A Cafe Chat with Author/Illustrator Val Jones, by Lindsay Bandy

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I’m so excited to have  local EPA SCBWI author/illustrator Val Jones in the Cafe today! If you’ve met her at an SCBWI event, you know just how lovable she is.  Her debut picture book, WHO WANTS BROCCOLI? is pretty lovable, too! So sit back and relax with me and Val, and then visit Val’s Web site to learn even more about her and her books!

Here she comes!

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Hi there, Val, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Café! As we settle into our cozy booth, what can we get you to drink?
Coffee please – black with stevia if you have any!
We’ve got plent. And something to snack on?
Ooo a blueberry scone would be fabu!
I know you’re dying to show us pictures of Ollie, your new rescue dog and the inspiration for a new book! Come on, pull out that phone and let us take a look at him so we can…..
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Awwwww!! Can’t wait to hear more about Ollie’s adventures 🙂
It’s so funny…I never seem to have pictures of my human family, but always have one ready of my furry family members! He is such a cutie and so brave. I guess he had to be to have survived most of his life roaming the hills of Shamokin, PA – that’s where Mommy & Me Rescue found him.
Two important things we learned about Ollie; 1. he’s a runner…if he sees a deer, all we see is his dust! and 
2. if you give him a bone or a toy he sneaks it away and buries it forever…we’re the ones to find it and bring it back. As Lindsay Barrett George always sez – that’s a book!! 🙂 
 
I’ve gotta tell you how much my girls and I love WHO WANTS BROCCOLI?! And we’re obviously not the only ones – Congrats on BROCCOLI making KSRA’s 2016-17 Best Book list, receiving Bank Street’s Top 5 Animal Books of 2016 award, and sticking around for the final 6 Crystal Kite!
Thank you so much Lindsay…I love to hear how Broccoli’s story resonates with the kiddies. Broccoli is aka my big, fun dog Fergus. He had quite a few foibles – which was probably why he had been in a shelter for the first year of his life. Fergus turned out to be the sweetest and most gentle soul ever…and I am so glad I picked him for my perfect pet. We lost him last September and I miss him almost every day. Loosing Fergus left a big hole in my heart, but jolly Ollie is doing his best to fill it up :))
Broccoli cover
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a debut author/illustrator?
Knowing that I met all of the publisher’s deadlines…in other words, I really, actually did it! 
I knew absolutely nothing about writing or publishing when I started my new career as an author/illustrator a few years ago. I didn’t know the difference between an Art Director and an Editor or what an Agent did! 
SCBWI and Highlights workshops have been absolutely invaluable and I’ve had the opportunity to meet tons of wonderful, and generous artists, especially in my critique groups. I’ve learned so much…but let me tell you, when I was offered a contract for Who Wants Broccoli? I was terrified. My biggest fear was that I couldn’t do the work fast enough to meet the timelines…but I did!! 
 
What’s been most frustrating or difficult?
One word…marketing! There is so much to do to get the word out about your book and most of it is up to the author. Thankfully I had help from Bobbie Combs who helped me put together a marketing plan, but for me marketing was and is the biggest challenge. 
 
I know you’ve been doing a lot of elementary school visits lately. Have you been visiting individual classrooms or auditoriums? How’s it going?
Broccoli has met classrooms of kiddies and auditoriums of students! I’ve also visited libraries and been invited to doggie and rescue events…it’s been going great, thanks. I try to share a little about the writing process and talk about how important it is to adopt new pets from shelters, before we read Who Wants Broccoli? and afterward we do some fun activities. I can’t believe how much I enjoy visiting schools and talking to kids – especially knowing how terrified I am if I have to stand up in front of grownups!
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Any favorite kid stories or notes you’d like to share?
Two of my favorites; 
First is from a Dad who sent me a You Tube invitation of his 2 year old who had memorized Who Wants Broccoli? The video is an adorable little girl holding this big Broccoli book and ‘reading’ the story and she had it perfect word-for-word! 
The second was a Facebook post of a man in NYC who had just adopted a dog and his daughter had named him Broccoli! Choked me right up…
 
Got any tips for authors and illustrators in booking local school or indie bookstore visits?
I do have a tip that I thought up and it works pretty well.
I like to stop at bookstores and ask if they have Who Wants Broccoli?
If they say ‘no’, I ask if they’ll be ordering any and they usually say they will be
and if they say ‘yes’ I let them know I’m the author/illustrator and offer to sign the books they have.
The store is always happy to have me sign what they have.
The best thing is some stores add a special sticker on the Broccoli and some even have a special section for signed books.
While I’m there it’s a great time to chat a bit and offer to do a reading in the future.
What does a typical workday look like for you?Clock 1.jpg
My hubby gets up at 5am for work and I send him out the door with breakfast.
I read my bookclub book until my granddaughter gets up for school and I get her out the door,
Then I take Ollie for a 2+mile walk – this is when I really think through my current projects.
When I get home my workday starts.
If I don’t have any outside appointments or teleconferences, I start with email then move onto either writing or working on my current art project. I find I can either write all day or paint all day but can’t do both on the same day…must be a brain thing :)) I stop about 5 and start making dinner…
Man, I just realized how predictable I am!!
Congratulations! Broccoli wins the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and your prize as his distinguished creator is an original, framed illustration from ANY children’s book to hang on your studio wall. What might you choose?
Oh that is so hard…there are so many ggggoooorgeous picture books out there.
Of course a-n-y-thing from David Wiesner
or Diane Goode…I love her work
and of course Pamela Zagarenski (just bought Mary Logue’s Sleep Like  a Tiger)
oh don’t forget Quentin Blake
and I love Bert Kitchen’s Gorilla/Chinchilla
and of course Eric Rohmann – Time Flies is awesome…
then let the wild rumpus start with the fabulous Maurice Sendak –
Ahhhh!! My head is going to explode…I’m just getting started…no way to choose!!

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As if we haven’t overwhelmed you enough….it’s time for rapid-fire favorites! Val, quickly now, name your favorite…
Book(s) as a little girl? 
This sounds sad when I say it out loud but I had only one picture book before starting school. An illustrated book of Alice in Wonderland. I paged through it until it literally fell apart. I can still see the illustrations.
Midnight snack?
French vanilla iced cream with walnuts, hot fudge and whipped cream…but never happens :))
Form of exercise?
yoga…and of course my Ollie walk!
Place to vacation?
Anna Maria Island. Too many people have finally found it so unfortunately it’s not as secluded as is used to be, but it’s still beautiful.
Song (at this very moment?!)
I Me Mine by the Beatles – yes the Beatles sorry :)))))
Place to read?
Big, old leather chair right next to the fireplace – with Ollie on the ottoman.
Thanks so much for stopping by to chat with us today, Val! Don’t be a stranger…we love your company (and your books!).
Thank you Lindsay – and I’ll see you at the next event!!
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One Response to A Cafe Chat with Author/Illustrator Val Jones, by Lindsay Bandy

  1. So glad you interviewed Val. She is an amazing lady, but down to earth and genuine! Val deserves every bit of attention she’s received for Broccoli. It’s truly a work of heart. Congrats on its continued success.

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