It’s time for Member Spotlight! That special Friday when we get to learn about another talented member of SCBWI Michigan. And today’s writer is definitely that!
Jodi McCay came back to the Mitten from sunny, South Florida five years ago. When asked about what people from down under (south of Ohio, not Australia) thought of her choice she said, “Am I crazy for moving from the land of sun and sand? Maybe, but our family is happy that we are back and I’m sure my skin thanks me for it.” Along with being a writer, Jodi is married and is the mother of someone she calls, “one charismatic little boy.”
So let’s give a warm Mitten welcome to Jodi McKay!
Mitten: Jodi, when did you start writing for children, and how did you know it was something you wanted to do?
JM: I remember writing when I was in 2nd grade. I wrote a story about an amusement park of doom. It didn’t make it further than the classroom, but I was proud of it. I tried again when I was 20, this time writing and illustrating a picture book. I still cringe when I think of what I sent to the publishing houses. I spent a number of years writing for academic journals and work-related material, but none of that really did it for me. I started writing picture books 3 ½ years ago and I can’t get enough of it. It’s funny how you just know when you’re doing what you are meant to do. There’s that and the fact that I usually beeline to the children’s section of the bookstore to check out the latest and greatest before begrudgingly heading back to the grown-up books. I just love kids books!
Mitten: How did you find out about SCBWI and how long have you been a member?
JM: As soon as I decided to seriously write, I made myself take a step back and research what I needed to fully understand how to write. SCBWI popped up in my Google search and the rest is history. I have been a member for 3 years now and I have found it absolutely invaluable.
Mitten: What genres are you most interested in and why? Picture books, middle grade, YA, chapter books, poetry, nonfiction?
JM: Right now I am strictly a picture book writer. I tried my hand at writing an early reader chapter book, but that is a completely different art form and I didn’t connect with it the same way I do with picture books. I’m a little too chicken to attempt writing for the older kids. I think my mind just works in under 500 words.
Mitten: Tell us about your publishing journey. Are you pre-published or published, and if so where?
JM: Ah, the road to publication. It’s been as I expected, yet still surprising at times. Does that make sense? I am pre-published, but happy to say that I will have a book out next year. The lovely people at Albert Whitman have decided to take a chance on me (forthcoming book title to be announced). I am also very lucky to have found my agent, Linda Epstein, who roots for my quirky stories and works to find homes for them.
Mitten: Congratulations on the contract and the agent Jodi! That’s awesome! Now, along with writing for children, many of us have day jobs. Tell us something about what you do along with your writing.
JM: Oh goodness, what do people call it? Domestic engineer? I told myself that I would go back to work after my son went to school, but my degree is in Psychology and I would rather make up alternate realities for kids than help adults come back to reality. So, my job is writing and I don’t write every day as some suggest. I’m afraid that will take the fun out of it and I can’t have that because I am having a lot of fun!
Mitten: Domestic engineer works fine Jodi! And trust me, it’s the hardest, most wonderful job in the world…and one of the best ways to inform your writing. Speaking of informing writing, where do you get most of your story ideas? Do you write them down, keep them in a computer file or just store them in your memory?
JM: Where do my ideas come from? Yikes! Do you have a couch and some time to spare to hear my ramblings? They hit me at odd times and usually begin with a character who does something off the cuff. I often find that the character doesn’t leave me alone until I have figured out his/her problem and how to solve it, which means I sit and type out the entire book at once. So what if dinner doesn’t get made right?
Mitten: Hey, I say pizza works! But back to why we're here:) We all have favorite writers that inspire us. Name two of yours and why you like them.
JM: Shel Silverstein is my number one. I remember reading Where the Sidewalk Ends when I was a child and feeling both entertained and curious about the way words, put together in such a way, can leave a person wanting more. Talk about re-readability!
I am also a big fan of Jon Klassen. His style of writing is simple and profound at the same time. Jon’s (I like to think we are on a first name basis) books are a bit on the dark side, and I like books that push boundaries. Bravo Jon!
Mitten: Besides hearing that eating dark chocolate while revising is a must, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer for children? Why?
JM: Be prepared to wait. Looking back, that was an understatement, but it is the one piece of advice that has permeated the entire process. From waiting for inspiration to strike, to setting the manuscript aside for a while, to sending that manuscript out, and finally to the book’s birthday, waiting patiently (maybe not patiently) has been a big part of my daily existence. This is why I have found it helpful to stay connected to other writers as we all share that same piece of the writing puzzle.
Thanks so much Jodi. This was fun! To learn more about Jodi and her writing journey, visit her at www.jodimckaybooks.com.
And be ready! You may be the next SCBWI Michigan member standing in the spotlight!