When I started blogging last fall, I discovered an amazing community of writers. Some were published, some were pre-published. Little by little, more writers are finding homes for their stories. I’m excited for my friends and encouraged with every success.
One of those writers making the move to becoming a published author is Rena Jones. Her first picture book, A New Job for Dilly, released last week through a small publishing company, 4RV Publishing. Rena also has the books available for sale through a new website linked to her blog.
What attracted you to writing for children?
Actually, it was a little white mountain goat! After visiting Glacier National Park with my family one year, I was inspired to write a story about the mountain goats we had seen. Manny the Mountain Goat was born and I soon became interested in writing stories for children. I have several different versions of Manny and I still have hopes of having them published someday.
How many drafts did you go through to get the story of Dilly just the way you wanted it?
I honestly don’t remember the actual number. I have a really bad habit of printing something up dozens and dozens of times and changing it each time.
Do you have an agent?
No, I don’t have an agent at this time.
Then how did you find your publisher?
Vivian Zabel [President of 4RV Publishing LLC] posted a thread on a writer’s board asking about illustrators. That led me to their website where I saw they were accepting manuscripts and looking for new authors. I jumped at the chance and she got back to me very fast. I received my first contract on 08-08-08. Considering the number “8” has been my favorite since I was a little girl (I was born on the 8th), I took that as a good sign.
And then your books shipped on the 8th of June…
Seems to be a good number — LOL!
Not only are you a full-time mom to four children, you also home school. How do you find the time to write?
In spurts — I get in writing frenzies where an idea hits me and then I just make the time. Other times, I’m at a loss for something to write about, so I think it works out pretty even.
Did you always plan for Dilly to be a series of books?
No, and it’s funny how Dilly came about. I had plans on writing about a rat who lived on a pirate ship, but I got stuck on the story. Then I decided to turn it into an alphabet book and it just took off from there. Once I had the first story, the next 2 came easily. I have a few more ideas for Dilly too, but that will depend on how well the first books do and if my publisher wants to take on anymore, as well as the illustrator, Lisa Oakman. Dilly is a little neurotic because in order to get anything done, he has to look from A to Z, so that’s a repeating feature in the series.
You have SEVEN books coming out over the next 15 months. Tell me about your Critter books. Are they PBs as well? Are they with the same publisher?
I’m really excited about the Critter books also! There are 3 in the series — Lemur Troops & Critter Groups, Stork Musters & Critter Clusters, and Pony Strings & Critter Things. These are picture books with short rhymes to teach children animal congregation names. An example of one would be, “A pride of lions, dressed like Hawaiians”. Nikki Shoemaker is illustrating them and her animal drawings are just cuter than cute, so I know these are going to be adorable books. The only reason there are 3 of them is because I had 66 animal groups listed, which would have made for a pretty long picture book. By spliting them into 3 books, we will have a fun little series. And yes, they are with the same publisher.
I know you were expecting to get the books in April. What caused the delay and how hard was it waiting?
From what I’ve been told, Dilly’s illustrator, Lisa Oakman had some unexpected family emergencies that threw her off schedule for awhile… Then there were some problems with the file size for the printer, so that added to the delay. It was hard waiting, but by that point, the situation was out of my hands. In the end, the wait was worth it because I love the book. I’m as happy as a cucumber in a jar of brine!
What did your kids say when they saw and touched the books for the first time?
Oh, it was fun! For the past 3 days I’ve been driving down to our mailbox (2 miles away) to see if the books had come. Each day I’ve come back kind of sad. Today, as I drove into the driveway, I saw my youngest, Neil standing at the window looking out. I held up the book as I drove into the garage. I saw him throw up his fists in the air and it looked like he said, “YES!” He ran into the garage to meet me and I gave him the book. Then he ran downstairs screaming, “Dilly’s here! Dilly’s here!” Rick, Nathan & Neil came upstairs and each of them grabbed a book. Rick read it outloud and the boys followed along in their copies. It was fun. Both my daughters are out of town though, so they haven’t seen it yet. Nicole will be home in a week, but Nichelle is in Maui, so I’m planning on mailing her a copy… I’m sure she will get a kick out of sharing it with her new friends. Not only that, but I just know Dilly will love going to Hawaii! They do have pickles in Hawaii, right?
With so much going on, how do you find balance in your life?
Good question! Honestly, even though I have 4 children, there’s an 8 year gap between my girls and my boys. That makes a big difference. Nichelle is 19, Nicole is 18, Nathan is 9, and Neil is 7. I’m homeschooling everyone but Nichelle, and Nicole will be graduating this year. Since we’ve been homeschooling 11+ years, we’re set into a routine, which makes it easier. Finding balance can be tricky and I have a habit of putting my family first. I consider myself pretty low-maintenance and really don’t have any huge desire or need to get out and spend time on myself. “Me time” would be being able to write, listening to music, or taking pictures. As long as I give myself time for simple things like that, everything seems to balance itself out.
WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY HERE!!
A NEW JOB FOR DILLY
Written by Rena Jones and Illustrated by Lisa Oakman
Dilly loves pickles, and the more sour the better. He has just one problem — finding pickles he can eat. A 48-page alphabet rhyming book for ages 4-8.
If you’d like to win a copy of A New Job for Dilly, tell me about your best and/or worst experience with pickles in the comments. Entries will be randomly drawn on Sunday, June 28. Followers get an extra entry 🙂