Jennie K. Brown talked to fellow author Sara J. Pla about her first middle-grade novel, just published by Tantrum Books. Sweet-Sixteen Jennie is a Saturday. Sally, a Swanky 17, is a Wednesday. And if you want to learn more about the relevance of this, read on about Jennie and POPPY MAYBERRY, THE MONDAY!!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennie K. Brown is an award-winning high school English teacher, freelance magazine writer, and author of children’s books. Jennie currently serves as president of the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (PCTELA) and is an active member of SCBWI, NCTE, and ALAN. She is a regular contributor to the SCBWI Eastern PA and PCTELA blogs. When she’s not teaching or writing, Jennie can be found reading, hanging out with her awesome family, or plotting her next book! You can find her at http://www.jenniekbrown.com, Facebook, Twitter
ABOUT THE NOVEL
What if your teacher could read your mind just because she was born on a Thursday? Or the kid next to you in class could turn back the clock just because he was ‘Wednesday”? In the quirky town of Nova, all of this is normal, but one thing is not—Poppy Mayberry. As an almost-eleven-year-old Monday, she should be able to pass notes in class or brush her dog, Pickle, without lifting a finger. But her Monday telekinesis still has some kinks, and that plate of spaghetti she’s passing may just end up on someone’s head. And if that’s not hard enough, practically perfect Ellie Preston is out to get her, and Principal Wible wants to send her to remedial summer school to work on her powers! It’s enough to make a girl want to disappear…if only she were a Friday.
POPPY MAYBERRY, THE MONDAY will be published in September 2016 by Month9Books (Tantrum Books imprint), with sequels to follow in April 2017 and September 2017. You can find it at Amazon, Powells, Indiebound, and Barnes & Noble.
TALKING ABOUT ‘POPPY’
Sally: How does teaching 9th grade inform your writing? What’s your favorite — and least favorite — thing about teaching?
Jennie: I am in constant English, grammar, reading, and writing mode during the school year, and that definitely helps my writing process. When my students read – I read. When my students write – I write. Plus, because I write for middle grade and YA readers, I get a lot of inspiration from my students’ conversations and what I see in my classroom. My favorite thing about teaching is when a student really connects with a book/reading. My least favorite – grading hundreds of essays a year! Blah!
Sally: How was Poppy born? Did you live with the idea a long while first, or did she ‘pop’ in your head? 🙂
Jennie: It was a total pop in my head thing. The idea actually came to me when I was stopped at a red light in my hometown. I glanced up at the Starbucks on the corner across the street to see a young girl tossing a ball into the air. From the angle I watched, it looked as if the girl was controlling the ball with her mind. At pretty much the same time I asked myself, What day of the week is it? (I have a tendency to lose track of the days over the summer!) And then I put those thoughts together – What if a person had certain powers depending on the day of the week? Or what if a person had a magical power specific to the day of the week in which they were born? And that’s where I got the concept for Poppy’s town of Nova. If you check out this link (http://www.jenniekbrown.com/discover-your-power/), you can see what day of the week you were born and the power behind that day! Side note – I’m a Saturday, which means I’m powerless. Yes, the irony’s not lost on me.
Sally: What’s been your writer’s journey — did you always know you wanted to write?
Jennie: Honestly, I was not a kid who dreamed of being an author – I actually wanted to be a television news anchor! Haha. But writing was something I’ve done since I was in kindergarten. I won a scary short story competition when I was in elementary school, and my passion for writing grew from there. It wasn’t until I was out of college, teaching English full-time, that I decided to write a book! So my dream of being a published author wasn’t realized until I was about 22.
Sally: Imagine your perfect reader. How would you describe that person?
Jennie: Gosh … this is a tough one. I don’t think I have a perfect reader for my Nova Kids Series (starting with Poppy Mayberry, The Monday). I truly believe it’s a great read-aloud for younger readers, a sweet-spot read for ages 8-12, but adults seem to really enjoy it too!
Any unusual writing rituals?
Not sure it’s too unusual, but I need to have something to drink … water, coffee, or a latte.
What’s a title on your “To-Read” list right now?
Gosh… there are just so many. But after I finish Jay Asher’s What Light, it’s the ARC of Cynthia Reeg’s debut From the Grave — A fun, creepy-sounding MG read.
Where do you sit when you write?
Panera Bread, a local coffee shop, a local Italian restaurant, or at my desk in my home writing space.
Music to write by?
Whatever is playing in the background of the restaurants/coffee shops.
Favorite book/toy as a child?
I loved my Lissie doll (she was actually pretty creepy looking). And my favorite stories were The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. (I now read both of these to my 3-year-old).
Yes! Two dogs – Gia a Yorkshire Terrier (the dog Pickle in POPPY was based on) and Riesling – a miniature labradoodle.
Word? Pages? Scrivener? Legal Pads?
First draft in Scrivener, then I convert to Word.
Plotter or Pantser? Ugh … pantser. All. The. Way.
Thanks Jennie! Best of luck to you, every day of the week!
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Sally J. Pla is the author of THE SOMEDAY BIRDS, about 12-year-old control-freak Charlie and his very out-of-control family. Charlie’s a picky eater, bird lover, and reluctant cross-country road-tripper, trapped on an adventure of a lifetime. THE SOMEDAY BIRDS’ flight launch is 1/24/17 (HarperCollins).
Sally lives in Southern California near lots of lemon trees, where she’s hard at work on a second novel for HarperCollins.