Jennae Noelle is the author of Happy Birthday, Pink Dog and her latest title, Becoming Heather. Poor Pink Dog is worried when none of his friends seem to remember it’s his birthday. Will his special day pass by completely unnoticed?
Readers can meet Miss Noelle in person at the upcoming literary fair, Great Writers, Right Here, on December 12 from 1-4 pm.
Read on for an original interview with Jennae Noelle, conducted by e-mail in November 2014.
What is your favorite color?
I love both purple and green, and I especially like them together!
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
Probably a kangaroo.
Tell us your favorite joke.
Why did the refrigerator fall out of the tree?
Because it was heavy!
What are some of your favorite children’s books?
Children’s books have a special place in my heart. To give all my favorites would be a long list, but here are a few. I have always loved Ten Men on a Ladder by Craig MacAuley. A new favorite is In the Town All Year Round, Rotraut Susan Bertram’s depiction of a town throughout the seasons. It is entirely pictures, but manages to tell many, many stories without words.
Tell us a bit about your childhood and what’s it’s like to grow up with six brothers and sisters.
I grew up in a house on three acres. I was a bit of a tomboy and enjoyed playing outside, usually with my younger sister and three of my older brothers. My oldest two siblings were mostly grown up by the time I was playing much of anything.
With three brothers just older than us, my younger sister and I had to stick together. It wasn’t always easy having big brothers, but at times it was a lot of fun. I remember playing war in our woods with friends, boys against girls. We had favorite climbing trees and forts, and once we dug a four foot pit and covered it with boards to make a little room.
I rarely had a babysitter in the normal sense. My older siblings usually took care of me, or sometimes we would go to a friend’s house, but the idea of someone outside my family coming to my house to take care of me was a strange idea to me as a child.
I was homeschooled. My mom was my main teacher, but I did take classes from a few other people. I enjoyed school for the most part. Writing grew to be my favorite pastime when I was a teenager, and it remains my favorite today.
Questions About Your Books:
Why did you decide to write Happy Birthday, Pink Dog?
I wrote Happy Birthday, Pink Dog for my niece Lucy’s first birthday. It was one of the easiest things I have ever written. I was inspired to write it by some stick animals which I had drawn on my school assignment sheet. After completing the story and drawing illustrations, I printed out the first copy on my parents’ printer and covered the pages in contact paper to protect them. Then I tied them together with a ribbon.
Tell us about how you became an author. How old were you when Happy Birthday, Pink Dog was published?
I started writing in my early teen years. I had a lot of stories in my head, and I decided to try writing them down. After I graduated from high school, I decided to take some time to pursue my writing more seriously. My biggest project was editing Becoming Heather. I was working on getting it to where it was publishable. Along with that, I did some reading to learn a bit about publishing. I had a friend who had self-published, and I decided that it would be fun to self-publish Happy Birthday, Pink Dog to kind of get my feet wet and learn about the process before doing anything more with Becoming Heather. So, at the age of 20, I published my first book and had a blast doing it! I had so much fun creating Happy Birthday, Pink Dog and sharing it with other people that I decided to do the same for Becoming Heather!
Tell us some of the hardest parts of writing a book.
I have found that different parts are hard for different books, and likely for different people as well. Perfecting the beginning and the ending of my stories is something I struggle with. The beginning has to catch people’s attention, and the end has to resolve everything and leave people happy or inspired or something wonderful. I do not always accomplish either of these things.
Editing can be VERY difficult. Learning the humility to let other people tear apart your work for the sake of making it better can be painful. It is a rewarding process, however, and worth the pain.
Tell us some of the easiest parts of writing a book.
Starting a new story is the easiest thing in the world for me. I have SO many stories that I have started that I sometimes wonder if I will ever get to finish them all.
I typically find dialogue easier to write than descriptions.
Tell us a bit about your writing process.
Usually I come up with an idea for a book, and I think about it for a long while, partly to perfect the idea and partly because it may take me a while to find the time to start writing it. Then I’ll write the first scenes. Who knows if I will end up using them in the end, but that is not important. It’s important to start somewhere. After that I let the story go where it will. Usually I have an idea what the end of the story will be, what its purpose is, but sometimes that changes along the way. Once I’ve started a story and have decided that I am going to finish it, I will focus on getting it written. It doesn’t matter if all the details are right. I don’t care about grammar and spelling at this point. All that matters is that the story makes a reasonable amount of sense, and that I keep writing it. Usually I get tired of a story and want to do something else before I finish it, but I learned a long time ago that it is worth it to finish the story. Once I have a complete rough draft, I can start changing things. I throw out parts I don’t like, completely re-write the main plot, or simply polish what I’ve written, but I try not to let myself do those things until the first draft is written. Otherwise I would never finish anything!
Questions About Promoting Literacy:
Tell us about a teacher or mentor who made an impact on you.
When I was seventeen I had the honor of spending a week at a camp on the ranch of John R. Erickson, author of the Hank the Cowdog books. I grew up listening to Hank the Cowdog audio books, and I was thrilled to be able to learn some things from Hank’s creator. Mr. Erickson encouraged me to write, daily if possible. Practice is the key to skill. He encouraged me to write my own way, to not try to be someone else, but to write as only I can. He also encouraged me, as he is sure to encourage everyone, to cut out as many adverbs as possible!
What advice do you have for a child or young adult who would like to become an author?
Write what you love and about the things you love. Tell the stories that are in your head. The definition of a writer is someone who writes, so do that: WRITE! And learn how to finish. With your first stories don’t worry about whether or not the ending (or any other part) is good. If you can’t finish a project, you will never be an author. You cannot become good at writing books if you only ever write the beginnings. Not every story deserves an ending, but you have to finish something to practice that part of writing.
Also, leave yourself room to grow. Don’t try to make your first book your best book. Learn something new with each story you write. Improve your craft and enjoy the process.