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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - JOCELYN RISH

I'm happy to feature author Jocelyn Rish on the blog today! I loved learning about the inspiration behind her new book, BATTLE OF THE BUTTS: THE SCIENCE BEHIND ANIMAL BEHINDS, illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, Running Press Kids (releasing tomorrow!) as well as the origins of some of her other projects. She also chats more about stories, creativity, and connection. Welcome, Jocelyn!

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

I’m always inspired by facts I learn in random places. Years ago, I read a newspaper article about Oscar, a cat who lives in a nursing home and correctly predicts when the residents will die. It inspired my first published short story and my first short film SAYING GOODBYE (

A while later, my brother told me about the honeyguide birds that lead people (and badgers) to beehives. They inspired my first kidlit story that was published in Highlights, which was a total dream come true!

Then three years ago, I was up too late mindlessly scrolling Twitter when I saw this meme of an adorable manatee that said, “Manatees can control their buoyancy through an endless cycle of farting. There. That’s a thing you know now.” I googled to find out if it was true, and it was! And the google search brought up other weird animal booty info. From that night of learning funny fanny facts, BATTLE OF THE BUTTS was born!

My current WIP was also inspired by another animal tidbit I saw on Twitter, but it’s a secret for now.

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

For the past twenty years of dabbling on and off with writing, I’ve been a fiction writer. The few attempts I made at nonfiction were … not good. But it turns out it’s all about finding the right subject (because I’m ten at heart and butts are funny), and even more important is finding the right voice. I had to figure out how to utilize the skills I’d learned for writing fiction to make my nonfiction interesting and not sound like one of the adults on Charlie Brown “Wah Wa Wa Wah Wa Wa.”

Nonfiction may seem less creative at first glance, but after all the research to get the facts right, I get to let my creativity loose to get the words right. I spend a lot of time coming up with silly word play and alliteration to make the facts sing.

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

For the past ten years, I’ve been volunteering with an amazing organization called Reading Partners ( We get paired with an elementary student who is behind in reading and work with them two hours a week for the school year. It has been an absolute blast! I always thought I was a young adult writer, but spending time with these kids and seeing what gets them excited about reading made me want to write books for them. And both animals and heinie humor definitely get young kids excited about reading!

As for staying connected to the KidLit community, it’s all about Twitter for me. I waste too much time there, but I’ve also made incredible friendships. I’m in two 2021 picture book groups, and I joined both of them because of Twitter. This year would have been so much harder without the amazingly supportive people in The Picture Book Scribbler and 21 For The Books. But no matter where you find your people, make sure you connect with the right folks who will cheer your successes and support you when the chips are down.


Jocelyn Rish is a writer and filmmaker who never imagined her cheeky sense of humor would lead to a book about animal butts. When she's not researching fanny facts, she tutors kids to help them discover the magic of reading. Jocelyn has won numerous awards for her short stories, screenplays, short films, and novels and lives in South Carolina with her booty-ful dogs. Learn more at:



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Vivian Kirkfield
Vivian Kirkfield
Nov 01, 2021

Fabulous interview, ladies! Melissa, I love your 3-question's amazing how much we can learn about someone with only 3 questions. And Jocelyn...thank you for sharing the story behind the story...and the story behind where your ideas come from. I agree...we always need to be open to what we see and hear because you just never know.

Jocelyn Rish
Jocelyn Rish
Nov 13, 2021
Replying to

Definitely, my stories have come from the most random bits of things I read or hear, so we have to always be ready to catch that spark!

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