Janell Cannon was born and raised in Minnesota. At age 18 she moved to Southern California where she currently lives. Her love of nature, science, reading and art led her on a long circuitous path from doing whatever job she could get in order to pay the rent, to a picture book writing and illustration career.
For what age audience do you write?
I write/illustrate picture books for all ages, but create text that early grade schoolers can grasp—with a few fun new words that they can pick up in the process.
Tell us about your latest book.
It has no text, is entirely visual and was recently returned to me from the publisher—one reason I think is because it lacks clear category in many respects.
Henry: However, it had no spelling or punctuation mistakes.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
A deep compassion for how vulnerable our pets are to human whim, and to be very considerate of their long term needs if deciding to adopt an animal companion.
Henry: Right! You don’t just adopt a cute puppy – you adopt a dog for ten or more years. Thoughtful turtle and parrot owners have been known to put provisions in their will in case the animal outlives them!
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Facing how mediocre my writing is, and staying focused throughout the tedious process of cleaning up a manuscript and paring it down to the essentials while fending off amusing but distracting digressions.
Henry: I hesitate to correct you, but mediocre is not a word that comes to mind when I consider your writing.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
Appreciating the creative efforts of others in any endeavor.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
Many travel adventures around the world with fellow writers I have met along the way. One memory in particular is being a passenger in an old Russian van, flying across the roadless Mongolian steppes, holding a huge live golden eagle in my lap.
Henry: Flying over Mongolia in a van with an eagle in your lap sounds more like an episode of Magic School Bus! Is your maiden name Frizzle, by any chance?
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Illegitimi non carborundum!
Henry: Paraphrasing, accept that rejection is part of the process. Just keep going with your writing!
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” —Arthur C. Clarke
Henry: We are surrounded by so much technological magic that we forget it’s there.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
First drafts are almost always written while in the tub.
Henry: Waterproof laptop computer?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Have always wished to have the power to shape shift and transport anywhere on the planet at will, with the ability to move forward and backward in time, while being fluent in every language and a virtuoso of all musical instruments. These abilities would break down many barriers of being able to deeply study the workings and history of this magnificent planet and human society.
Henry: Hey, that’s more than one superpower. Don’t be greedy! Remember the moral of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Take long and wandering walks while paying close attention to as much as possible.
Henry: With an eagle in your lap?
Where can readers find your work?
Libraries, book stores, and most recently in Iraqi Kurdistan!
Henry: Some of these locations are easier to reach than others… Thanks for joining us, Janell. This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.