Photo Credit: Peter Laird
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About the Author
Jeannine Atkins is the author of Borrowed Names and Wings and Rockets, which appeared on the ALA Amelia Bloomer Project list. She lives in western Massachusetts.
A Conversation With the Author
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sterling, Massachusetts. A marble statue of a little lamb is on the Common, to commemorate the lamb that supposedly inspired the poem about Mary and her Little Lamb. Another town also makes this claim, with more evidence to back it up, I'm sorry to say; but I don't say that too loudly in my hometown.
What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
In second grade, my friends Naomi and Heather and I liked to stay indoors at recess. Mrs. Dunwoody let us fold arithmetic paper into quarters so we could write and illustrate our own stapled books.
What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
Like most authors, I wrote many books before one was accepted for publication. Aani and the Tree Huggers was inspired, as were most of my books, by reading about someone I wanted more people to know about.
Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Yes. For instance, while Aani and the Tree Huggers is set in India, I drew on my own love of sitting in or under trees to help bring my main character to life.
What books from your childhood have most influenced your work?
I loved reading books about girls who did both ordinary and extraordinary things, such as those in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books or Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. As an adult, I've enjoyed reading about the more complicated lives of the authors. I like reading poetry, especially narrative free verse, and the work of poets who draw from history, such as Marilyn Nelson, Rita Dove, Natasha Tretheway, and Carole Oles.
What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
I spend a lot of time walking our two dogs, and a bit of time cuddling with them and reading their faces. I'm afraid though that most of my other walks and rides lead to bookstores or libraries. And - activities - I'm president of our town's Friend of the Library, where I help organize talks and an annual book sale or -- I love going to the ocean, but spend my time there with a book, taking breaks to listen to the waves. I like hanging out with friends, but most of them are writers, teachers, or librarians, so once again everything kind of comes back to reading. Even swimming and yoga - fun, but partly to de-stiffen me from hours spent writing. Hey, it's who I am.
Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
In combining history with verse, I've been inspired by Margarita Engle, Karen Hesse, and the poets mentioned above. I love the detail that goes into poetry connected with a story that takes you from a vivid here to a bright there.
What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
I have a daughter, so get reminded all the time that nobody wants advice, right? But since you're asking... I'd say to have fun with your writing. Let it take you to surprising new places, allow in some mystery, and don't be afraid to go back and change words you think you can make better.