By Lindsay Bandy
Lindsay: Hi there, Joanna, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Café! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. As we settle into our booth, what are you drinking?
Joanna: Always hot chocolate! Preferably with a few marshmallows and no whipped cream. I’m not a big coffee drinker (makes me waaaaaaytoo jittery).
Lindsay: What are you snacking on?
Joanna: Cookies, muffins, doughnuts…all of the above! I have a sweet tooth, can you tell?
Lindsay: You’ve inspired me to go for a peanut-butter filled donut with peanut butter frosting. And a tall glass of chocolate milk.
Now, tell us, what is one book that has changed your life in some important way?
Joanna: Only one?! Many, many books have shaped me, but here is one:
I was a Sharon Creech devotee as a kid (and continue to be!). All of her books are amazing, but Bloomability had a considerable impact on me. Bloomability is about a girl named Dominica Santolina Doone (Dinnie for short) who is sent off to a boarding school in Switzerland where her uncle is the headmaster. This lifestyle is completely new to her, as Dinnie has never really had a home. Her dad picks up work where he can, so they constantly move from state to state. Her brother is in the Air Force after some bad decisions. Her teenage sister is pregnant and married. Boarding school is the first time Dinnie has any sort of stability. It’s a place where she grows immeasurably as she’s exposed to different cultures, learns new languages, and enjoys quite a bit of independence. I remember letting the author’s words transport me to this new, exciting, and challenging setting. I’ve had a bad case of wanderlust ever since. I think the best middle grade has the power to open your mind, expose you to people and places outside of your immediate world, and spark curiosity. This book did all of those things for me. And it made me laugh!
Lindsay: If you could go back in time (or stay in the present) to meet any author or illustrator, who would it be?
Joanna: James Marshall. I don’t even have to think about this one! His books make me howl with laughter every time. I continue to marvel at how effortless his work feels; it’s deceptively simple. And he gives his young readers the credit they deserve.
Lindsay: I love that both of your choices are ones that make you laugh! If you’re okay with being a little silly, let’s pretend that you are about to become the first editor on the moon. You’re packing your space bag for the long journey. You don’t have a lot of room, what with your spacesuit and all. So what one book do you bring along to pass the time? What one non-literary item do you pack?
Joanna: I’d probably want a collection of humorous essays like I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley or a collection of short stories like The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami. If I can only have one book, I think I’d appreciate the variety that a collection can offer. As for my one non-literary item…can I pack my dog, or is that cruel? I think she’d look adorable in a spacesuit.
Lindsay: Dogs are definitely allowed on imaginary space voyages!
You are invited to a baby shower and asked to bring a book in lieu of a card. What one picture book would you give? Why?
Joanna: The perfect baby shower gift—and one I used to hand sell to customers for this very occasion when I was a bookseller—is The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee. New parents will smile in recognition. It’s such a fresh and witty take on a new-baby story.
Lindsay: I am a big fan of Marla Frazee! She has such a distinctive style, and she’s hilarious. And as a mom of two girls, I’m quite familiar with the concept of having two little round-the-clock bosses!
What one thing do you wish people would do more of BEFORE they submit to you?
Joanna: As far as conference submissions go, I always appreciate when attendees follow my guidelines. I usually have a specific submissions window in place both to ensure writers have time to revise their work post-conference and to help manage my workload.
Lindsay: Any parting words of advice for writers and illustrators?
Joanna: This industry is an exercise in patience. It takes time (sometimes several years!) to write your first draft. It takes time to polish that draft so that it’s ready to share with others. It takes time to hear from agents regarding your query. And it takes time for agents to hear from editors once they submit your work. Use the time to hone your craft: keep writing, surround yourself with like-minded people, and read as much as you can to keep learning.
Lindsay: Thank you SO much for taking the time to chat with us, Joanna! We’re looking forward to meeting you soon!
Joanna: Thank YOU! I can’t wait to meet the writers and illustrators of the Eastern PA chapter of SCBWI!
EPA Community, it’s your turn to say hi to Joanna! Has she made you hungry for donuts? Do you share a favorite book? Are you going to be at the upcoming Sundae event? Let her know!