WBBT Interview – Jane Yolen! (Part One)
I do not teach but I have been told that sometimes a library science class will assign students to read my blog. I don’t know if anyone doing such a thing at the moment, but if they are I would like to address anybody and everybody interested in the field of children’s literature who is unfamiliar with Jane Yolen. I address up-and-coming librarians because those are the only people I can picture that might not have heard of this illustrious writer as of yet. Jane Yolen is titan amongst children’s authors. She has produced more books than there are stars in the sky and I’m sure you’ve heard of quite a few. There’s hardly a topic or area of expertise that she hasn’t covered at one time or another.
All that aside, Ms. Yolen still carved out a moment from her busy schedule to allow me to interview her for this blog.
Fuse #8: Your first book was Pirates in Petticoats published in 1963. From that time onward you have gone on to write (and this is just a rough approximation) one million billion other great children’s books. Your website puts it at "more than 200" which is modest. How do you do it? Do you not sleep? Do you have a robot butler? To what do you ascribe your profligacy?
JY: I simply love to write. I am happiest when stories are leaking from my fingertips. Time simply flies by. When my children were growing up, they knew life was easier when I was writing. I made cakes, took them to fun places after school, was just a nicer person.
Fuse #8: Having gone to a Quaker college myself, I’m intrigued whenever I hear that an author may have a connection to the Friends. As I am given to understand it, you’ve joined with the Quakers yourself, yes? If so that brings my knowledge of Quaker children’s authors to two (Brinton Turkle being the first). It may sound odd to say, but do you feel Quakerism has affected your work at all?
JY: I suspect that all parts of an author’s real life (I am Jewish, Quaker, liberal Democrat, a one-time stander on vigil lines, a sometime pacifist, an onetime folk singer, an oftime deist, a Celtphile and partime Caledonian) insinuate themselves in the writing. What of mine has known Quaker touches? By known I mean "known to me"–only three books. FRIEND: The Story of George Fox and the Quakers (Seabury and newly reprinted by the Quaker Press of FGC), THE MINSTREL & THE MOUNTAIN, and the coming-of-age scene in THE MAGIC THREE OF SOLATIA. 2 out of 280 books? Maybe not a huge influence.
Fuse #8: My husband urges me in my writing not to go crazy with my superlatives. That said, you know absolutely everybody! Just a quick glance at your page of various Friends of Jane Yolen and I see names as diverse as Eric Carle, science fiction writer Jeffrey A. Carver, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, Emma Bull, and Bruce Coville amongst many many others. It is, not to put to fine a point on it, a bit jaw-dropping. Authors are too often perceived as quiet friendless souls eking out a living in the dry solitary of their empty studios. To what do you ascribe your natural affinity to the fellows of your profession?
JY: I love writers, adore illustrators. We have lots to talk about. And that page is long overdue for an overhaul. Not dropping anyone, but adding folks like Jo Walton and Greg Bear and Philip Pullman and others. I can be a real fangirl around people like that.
(CONTINUED IN PART TWO)
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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