Happy Birthday CIRCUS TRAIN!: An Interview with Debut Picture Book Author Jennifer Cole Judd

Judd-CircusTrain-hires-FTCV-RGB-Final(2)   Jen Judd web pic
Join me in welcoming fellow rhymer and picture book author, Jennifer Cole Judd, whose brand new picture book, CIRCUS TRAIN (Two Lions Publishing), debuts TODAY! She is also the co-editor and a contributing poet to AN EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN (Two Lions), a spooky middle-grade poetry anthology. Her poems and stories have been published in a variety of children’s magazines. She and I met as critique partners in the wonderful online critique group, The Poets’ Garage. And now for the interview with my questions in festive turquoise to coordinate with CIRCUS TRAIN’s colorful cover. 
Have you always been a writer? Tell us a little bit about your writerly journey.
My writerly journey definitely began when I was a wee one.  My mother still has a frayed scrap of paper of a rhyme I wrote when I was about five years old.  I wouldn’t say I was always a consistent poetry writer, but even my doodles on my homework in high school and in college were couplets and phrases and little thought-foxes, as opposed to drawings.  I studied some creative writing and majored in English literature in college, but it wasn’t until I had kids and spent weekly visits to the library, scouring the picture book and children’s poetry sections, that I started to explore the world of children’s writing.  I’ve spent the past decade tiptoeing into the world of submitting, starting with poems to magazines and joining critique groups, while having and raising my five fantastic kiddos.
What inspired you to write CIRCUS TRAIN? And what was the process from inspiration to publication like?  
The inspiration for CIRCUS TRAIN came one hot August afternoon when we took our (then) brood of four children to the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus.  Watching my preschool daughter’s eyes widen and hearing her gasp or giggle with each new act made the whole show a magical experience for me.  I came home with that imagery still in my mind, and decided to sit down and try to capture that wonder and excitement (and hopefully, just a touch of nostalgia) that radiated from my daughter that day.  I wrote it as a poem, at first, using the short, clipped verse (as Verla Kay refers to it, “terse verse”) for just a few couplets.  There’s so much to see in a circus, though, so it grew to picture book length pretty quickly.  The first version of the story didn’t have a train in it; I put it through critique groups and subbed it out only twice before I decided to hold off on it and focus on my poem writing for the time being.  That was back in 2006!  I pulled the manuscript out in 2012, and that was when the train emerged in the story. I revised it, shared it with my critique partners, and subbed it to Two Lions.  I was surprised (and thrilled!) when they acquired a few months later.
Your love of language is evident in CIRCUS TRAIN’S  rich word choice and rhythmic rhyming verse. How was that love developed? 
Thank you for the kind words! I do love the musicality of words and using poetic sound devices. I have always loved poetry, all kinds of poetry, from Emily Dickinson to Shel Silverstein.  I would also have to credit my first poetry critique group, the Poets’ Garage, for helping me shape my rhyme and rhythm skills, as well as train my “ear” to hearing that smooth rhythm. That group, in fact, was where my first publication, EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN was born, a spooky poetry anthology that I co-edited with Laura Wynkoop (and which included fourteen poets from that talented bunch!).  Being around fellow children’s poets and reading wonderful poetry continues to fuel that love. It still takes a lot of practice for me, but it’s so much fun when you find that perfect word that makes a few lines sing.
The illustrations that accompany your story are fresh and fun. Tell us a little bit about the artist.  Do you have a favorite spread? 
Melanie is amazing! She is an illustrator and designer all the way from Melbourne, Australia and does wonderful, colorful artwork. You can take a peek at more of the cool stuff she does at www.meldraws.com. It is so hard to pick a favorite spread–I love the details that Melanie puts on to each page.  The first full-spread has this neat, whimsical circus ticket that floats on the breeze above the blooming, striped tent (and might show up later in the book, if you keep an eye out for it!). There are fun details on every spread!
Jennifer, thank you so much for letting us share in the book celebration today.
Connect with Jennifer Cole Judd: Find out more about Jennifer by checking out her website. She can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
For all you teachers and parents, you’re in for a treat tomorrow as Jennifer will  be sharing some fun extension activities for CIRCUS TRAIN. (There will also be a GIVE AWAY!!!!) See you then!

13 thoughts on “Happy Birthday CIRCUS TRAIN!: An Interview with Debut Picture Book Author Jennifer Cole Judd

  1. Happy birthday to CIRCUS TRAIN! Kids love trains, and who doesn’t love the circus? Best wishes to Jennifer Cole Judd, and thanks for hosting her, Laura.

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