Jennifer Wolf Kam began writing stories as soon as she could hold a crayon. Today she holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. DEVIN RHODES IS DEAD is her debut novel and winner of the NAESP Children's Book of the Year Award. She is a four-time finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize for young adult and children's writing. Jennifer lives in New York with her husband, two sons, a kitty named KitKat, and a love for chocolate.
SIX MINUTES WITH JENNIFER WOLF KAM:
Today Jennifer Wolf Kam joins LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author! Jennifer’s debut novel, Devin Rhodes is Dead, is the winner of the National Association of Elementary School Principals Children’s Book Award. She is also a four-time finalist for the Katherine Patterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, offered by the journal, Hunger Mountain.
How did you get started writing?
As a child, I wrote stories in crayon on construction paper, and brought them to school to read at Circle Time. My very first book was about a germ named Sneazle, who disliked being a germ because he didn’t want to make people sick. My first series followed, a collection of stories about magical creatures called Fluffy Furs, who looked strikingly like my friend, Sneazle (I never said I was an illustrator.) I wrote my first novel in my 8th grade woodshop notebook (hence my lack of woodworking skills). It was a supernatural mystery that gave me the tingles as I wrote it. I couldn’t wait to wake up each morning so I could write again. Quite simply, I was hooked, and I have been ever since…
Who influenced you?
I was inspired to write my first novel (the one in the 8th grade woodshop notebook) after reading the novel, Space Station Seventh Grade, by one of my favorite authors, Jerry Spinelli. Space Station Seventh Grade follows the life of a 7th grade boy, his ups and downs, thoughts and feelings. I had just finished 7th grade and I related to a lot of what this boy was feeling and experiencing. I decided I wanted--no needed, to write down my thoughts, my feelings, my observations. It was a great exercise for me because it was the first time I had written something longer, that had a beginning, a middle, and an end, that actually (sort of) made sense.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I've loved many books, so I would say that I don't have one favorite. Some of my favorite childhood/teen years books were, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle, The Chronicles of Prydain series, by Lloyd Alexander, The Dark is Rising Sequence, by Susan Cooper, The Haunting, by Margaret Mahy, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien, The House With the Clock in its Walls, by John Bellairs, The Great Brain series, by John D. Fitzgerald, the aforementioned Space Station Seventh Grade, by Jerry Spinelli, The Little Leftover Witch, by Florence Laughlin and everything written by Roald Dahl.
I like books with an otherworldly feel, an unexpected twist. In general, I'm not too reality-based.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
I probably don’t have to say this, but read. Really read. Read deliberately and with gusto. Immerse yourself in vast and diverse worlds and cultures. Revel in the richness of setting. Feel the flow of dialogue. Experience the world of imagination and language through other creative souls.
The best writers are voracious readers.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I write on my laptop, curled up on the couch, with my cat, KitKat, purring enthusiastically beside me. There is usually chocolate involved.
What else would you like to tell us?
It took me many, many years to publish my first novel, Devin Rhodes Is Dead. Years of writing, revising, creating and...getting rejected. Being an author is wonderful, but it requires patience, persistence and determination.
Really, it's like that with anything in life. There will always be people who tell you that you can't do something. You have to know that you can. If it's something that you love, you keep at it, no matter what the world tells you. The world isn't always right, after all. But your heart usually is.
By the way, I love to get mail! Please feel free to write me through my author website, http://www.jenniferwolfkam.com.
Jennifer, thank you for joining LitPick for six minutes! It’s good to know that your cat and chocolate, and we did notice that your cat is named after a chocolate bar, help you write!