The Storyworld is available for download for the iPhone on the App Store here: Bedtime Stories — read & tell App.
Thank you for joining us and welcome to my blog. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you.
My name is Jennifer Cole Judd, and I write picture books and poetry for kids! I’ve been writing poems for children’s magazines for many years and had my first picture book, CIRCUS TRAIN (Two Lions), published in 2015. I also edited a middle-grade spooky poetry anthology, AN EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN (Two Lions). I have a few stories published on Amazon Rapids story app as well. In addition to writing, I am also a mom of five great kids, a chubby terrier, and a flock of sassy chickens. My husband and I live with this fun crew in the great state of Texas!
What’s the name of your Storyworld and what is it about?
The name of my Storyworld is Rowena the Witch Doctor, and it’s a twist on what you might think a witch doctor would be! Rowena is a rather clumsy witch who tries hard to be good at magic but usually flubs up her spells. She graduates from her witch school and gets assigned to a village where the villagers confuse her for the local doctor. Rowena tries to fix their problems and ends up creating much bigger problems for the village!
How did you come up with the stories and characters?
We were wanting to do a Halloween theme for my Storyworld, and an unusual character popped up — Rowena, a witch who gets mistaken for a doctor. Rowena really evolved; originally, I wasn’t going to write a young witch character, but this image of a bouncing, bumbling, full-of-heart redheaded girl who is trying to find her place in the world kept coming to mind. Her making mistakes with spells came naturally, but what I loved about her is that she finds her gift in all of this — she isn’t like the other witches, and she ends up becoming loved by her new community by embracing her ability to heal their ailments (albeit in a really strange way sometimes). My children and I brainstormed names for Rowena, as well as some spells she casts. I’ve had fun imagining how those spells could go wrong!
Tell us about the themes in your Storyworld. Why are they important?
A big theme in Rowena is accepting yourself and embracing who you are. Rowena is a little naïve at the beginning and very eager to please her teacher and prove to her school that she’s a good witch. Over the course of the stories as she’s confused for a doctor she finds her magic becoming more powerful, but the way she wants to use it is very different than what the witch school expects of her. Finding your own power, gift, and voice are important aspects of this story, especially as kids find Rowena relatable to their own individual stories and identities in their lives.
Are there educational aspects to your work? If so, what are they?
The stories work first on a fantasy, fun level, but there are subtle educational aspects that work on a psychological/emotional level. Relationships, bullying, believing in yourself, learning from mistakes, helping others, standing up for friends, having a positive attitude are all embodied in Rowena’s story.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve written since I was very small; my mother has a copy of a poem I wrote when I was five, and I have a Halloween poem written when I was six, so I’ve been enamored with writing (and Halloween!) for a long time! I cannot say exactly why; it’s just something I’ve always loved to do. I was often scribbling on scraps of paper during classes. I majored in English Literature in college, but really got into children’s writing once I had my children and was taking them to the library weekly. I fell in love with the stories and remembered my favorite stories from childhood. I “officially” began dabbling in children’s writing around 2004, but I took breaks between having children, moving, and other life commitments. I’ve been focused on writing for children heavily over the past 6 years.
How many books have you written to date? What inspired you to write your first book?
I have two books published. Eyeball in My Garden actually has an interesting beginning; it evolved out of my critique group at the time. It includes fourteen children’s poets from around the country. We had all gotten the “Halloween bug” around October and several of us had started writing Halloween poems. A couple of us thought it might be fun to try a collection, and before we knew it, it had evolved into 44 spooky Halloween poems. It was a really fun collaboration!
Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your genre that you find particularly challenging?
I think my writing style is evolving. I love writing in rhyme, but I am delving more into prose writing as well. I find all of it challenging! But for short children’s books and poems, the biggest challenge is conveying so much meaning in a small amount of words.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I still pinch myself and dream that I am a writer. It’s been hard for me to embrace the identity, because I have so much expectation of myself and admiration for many, many wonderful writers out there. But I would say when I published my first children’s poem, I felt like I had come “home” in a sense.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
I check MANY books out of the library. I kind of go crazy in there, actually. I’m always making the librarians pull books for me! I love reading about interesting people and places. I also find my children very inspiring. My first book, CIRCUS TRAIN, was inspired by my daughter’s first experience with the circus. I also try to take walks outside — nature is a huge inspiration for me.
What were your favourite books as a child and why?
This one is always hard. I read a lot of books. For picture books, I loved Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree, The Giant Jam Sandwich, and Gus Was a Friendly Ghost. (I still have my old copies of those.) I loved the storytelling in each of these, and the rhyme, especially, in Mr. Willoughby. I love Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series. As an older child and teenager, I had a real eclectic mix; I ended up gravitating toward classics like Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Catcher in the Rye, every book of poetry I could find (I loved Wendell Berry, Emily Dickinson, and Gerard Manley Hopkins), but I also would be up all night reading Stephen King novels!
What book are you currently reading?
I have kind of a mix on my nightstand. I’ve been revelling in Kate Barnhill’s middle grade novel, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, I just read a picture book biography on E.E. Cummings, and I have another stack of picture books and novels to delve into.
What advice do you give to writers starting out on their career?
My advice is to first, start reading what is being published in the genre you are interested in writing. Get involved in writing communities, find critique groups, write lots, and expect lots of rejections. For children’s writing, I can’t say enough good about the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). It’s an amazing resource for kid lit writers.
What are you currently working on and what is your next project?
I’m currently working on three new picture book manuscripts that I hope to have ready for submission later this year.
Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website is www.jennifercolejudd.com. I also have an author page on Facebook.
Thank you for telling us about your Bedtime Stories Storyworld and your books! We can’t wait to read them!
Rowena the Witch Doctor is available for download now on the Bedtime Stories — read & tell App on iPhone and iPad