I am delighted to present to you this short interview with the very talented and funny Jennifer Trafton. Jennifer is the author of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, a novel for young readers and old readers (see Question 1).
Idea: Why not spend some of that Christmas cash you got on a fine, beautifully illustrated story? Or you could buy illegal drugs? I think the choice is clear.
Jennifer is personally autographing every edition purchased from The Rabbit Room bookstore. I assume that other people are autographing the copies sold in other locations. (Bad form. Not very British of them.)
My 7 year old daughter has The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic sitting beneath our tree, awaiting her discovery on one of these 12 days of Christmas. We’re all very excited to get our hands on it after she reads it in one day.
1. What are your thoughts on what makes a story “for children” and, conversely, “for adults?” Any thoughts on what makes “children’s lit” unique/worthwhile?
I’ve never been very concerned about putting things into categories. Good stories are good stories. In my view “children’s literature” is any literature children like to read – which can, of course, differ from child to child. When I think of the stories that have tickled my funny bone the most, that have stretched my imagination in myriad directions, that have dealt with profound issues of life and death in ways that are searing in their simplicity, I usually end up in the “children’s section” of the bookstore. If such stories are not “for adults” as well, I pity the adults.
There is nothing wrong, of course, with a book having a specific intended audience. A story has two participants, the writer and the reader, and they make a kind of magic together. Whether or not that relational magic works has less to do with formulas than with empathy. When I picture the readers with whom I want to be in that relationship as a storyteller, I picture kids (often particular kids I know) because I love their imaginative scope, their freedom from many “adult” concerns and hang-ups, their lack of cynicism, their embrace of silliness as well as mystery. So I write “for children” because I feel like, at the level of the imagination, and in the stories I love to read and love to write, I’m one of them.
2. What is your favorite color and what do you want to be when you grow up?
My favorite color is joyful and I want to be red when I grow up.
Wait. Stop. Reverse that.
3. Is there a deeper reason why you believe you are called to write novels other than for the billions of dollars you make?
No, the billions are enough. Occasionally I wake up in the morning and say to myself, “Jennifer, you have all those imaginary dollars lying in your imaginary bank account, doing nothing but gathering imaginary dust. Isn’t there more to life than this? Making art is a treacherous and beautiful adventure. It requires great courage and creative playfulness and a healthy sense of self-mockery. A story can change someone’s life; it can wiggle its way into a child’s heart and plant a seed there that will grow and blossom as the years go by, until one day that grown-up child (who has never fully grown up, thankfully) will look back and say, ‘That story was one of the things that shaped who I am as a person.’ What a terrifying privilege for a storyteller! What a responsibility! What a calling!”
This line of reasoning convinces me until my rent is due. Then I pray everyone rushes to the store and buys my book.
4. On a scale of 1-3, how irritating do you find scales?
Seven, at least. Seriously, they are the bane of my existence these days. I’ve tried everything—soap, rubbing alcohol, scouring pads, pliers . . . They will not come off. And believe me, they itch.
I think my next book should be about a dragon.
5. What’s next for Jennifer Trafton, author? A new novel? A line of knitted green berets for the “army stuff” section at Wal-Mart? A run for Governor of Puerto Rico? Spill the beans!
In 2011 I’ll be diving back into a third novel I’m in the middle of writing, which I am very excited about, because I will get to think about giraffes and ridiculous inventions and call it “work.” (How many of you can say that about your jobs? Other than the zookeepers and mad inventors reading this, of course.) I will also be rearranging my closet, editing things that need to be edited, washing dishes occasionally, warning people about giants, and eating way too much ice cream. Beyond that, I’ve given up on “planning ahead” in life. The best (and worst) things come unexpectedly. I hope there will be many new friends to meet, great books to read, travels to new places, much to laugh about, a lot of Oreos, and very few beans, spilled or unspilled. Like the heroine of MOUNT MAJESTIC, Persimmony Smudge, I am craving a new adventure right now. But as Bilbo Baggins once wisely said, sometimes all you have to do to start having an adventure is to go out your own door: “You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”
Find Jennifer at her website. (You can read the first chapter of her book here.)
Jennifer on Twitter.
Jennifer at The Rabbit Room Store. (Autographed copies.)