Today, the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Spotlight is on JaNay Brown-Wood!
Her debut picture book is Imani’s Moon.
Question 1: What is your favorite letter of the alphabet and why?
What a fun question! But, I have to say that it is SO HARD to just pick one. I love the letter “J” because of course, it is the leading letter in my name. I also love how it looks when it is written in cursive both uppercase and lowercase, and I like that there are so many active words that start with “J” like “jubilant,” “joyous,” and of course “jump!” As a poet, I also really like letters that work well in alliteration like “P”,“L”, and “T” which can make such fun sentences like “pick a perfect lollipop and taste it with your tongue!” See, I told you I’d have a hard time just picking one.
Question 2: What do you want readers to know about your latest book?
I want readers to see the clear connection between Imani’s Moon and oral tradition or stories that are shared with listeners. Something that I enjoy about folktales and mythologies is the fantastical nature of them. Although there might be some elements that are clearly magical or improbable, they still give readers a sense of hope, enjoyment, wonder, and even inspiration. This is what I was hoping to do with Imani. Not only does she dig down deep and connect with her culture (after watching the jumping dance), but she uses this aspect in a fantastical way to reach her goal. It’s like saying we all have magic within us, and when we tune into those pieces of ourselves that make us so special, all of our dreams are attainable. I want readers to remember that. And I also want readers to keep in mind that each of our lives are stories in which we are the main characters, the protagonists. We have the ability to steer our lives in the directions we want to go, and we truly can reach our dreams with hard work, determination, and belief in ourselves.
Question 3: As an author, how do you know when you have discovered an idea for your next book?
I feel that almost any idea can be made into a story. Now, whether or not that story will work out well, that’s sometimes hard to say. So, when ideas come to me—which can come from words I hear, random thoughts that pop into my head, or things I experience that spark inspiration—I try to write them down. I used to have a notebook that I kept with me, but now I have an electronic notebook on my phone that I’ll capture my ideas in. Some of those ideas quickly form into a full story, others take much more massaging and perfecting, and others don’t even make it past the basic “idea” stage. I guess what I am saying is that it’s never easy to know exactly which ideas will morph into full blown stories, but a good practice is to write it down anyway because one day, all the pieces might come together and transform into a beautiful story.
Question 4: What was the catalyst for creating your latest book?
I remember one day, an idea bounced into my mind about a boy jumping to the moon. I envisioned him jumping next to a tree, and at each level of the tree were different animals that told him he’d never make it. I really loved this idea (I actually captured this idea on the first page of that notebook I mentioned previously). Then, after chatting with my sister, she reminded me of the beautiful Maasai people known for their jumping dance, which was a clear connection to my little jumping boy. From there, I researched and revised, and Imani was born. So, that silly idea of a boy jumping transformed into something that I am so proud of. I think this illustrates the point I was making before about writing down all the ideas that come to your mind because you never know where that idea will take you next.
Question 5: What’s next? What projects/books/events do you have in the works that you would like to share?
I like to think my author career is just beginning, so hopefully there are an infinite number of “nexts” in my future. But to be much more specific, I am currently working with Charlesbridge on a rhyming picture book that is tentatively due out August of 2016. It is a story inspired by my fantastic family, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. Also, I have a number of poems I am perfecting, which I hope to send out to magazines. I also have some poetry collections I am working on too. On top of that, I have several other picture book manuscripts that I feel are ready to be sent out to agents and publishing houses. Wish me luck!
As for upcoming events, I will be attending a few conferences including the Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival in February and the SCBWI Spring Spirit in May. I’ll also be doing some school visits and I hope to book some more. If anyone is interested in booking me to visit your school, please feel free to contact me either by email at email@example.com or by filling out a contact form on my website.
JaNay Brown-Wood dreams big. Ever since she was a little girl, she’s wanted to become a published author. Her determination has paid off. Imani’s Moon is her first book for children. JaNay is also a professor of early childhood education at American River College. She lives in California.
To learn more about JaNay, please visit her website.
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