You've just released your first picture book, The Remember Balloons. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
While visiting my grandfather a few summers ago with my kids, I decided to write a picture book about Alzheimer's. He was diagnosed about five years ago. I wanted to make the disease, which is confusing, more accessible to children.
When I started writing the book, it was a straight-forward tale of a boy and his grandfather. But then inspiration struck—I thought of memories as balloons. (I'm a sucker for metaphors.) The boy's grandfather struggles to hold onto his balloons as he ages. The boy tries to catch them, but he can't. Yet, he finds another way to reclaim the balloons that his grandpa has lost.
I wrote the rough draft of this book in an afternoon—which is unique for me. I struggle a lot with endings. Yet with this manuscript, I had a beginning, a middle, and an end in one sitting. Of course, since then, the manuscript has gone through several revisions. While I had the basic structure, there were many more changes to come.
What do you expect readers to take away from that book?
What writing experience/credits did you have prior to writing that book?
This is my first published piece—although I did spend years before this trying to get published!
How has being active in SCBWI helped you in getting published?
Ten years ago, I had just decided I wanted to be published. I'd written off and on for years, but this time I needed direction. I remember attending an author talk of a book I had just read—Elizabeth C. Bunce. I found out she was teaching a workshop and attended. That was my first experience with SCBWI.
How did you go about finding a publisher/agent?
After querying for years, I actually found my agent on Twitter. I pitched The Remember Balloons during #pitchmas—a Twitter pitch contest that has since retired from the Twitter scene.
How do you write? Did you do an outline first?
What did your editor harp on you the most in getting this book to publication?
I never felt like my editor was harping. I had two editors. My acquiring editor left Simon and Schuster for another house, and another took on my book. Both editors have been inspiring and patient, offering suggestions and asking questions in all the right places.
What surprised you the most in writing/publishing your first book?
I was surprised by the timeline from contract to publication date. My almost-three-year-old was just four days old when I received the offer. My book released in August. That's about 2 ½ years! But it was a full 2 ½ years, and I'm so happy with the final product!
What frustrated you the most?
What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
I think I underestimated the power of reading in your genre early on. This is critical. Even if your book is different, you have to be familiar with what's out there.
What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
Patience. You have your whole life to get published. I know authors, debut authors, who are grandparents. No time is too late. Just enjoy the journey.
Do you have any other works in the process?
I do! I have a picture book biography that is currently on submission. I'm also revising a middle-grade novel.
That’s all for today’s interview. If you’d like to buy Jessie’s book and learn about other upcoming books, here is the link to her website - Jessieoliveros.com.