Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meeting a Legend: Jane Yolen

Okay, I haven’t actually met her yet, but I will meet her in a couple of weeks when I give her a guided tour of a few select places in Dublin. I’m so excited!

Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen has been called the “American Hans Christian Andersen” and yet, I get blank looks when I mention her name in Ireland.

Jane’s first book, Pirates in Petticoats, was published when she was 24, and she has been writing books ever since. With over 300 books published, many of which have received awards and accolades, Jane is a busy writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, for both children and adults. She is also an editor, teacher, and song collector/writer. Wow! Three-hundred books, people! How is it possible she is not a household name?

I read Briar Rose in 1999, which is part of the Fairy Tale Series created by Terri Windling for Tor. I still talk about that book and remember it. I was deeply moved by Jane’s reworking of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale into a story set partly during the second world war. The sleeping beauty is a survivor of a gas chamber, rescued and brought back to life by a freedom fighter with the “kiss of life” (AR/CPR). It is a brilliant reworking and very thought-provoking.

Jane's How Do Dinosaurs… series for younger children is widely available and a lot of fun. (I just had to pick this cover!) I even found a boxed board-book edition online, which I think I will get for my niece.

I recently read her Writing Books for Children, which was revised in 1983. Many of the references are out of date in 2010, but with the quality and quantity of work Jane has produced, I thought it was worth listening to what she had to say. I look forward to reading Take Joy: A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft, published in 2006 by Writer's Digest Books. I think most writing reference books focus on technique, getting published, and how hard it all is. I like the idea of a book that reminds us to ENJOY writing, enjoy the process, enjoy exploring the limitless bounds of our imaginations!

Jane’s Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World will be published in November 2010. She seems to like pirates an awful lot!

Jane is presenting at the annual joint Children’s Books Ireland/SCBWI Ireland seminar, Between the Lines, on writing and illustrating books for children, which takes place on Saturday, September 11, 2010 in Dublin. For more information, visit CBI’s web site. I can hardly wait!

For more info about Jane Yolen and her work, visit