Jennifer Gray Olson is the Author/Illustrator of NINJA BUNNY. She is a graduate of California State University Fullerton, where she earned her BA degree in art education. Jennifer enjoys writing in the third person, sarcasm and embarrassing her friends and family by practicing her super awesome ninja moves in public. Her daughter has been trained with deadly effect in the use of carrot nunchaku.
Tell us about your latest book.
NINJA BUNNY is the story of a little bunny trying to find out if he has what it takes to become a SUPER AWESOME NINJA. Is he really ready for the ninja life, especially if it means having to leave his friends behind?
Henry: I think that is a question to which we can all relate.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
The best way to be super awesome is by being yourself. And that sometimes you need your friends. And that bears are scary.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
The Writing part. It doesn’t come naturally to me at all. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, it’s almost a daily compulsion. Writing for me is so much more of a forced activity. But as with anything, the more I practice, the easier and more enjoyable it’s getting.
Henry: Those darn verbs! And who needs punctuation marks?
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“Be flexible. Be positive.” – Mrs. Rand, 1st grade teacher, Susan B. Anthony Elementary. Mrs. Rand, my son’s first grade teacher, would say this to the students all the time when they would get flustered, disappointed, stressed, etc… I’ve had those two simple sentences tacked on my studio wall for years and I still say it out loud to myself most days. It sounds cheesy, I know, but trying to keep a positive attitude can get you through most things in life. As well as being flexible when dealing new situations or difficult circumstances. “Trees that don’t bend with the wind won’t last the storm.” Hey, two quotes for the price of one!!
Henry: On the subject of trees, your writing career has grown into a mighty oak, but you started as a little nut.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?
Not so much when I write, but definitely when I illustrate. I have to do “warm up” drawings every day before working on an illustration. I find that when I don’t, my work suffers for it. I usually post about half of them online, if you care to check them out. https://www.tumblr.com/blog/jennifergrayolson.
Henry: If seen these lapse videography posts. It is fascinating watching an image created before your eyes in seconds.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to pause time like Evie from Out of This World. Think what I could get done!! I think author/illustrator Dan Santat must possess this power.
Henry: A common, and understandable wish. I think Dan’s superpower is the ability to instantly metabolize caffeine.
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Maurice Sendak for sure. Partly because, in my opinion, he was one of the greatest picture book author/ illustrators of all time; but mainly because he was so hilarious and unpredictable.
J.K. Rowling. I’m quite possibly the biggest Harry Potter dork I know (I have the tattoo to prove it).
Theodor Seuss Geisel would have to be there as well. His books are everything I love about children’s literature. He always had the perfect combination of humor and heart. I still tear up when I read the Lorax.
Can Shel Silverstein come for dessert?
Henry: No, Shel is in my literary doghouse for writing the depressingly co-dependent THE GIVING TREE.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
A Ninja Bunny, duh! Bunnies are cute. Ninjas are awesome. Nuff said.
Henry: I fell right into that one. Like a ninja bunny stepping on a rake.
Where can readers find your work?
Readers can find my work at www.jennifergrayolson.com
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.