In browsing through The Writer magazine, I came across this lovely profile & article on Jacqueline Woodson. Have you read her books, Brown Girl Dreaming or Miracle Boys?
Check out the profile and article below. And for you writers out there, she gives some wonderful advice for MG & YA.
Jacqueline Woodson compares the writing process to pregnancy: A story seeds, gestates and takes form in the author’s psyche before being delivered onto the page. And if you stick with the well-known “birth a book” metaphor, you could say Woodson has a rather large family: In the last 25 years, she has become the proud parent of more than 30 works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction for children and young adults. The prolific author, who usually works on two or three books at a time, crafts vivid prose and poetry that have won many awards, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. After publishing the memoir Brown Girl Dreaming last fall, Woodson decided to take a rare break from the work.“While writing the book, I became conscious of all these connections to many of the other books I’ve written,” she says. “I realized Coming On Home Soon came from the time my mom went to New York and left us with our grandparents so she could find a place to live, and that Locomotion was connected to the moment in fifth grade when I realized my dream of becoming a writer would become a reality. I decided to stop writing until I could start again from a place where I wasn’t too aware of where the story was coming from.”
Brown Girl Dreaming is made up of short poems that tell of Woodson’s growing up in the American North and South during the ’60s and ’70s when the legacy of Jim Crow gave rise to the civil rights movement. The memoir, which Woodson describes as “a book of memories of my childhood,” explores the separations and losses in her family, along with the triumphs and moments of tenderness.
“There isn’t much precedence for the kind of writing Jackie does,” says author Veronica Chambers, who reviewed Brown Girl Dreaming for The New York Times. “There are the mega books – the Harry Potter series, the Roald Dahls, books that become movies – but in terms of literary fiction that is also accessible and offers thoughtful writing for children, there isn’t a huge group of people doing this, especially in terms of sharing the same gender and skin color. When Virginia Hamilton won the first MacArthur Fellowship for writing children’s fiction, my first thought was, ‘Great, that means one day Jacqueline Woodson is going to get one.’”
Brown Girl Dreaming also recounts Woodson’s journey of self-discovery through storytelling. In the segment “Composition Notebook,” she writes:
I don’t know how my first composition notebook ended up in my hands, long before I could really write someone must have known that this was all I needed.
Woodson used her first notebook to learn to write letters, her name and, eventually, stories.
“Writing was the outlet,” she says. “I always had story inside me but didn’t know what it was. I got into trouble for telling stories because people said I was lying, which was confusing. I didn’t know I could take what was happening in my head and shape it into this thing called writing. I didn’t know I could put it down on paper and be calmer. I write because I need to get it out of me.”
As a girl, Woodson read Judy Blume, Hans Christian Andersen and other popular children’s authors but missed seeing characters that looked like her in the books’ pages. When she began writing, one of her primary goals was to populate her stories with diverse casts of characters. Woodson cites inspiration from children’s literature scholar and professor emerita of education at Ohio State University Rudine Sims Bishop, who suggested that reading provides windows into other worlds and mirrors as reflections of the self.
“Kids of color have not had the mirrors to see reflections of themselves in literature,” Woodson says. “They have looked through windows into white worlds but the reverse has not been true.”
Maggie Hanelt, assistant director and youth services librarian at the Truro Library on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, invited Woodson to read at the library last summer because she wanted to present an author who could speak to issues of diversity. Each year, Hanelt offers books as gifts to graduating sixth graders from the Truro Central School and, in 2014, those books were Woodson’s Feathers and Miracle’s Boys.
“On the Cape, there isn’t as much diversity as in the city,” Hanelt says. “I wanted to show the sixth graders there are different writers and experiences. Jacqueline was so well-received that one mother said she planned on reading Brown Girl Dreaming to all three of her children.”
Click here for the full article.