SCBWI LA: Pre-conference interview with Jennifer L. Holm

Jenni HolmIf you think of excitement as a candy store (which it is), then you can understand instantly the many flavors of excitement. They're not all created equal. Lemon, for example. It's better than nothing. But still.

When I found out I got to do the pre-SCBWI LA conference with Jenni Holm, I was the very best flavor of excited (salted caramel). (Wait, what? You haven't registered? Do it here! August 5-8. Time of your life. Promise.)

Not only am I in awe of her professionally--three Newbery Honors! Bestselling series! Beautiful, hilarious stories--I have been envious of her personally all year.

Every day after school, I pick up my first-grader in the library. So, I've gone all day without seeing my child. I miss her. I want to hear how her day went. I want to see if she's lost any more teeth or gained any more scabs. Etcetera.

But alas, my child has only one thing on her mind: Babymouse. Every day, I must wait patiently until she is done reading one of the books that she has already read several times, just because she loves it (sniff) more than she loves me.

I suppose, if Jenni weren't such a lovely person, that I would resent her talent and her place in my daughter's heart. But I can't. I'm so happy that my own kid loves to read, and that so many children elsewhere get to enjoy Jenni's books. And Jenni, whom I met last month at an 826 Seattle event, is so darned nice it's almost unreal.

Her books include the Newbery Honor-winning Turtle in Paradise, Penny from Heaven, and Our Only May Amelia, three utterly charming historical novels. And then there's The Stink Files, a feline mystery co-written with her husband; Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf; a thriller called The Creek; the Boston Jane series; and the adorable Babymouse series illustrated by her brother, Matt. (There's a new series afoot, too. It's called Squish and it's about an amoeba and my 7-year-old deems it "exthellent.") 

Jenni's going to talk to us about how family history influences my historical fiction novels, especially Turtle in Paradise.

Meanwhile, you can get to know her through this hilarious holiday ode to libraries:


You write award-winning historical novels and bestselling graphic novels. How do you manage to work so well across genres?

Well, I wouldn't be able to do BABYMOUSE or SQUISH without my brother, Matt. Creating a graphic novel is the true definition of a "team effort" between an artist and a writer. Matt has also worked professionally as an editor, so he weighs in a lot on the writing which help lightens my share of the work. And, of course, he supplies most of the funny lines! (He's got a very dry sense of humor.)

You’re so great with creating distinct voices for your characters. Do you have any secrets about that to share?

I think what helps me is to try and get out of my "grown-up" head and really remember what it was like being a kid. When you're a kid you have so little control of the world around you—you literally have someone telling you when to wake up, when to go to bed, when you can use the bathroom, etc. Every slight is magnified—you forgot your lunch and it feels like the end of the world! You weren't invited to the slumber party and it feels like the end of the world. We seem to forget a lot of this when we grow up (maybe we block it out?), so the key is to remember.

OK, if you could be a character in any one of your books, which world would you want to live in?

I have a really healthy respect for how hard it was to live in past eras, so definitely not any of my historical fiction.  I vote for Babymouse—I can eat cupcakes and read books! (Doesn't get much better than that!)

If you could make your brother/collaborator Matt live in any one of your characters’ worlds, where would you send him? And what does that say about the way you work together?

He's pretty much the inspiration for Squish, so I guess the poor guy's going to have to live in a slimy pond. That says it all! (Just kidding.)


Welcome home, Matt!

For more, you might enjoy this great interview with Jenni, in which she reveals secrets and poses in a fancy pink dress.

And now go register for that conference, stat! But if you really can't go, be sure to follow the Twitter hashtag #LA11SCBWI and read the official conference blog to get a taste of what you're missing.