Judy Cox is the author of twenty-six books for children, and more than thirty short stories. Her books have been honored with awards such as the Nevada Young Readers Award, Children’s Choices, TIME magazine Best Children’s Books of 2005 and 2009, and the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe award. THE SECRET CHICKEN SOCIETY has been nominated for Young Readers Awards in five states. Judy plays the ukulele for fun and lives in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband. You can read more about her and her books on her website at http://www.judycox.net.
For what age audience do you write?
I write picture books for ages 4—8; early chapter books for ages 6—9; and midgrade fiction for ages 8—12.
Tell us about your latest book.
My most recent book is UKULELE HAYLEY. It’s a chapter book for ages 6—9 about a girl who find her talent when she learns to play the ukulele, and ends up saving the school’s music program.
Henry: Until recently, the ukulele only conjured images of Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips. Then, I saw a TV show about the amazing Jake Shimabukuro. I see the ukulele in a whole new light now.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope readers will gain a sense of empowerment. Learning something new—whether it’s riding a two-wheeled bike, programming a robot, or playing a musical instrument—is empowering.
Henry: Now, if you can learn to play the ukulele WHILE riding a two-wheeled bike, that would really be something!
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Plotting is definitely a challenge for me. Character and dialogue are easier. Fortunately, my husband is a good listener and helps me think up “what comes next” in a story.
Henry: Didn’t we learn from the Seinfeld TV show that dialog trumps plot?
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Everyone has many stories. A good writer is also a good listener.
Henry: Yes, we must be open at all times. There’s no telling when the Muse will strike.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I was invited to represent the state of Oregon at the National Book Festival in Washington, D. C. My husband and I flew to Washington, and then took the train home to Oregon, clear across the United States. It was an honor to be invited and the trip was amazing!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Persistence is a key to success. Keep reading, keep writing. Keep improving your craft and don’t get discouraged by rejection.
Henry: Exactly. There’s no way to get published once you quit.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Thomas Edison
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein
Henry: And thus we get the Rock-Paper-Scissors relationship: Hard Work > Imagination > Knowledge
If you could have one superpower, what would it be, and why?
I actually do have a superpower. I’m Apostrophe Woman. I can tell when and where to use apostrophes, a sadly diminishing skill.
Henry: I can be your sidekick… Ellipsis Man
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
I’d love to have Emily Dickinson over for chicken and dumplings, but I’ll bet she wouldn’t come. Instead, I’d invite J. K. Rowling, Mark Twain, and Edgar Allen Poe. They might have a lot to say to each other!
Henry: Why the chicken and dumplings?
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
I know it’s a cliché, but I love unicorns. The whole magical horse-with-a-horn thing gets me every time.
Henry: I thought unicorns were real…
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I play bass guitar. I’ve been in bands that have played Top 40, Country, Western Swing, Blues, Rockabilly, 50’s and 60’s Rock n’ Roll, and Celtic music. I have eclectic musical tastes. Currently, I play in a 70’s Rock band, and a jazz trio. I also play the ukulele and the bass ukulele. I love playing swing and Tin Pan Alley songs on the ukulele.
Henry: With bass guitar and ukulele, you are really covering the full range of stringed instruments!
Where can readers find your work?
My books can be ordered from local bookstores, as well as online chains.
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.