reading is such a useful tip and a great analysis strategy.


Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?


I do, but I’m not able to announce it yet. I’m excited to share with you when I’m able to!


Congratulations on your secret news! I can't wait until we can hear more about it.


Where can people connect more with you?


Please visit me at jennabeatrice.com or @jbeatricebooks on Twitter and @jennabeatricebooks on Instagram. I’d love to hear from you!


Thanks for sharing so much with us about THE LOUD LIBRARIAN and about your process. Readers be sure to connect with Jenna on social media to keep up with all things THE LOUD LIBRARIAN and her latest writing happenings.



Now let's chat with the illustrator of THE LOUD LIBRARIAN, Erika Lynne Jones.


Thanks so much for joining us. Can you get us started by filling us in on what it was about THE LOUD LIBRARIAN that made you want to work on this book?

Well because I am also a writer, I felt like it was something I wouldn’t have ever written myself. It was funny and clever, which are elements of stories I enjoy and like to write, but it wasn’t something I had on my idea list. In other words I wasn’t thinking “one day I might write a story about a little girl in a library.” But at the same time I LOVED reading books and spending time in libraries, book mobiles and book stores as a little girl. So I knew I could tap into that enthusiasm and add to the story, but I also felt the story could add to me and my journey.


I am grateful that we are able to get the illustrator's perspective today. I always wonder what attracts an illustrator to a particular manuscript. Your response, which I know is just one perspective, makes complete sense. I love that you felt you could not only add to the story but also grow because of it.


What inspired your illustrations for THE LOUD LIBRARIAN? So many things. The text for one. A lot of the imagery came to mind when I first sat down with some sticky notes and started doodling. I also got inspiration from my local public libraries. When I was illustrating this book, schools were not letting unstaffed adults in the building due to the pandemic. I also got inspiration for Penelope’s loud rainbow outfit from my youngest daughter’s parkday wardrobe selection.


How special for your daughter to be able to see a part of her reflected in this book!


What is your favorite spread in the book and why? It’s hard to choose, but I think it's the spread where Penelope is looking eagerly at Ms. Berry while two of the classmates are staring at Penelope. They are anticipating that it's going to be an “interesting” day. I love it because it captures the warmth between Penelope and Ms. Berry, and a bit of humor from her nosy classmates.


Such a fun spread! You do such a fantastic job of capturing the emotions with each facial expression. Without any words, we all know exactly what those classmates are thinking.


Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas? For story ideas, I tap into a feeling, a belief or a memory I had as a child. Or it might be something sparked from a dinnertime conversation with my children and husband or even a friend. For illustrations it really is intuitive for me the first round. I just start by doodling what I see in stick figures and then as I refine in later rounds, I might add something that makes me laugh. So I guess my own sense of humor inspires me. Also reading lots of picture books helps. I might notice a very cool perspective in a book I’m reading and I’ll make a note that I want to try something like that to add variety. It sounds like your process for illustrating is very organic on that first go. I wonder if you were always that way or if it was something you had to train yourself to be more free with.


What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?

I, for some reason, struggled to answer this question. It might be because I spend so much time lately being inspired by illustration, but also because I never really thought about it. So let me share some of my favorite children’s stories and why and that will probably get us there. I love the Amelia Bedelia books, created by Peggy Parish. The clever word play just cracks me up, and I think I have a thing for flawed main characters. That is also why I love the Frances series by Russell Hoban. Frances struggles with sharing and putting others before herself and it's just so authentic and funny. I love that and try to incorporate authentic feelings and struggles into my main characters. I also adored Big Dog, Little Dog by P.D. Eastman growing up. Something about the contrasting of differences between two characters with words and pictures really just grabbed me as a child. A more modern story that I just love from the inside out is Oge Mora’s Saturday. Something about recapturing the quality time spent with those most important to us when we were kids really captures my heart. And I can see almost all of these attributes in my debut story I’ve written - so that worked! Thanks for puzzling that out with us! I guess it shouldn't be too surprising that most of the books we love would in some way, either directly or subconsciously, influence our own craft.



What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?


