Critter Lit

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Interview with Debut Author Amanda Jackson

Authors + Illustrators, Authors, Debut Interviews, publishing, InterviewsLindsay Ward5 Comments

Happy Thursday Critters! Today we are joined by debut author Amanda Jackson, whose new picture book, MY SHAPE IS SAM, comes out September 17th! I’m so thrilled to be sharing this brilliant book with you all today! And bonus— Amanda’s book is illustrated by fellow illustrator, Lydia Nichols, who I studied illustration with at Syracuse. I can’t wait for you to all see this fantastic book these two incredibly talented women created.

So without further ado…please welcome Amanda Jackson!

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Where do you live?

I live in Beaverton, Oregon, about 10 minutes from downtown Portland.

When did you know you wanted to write picture books?

My husband and I moved to California in 2016. We’d gone for his job and quickly realized we wouldn't be staying for as long as we’d planned. In the meantime, I was offered a job working with a child with autism. However, without a commitment to staying in the area, I couldn’t, in good conscience, accept the position. It was that instability that kept me jobless, and presented a gift in disguise. I remember having to make the decision to stop worrying about what to do with myself, and try to make the most of this unstructured, uncertain time.

I’ve always loved writing, but had never tried writing for kids. Because most of my professional life has been spent with picture book readers/listeners, I started there. I wrote my first picture book story (which will of course never see the light of day) and realized this was “my thing.” That realization made me feel like the luckiest person in the world. And it was such a clear realization too. Like stumbling across something I’d been looking for my whole life. It was magic, and I dove in head-first.

Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you?

In mid-2017, I participated in a Twitter pitch even called Pit2Pub. That’s where I connected with Charlotte Wenger, then an editor with Page Street Kids. She requested the manuscript for My Shape is Sam, and made an offer a couple months later! So exciting. It’s been a wonderful couple years of working with Charlotte and all the wonderful people at Page Street. They’re so collaborative and honoring of their makers’ hopes for their work.

Can you share a bit about your process?

Sure! I’m not a routine writer. I spend a lot of time at my desk, but it happens whenever I have the time. But I love to write, so there’s rarely a day I don’t do it. I’m always in the midst of a few projects at different stages. My favorite stage is revision. It’s not as overwhelming as a blank page, and it always reminds me of throwing pottery - the calm of having already done the work of getting something on the wheel, and then I just have to keep shaping it until it’s beautiful.

What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?

The best thing I’ve found for new ideas is reading. Lots. Good work is so inspiring, especially if I’m feeling stuck in one of my own stories. Like a palette cleanser, it helps me push “reset” and see my work with fresh eyes.

Anything you can’t live without while you write?

Hmm the only thing I can think of is quiet. It sounds fun to write with music on (especially to influence the mood of my story), but my brain just doesn’t work that way.

Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?

Oh my gosh so many. Several picture book authors that come to mind first: Julie Fogliano, Ryan T. Higgins, Anna Walker, Oliver Jeffers... there are so many more. I’m inspired by the ability to pack a punch with a few simple words. That’s one of the reasons I adore this craft. And a few of my favorite illustrators: Lydia Nichols, Fiona Lumbers, and Beatrice Alemagna.

Dream project to work on?

A series. I would LOVE to work on a project that extends beyond one picture book. To create characters that readers get to know (and look forward to!) through multiple books. Ah that sounds like so much fun.

Tell us about your debut book.

MY SHAPE IS SAM is about Sam, a square who lives in a world of shapes. Everyone has a job to do, depending on their shape. But Sam doesn’t like stacking like the squares. He wants to roll like the circles.

My hope is that this story helps readers challenge norms that don't fit them. And that they continue to discover who they are, in spite of prescriptive expectations.

What’s up next for you?

I’ve always got projects in progress, so for now, more writing and revising!

And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?

Ha! Hmm. Crossing Delancey is way up there. It stars Amy Irving and Peter Riegert, and it’s not super well known. I’m such a sucker for the unlikely lovers trope, plus the music is great (I think it’s the only soundtrack I own!), I’ve seen it a million times.

Huge thank you to Amanda Jackson for stopping by Critter Lit today! We are so excited for your debut and can’t wait to see what you do next!

AMANDA JACKSON writes stories for kids and their grown-ups. She's pretty sure there's nothing better in the world. She grew up in Pennsylvania, where she discovered her love of making: drawing, crafting, sewing, cooking, storytelling. Anything to give her imagination a voice. When she was six, someone gave her a journal. She instantly felt at home with the magic that happens when words come from inside, pass across the page, and connect with someone else. In her twenties, Amanda moved to Portland, Oregon, and cozied right into the land of gray skies and creative living. She finished her degree in Human Development, worked with lots of awesome kids, and married her love. Of all the happies in her life, writing is one of the happiest. And she’s beyond thrilled to share her words with you.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Amanda Jackson visit her online or follow her on social media:

Twitter: @Amanda2Jackson

TO ORDER Amanda’s book, ring up your local bookstore or click here.


Want a chance to win a copy of MY SHAPE IS SAM?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, September 19th! US addresses only please.