Jennifer L. Holm is a New York Times bestselling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels ‘Our Only May Amelia’, ‘Penny from Heaven’, and ‘Turtle in Paradise’. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series — the popular Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. ‘Babymouse for President’ is an Eisner nominee.
Thanks for interviewing me. I have a personal San Diego connection. I was born here! (At the Naval Hospital). And my family and I attend Comic-Con every July, so we love San Diego.
Henry: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. And for our readers, the Newbery Medal is given to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The Newbery (along with the Caldecott) is considered one of the most prestigious children’s literature awards in the United States.
For what audience do you write?
I write middle grade fiction (‘Penny from Heaven’, ‘Our Only May Amelia’, ‘Turtle in Paradise’) and graphic novels with my brother, Matt Holm (The Babymouse series and the Squish series).
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is ‘Squish: Game On’. It actually features a comic convention.
Henry: Amazon helpfully adds “a hilarious, action packed graphic novel series from the award-winning creators of Babymouse! Filled with superheroes, comics within comics, and gross-out science, Squish is perfect for fans of Dav Pilkey’s ‘Captain Underpants’, Dan Gutman’s ‘Weird School’, and Jarrett Krosoczka’s ‘Lunch Lady’.
Beep! Beep! Squish can’t get enough of his awesome new video game Mitosis! (Mitosis is what happens when cells divide. Who says video games can’t be educational?) In fact, he may even be obsessed! He plays at home . . . at school. . . even in his sleep! Are video games taking over Squish’s life?! And can Squish’s favorite comic book hero, Super Amoeba, stop the Creeping Black Mold that’s taking over Small Pond?”
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
Kids today have to deal with the challenges of different media (video games, etc.) This book tackles what is a common situation a lot of kids face.
Henry: The heartbreak of unwanted mitosis?
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
It’s hard to live in your own head all day.
Henry: Some heads more than others. The voices. The voices!
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
The impact you can have on a child. A book can really change someone’s life.
Henry: I admit it was delightful to hear that after reading ‘Nimpentoad’ one of my little readers will now eat mushrooms. A small victory, perhaps, but we take them.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I probably wouldn’t be able to wear pajamas to work.
Henry: And fuzzy slippers?
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read! Read! Read!
Henry: Yes. I heard this great saying at a SCBWI conference, “Just as the lion is the product of all the zebras she’s eaten, the author is the product of all the books she’s read.”
Do you have any favorite quotes?
Keep calm and revise on.
Henry: Good one. I don’t think all aspiring authors realize how much revising is required.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I generally don’t like to discuss whatever I’m working on. I worry I will jinx myself. (I’m pretty superstitious).
Henry: How do you feel about black cats walking under ladders on Friday the 13th?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to make the house be instantly clean (I have two kids).
Henry: So, you’d be exercising that power frequently. Very original superpower. Well played, Jenni. Well played.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Lloyd Alexander (my childhood hero), Bill Watterson (my whole life hero) and Hal Foster (my Prince Valiant hero).
Henry: Wikipedia helpfully adds, “Lloyd Chudley Alexander was a widely influential American author of more than forty books, primarily fantasy novels for children and young adults. His most famous work is The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of five high fantasy novels whose conclusion, The High King, was awarded the 1969 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature.”
Hal Foster was a Canadian-American illustrator best known for his comic strip Prince Valiant. And of course, we all know and love Bill Watterson from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
The dragons from Anne McCaffrey’s “Harper Hall” series.
Henry: Dragons. It’s always dragons. There has to be some deep psychological root for our affinity.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have recently taken up fencing and I love it!
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
She Liked to Revise
Henry: Or “
She Liked to Revise”, then “She Liked to Edit” underneath, then “stet”.
Where can readers find your work?
This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.