I keep some favorite pieces of art in my space along with pieces I’ve been gifted from others. I also keep photos of family because that connection makes me smile. I like to have a device nearby for music or inspirational audio. Must have tools are acrylic paint and markers, scissors and glue!




Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring illustrators?

I think the best thing you can do is to remember what’s for you is for you. I mean that in terms of projects, opportunities, book deals etc. It’s not fruitful to spend lots of time looking at other’s art or opportunities and feeling sad. It’s better to take a break from social media and be receptive to ideas that seem to pop into your head. Keep a running list of those ideas. And whatever idea lights you up the most, work on that one. Get critiques to help push your ideas forward and if stories and pictures light you up just keep taking steps. Plug in, meet people doing what you are doing, go to conferences. It will happen at just the right time.


Wonderful advice! I especially like the reminder to keep the focus on our own work and to not compare. Each journey to publication is so different.


Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?

Yes! On September 26 of this year Black Girls: A Celebration of You (Harper Collins) will be released. The book written by Dominique Furukuwa is a love letter to black girls and I’m delighted to have illustrated it. I am also working on my author/illustrator debut, Zara In The Middle, which will be published by Harper Collins - date TBA.


Yay! Congratulations on both of these books. I can't wait to see more of your art and to get a chance to read your words!


Where can people connect more with you? I would love for people to stay in touch via my newsletter. My website is erikalynnejones.com. They can also find me on social platforms @erikalynnejones.

Wonderful! Readers check out Erika's website and sign up for her newsletter to stay up-to-date on all her publishing news.


And please, please, please mark your calendars for the release of THE LOUD LIBRARIAN on April 11! I know I can't wait!


Jenna and Erika, thank you again for joining the blog and for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at how THE LOUD LIBRARIAN came to be.

 

GIVEAWAY!


One lucky winner will be selected to receive a signed copy of THE LOUD LIBRARIAN from Erika. (US only)


Ways to enter:

1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!

or

2. Leave a comment on this post.

or

3. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.


Each method earns an extra entry!

 

ABOUT JENNA BEATRICE


Jenna Beatrice is a children’s author, lawyer, and mom. She began her legal career as a lawyer for children before becoming a litigator and a trustee of a children’s advocacy center. As an author, Jenna now shares the joy of reading with young children. Jenna lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and their young son. The Loud Librarian (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, April 2023) is her debut picture book. To learn more about Jenna, please visit her at jennabeatrice.com.


 


ABOUT ERIKA LYNNE JONES



Erika Lynne Jones is a children’s book author/illustrator from Dallas, Texas. She loves using cut paper collages to tell inclusive stories that affirm children and bring them joy. To learn more about Erika, please visit her at erikalynnejones.com.














 

ABOUT ANDREW HACKET


Andrew Hacket is a teacher by day, parent by night, and writer in the nooks and crannies of life. When it comes to his books, Andrew aims to create stories that tickle the funny bone and hug the heart of readers both young and old.


Andrew is the author of the early reader, CURLILOCKS AND THE THREE HARES (The Little Press, 2024) and the picture book, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024). Additionally, his short story, THE TUNNEL, has been chosen for inclusion in the SCBWI anthology, The Haunted States of America.


Andrew lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three young children, and puppy, Gus.


Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.

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10 Comments


Steena Hernandez
Steena Hernandez
Apr 11, 2023

What a fun concept, and I love the cover! Congratulations to both of you, and Happy Book Birthday today! :)

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saralkruger
saralkruger
Apr 11, 2023

This sounds like SUCH a fun book! And the art is beautiful. Thank you for sharing! Can't wait to read this one.

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Jessica Milo
Jessica Milo
Apr 10, 2023

Sounds like a super fun book! I can't wait to read it. Congrats and thanks for sharing about how this book came to be!!

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Thelia Hutchinson
Thelia Hutchinson
Apr 09, 2023

This was so much fun. I enjoyed reading about this story coming together. What an awesome post. Thank you for sharing.

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seschipper
Apr 09, 2023

Great post! Looking forward to reading and reviewing THE LOUD LIBRARIAN!

I also loved the advice for aspiring authors!

retweeting and tagging! :)

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