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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - Jodi McKay

I'm happy to participate with author Jodi McKay in the children's book marketing group #SeenIn19. Her picture book, PENCIL'S PERFECT PICTURE (illustrated by Juliana Motzko, Albert Whitman & Co., May 2019) is just perfect! Here are Jodi's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection:

STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

For me, inspiration seems to hit at odd times and hardly ever when I push for it. I have gotten ideas from hearing or seeing a certain word or phrase, letting my imagination run to those strange “what if” places, even from being completely out of ideas which is where my first book, WHERE ARE THE WORDS? came from.

Although I can’t always predict when I get an idea, I have noticed that the ones that hit me the hardest turn out to be stories that my agent and I tend to both really like.

I’m about 50/50 when it comes to an idea starting off as a character or as the plot of the story. My latest book, PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE actually started as a continuation of my first book and centered around Pencil as the main character. While my editor liked the story, she felt it would be stronger as a stand-alone book with a family theme addition where Pencil wants to draw a perfect picture for his dad. I really liked that idea as I had recently experienced my son struggling with drawing a picture, “Just right” for his friend, so adding in that emotional element didn’t feel like a stretch. From there the story evolved a bit more and now I feel like it does a good job sending the message, in a fun and colorful way, that there is no definition of perfect when it comes to art. Just have fun with it!

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

From an early age my imagination has found ways to seep into all aspects of my life. Whether it was making up stories and acting them out, choreographing a dance show for my friends and I to perform, doodling in the margins of my notebooks, or creating a program for patients where I used to work, I always seemed to and still try to (no more dance shows, sorry!) find a way to be creative. If I go for too long without doing something creative I get grumpy.

I am happy to say that I have passed this down to my son who, at the age of 10, has an amazing imagination and uses it to write funny, expressive, and sometimes deep stories and of course his drawings are all perfect.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

The way that I most like to connect to my readers is through humor and by meeting them where they are. There is so much that kids go through these days and if I can offer them a story that makes them laugh or think differently about something then I feel like I’ve done my job. Of course the job isn’t just about writing, it’s about talking with these kids, listening to them, and giving them the space to explore their own imaginations. Watching a child connect to a book and grow that love of reading is like magic.

I can say with certainty that none of this would be possible without the extremely generous kidlit community. Writing is such solitary work, but groups like SCBWI, KidLit 411, and most recently the #SeenIn19 group, as well as others make writing feel like a combined effort. We are each other’s cheerleaders, support systems, education encouragers. It’s a privilege to work alongside these people to spread the joy of reading.


Jodi McKay lives in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan with her husband, son, and two furry friends. She has her Master’s degree in Psychology from Florida Atlantic University. Jodi is the PAL coordinator for SCBWI-MI, and is active in several online writing groups. She has two books published by Albert Whitman & Co., WHERE ARE THE WORDS? (2016) and the forthcoming picture book, PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE (May, 2019). Jodi is represented by Linda Epstein of Emerald City Literary Agency.




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