Sunday, August 18, 2019

Interview with Jessica VanderWerff | Author of Like A Child: A Collection of Original Poetry

Amanda: Give us a quick introduction to you. Published books, what you write, etc.
Jessica: I’ve been writing poetry and short stories since elementary school! But I was inspired to write my first collection when I was a sophomore at Pace University. I took a poetry class and decided to keep adding to the collection of poems I had submitted for my final project. That eventually became my first collection: Like A Child. This book was followed by With Hopeful Eyes, and my newest poetry and short story collection: Beneath the Willow.

Amanda: Favorite book you’ve published so far?
Jessica: My favorite book I’ve published so far is definitely my first one: Like A Child. I think I like this one the best because it’s very sentimental. (Not just because it’s my first published work.) It was largely inspired by childhood memories of people and places that are the most important to me.

Amanda: You’ve included some short stories in your collections. Do you have a favorite one? Most fun character to write? Favorite character to write? (Because they can definitely be different. ;) ) Hardest to write?
Jessica: I have two favorites. The first one is from my first collection. In Like A Child, there is a story-poem called Maestro’s Circus. In this story, a girl helps a group of animal circus performers escape from their evil captor. These are my favorite characters. I love their strength and the bond they form together.
My second favorite is from my current collection. In Beneath the Willow, the story The Midwife’s Son is about a woman who adopts a boy that no one else believed in. The mother and son relationship was the most fun as well as the most difficult to write. I loved writing about how they worked together and helped others, but it was difficult to write a story that quickly took many emotional turns.

Amanda: Now, this is a very difficult question, but do you have any favorite poems of yours? Any that stand out most for any reason at all? I’d love to hear about it if you’d like to tell us.
Jessica: My favorite poems change a lot. My current favorites are from Beneath the Willow. Her Laughter was inspired by my stepdaughter and it’s the one that means the most to me. She’s too young to understand it now, but it’s my gift to her. I also love I Am A Willow. This is a poem about self-perception and self-appreciation. It’s about recognizing my unique strengths and learning to be grateful for them.
Amanda: I tried to think about this question myself, too. And my goodness is it difficult! I also quite enjoyed I Am A Willow and Her Laughter is a beautiful poem.

Amanda: Did you like to read as a child? Favorite book? Do you still have that book or reread it now?
Jessica: I loved to read as a child! My dad would read to me a lot and I think that’s how it started. He would read the Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer. As I got older, we would read books together. My favorite was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Then, as a teen, I started reading the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. I still reread those books, and I’m currently looking forward to Colfer’s spin off series: The Fowl Twins. The characters in Colfer’s books are just so much fun!
Amanda: I still haven't read the Artemis Fowl series!!

Amanda: Have you always been a writer/storyteller? How did you start?
Jessica: See #1! In addition I think my dad also helped inspire me. He’s a storyteller too! In addition to him reading to me as a kid, he also told me stories he made up. By elementary school I was writing my own stories and poems.
Amanda: Awww, I didn't know your dad did that. That's so sweet!!

Amanda: Do you write to music? If so, what kind? I love to hear about new music!
Jessica: I like to write to complete silence, but I do often listen to music both before and after I write. Regina Spektor’s song The Call reminds me a lot of Ethan from my story The Midwife’s Son. Also the song Safe As Houses by aKing also reminds me of the characters in that story.
Amanda: Some more music for me to add to my list!!

I know for me, there have been some funny stories since I’ve been deep in the trenches of writing. Like a realization about a work in progress or characters (the funniest has to do with the song Mirrors by JT.) Do you have any funny stories that you’d like to share?
Jessica: I get very involved in my writing. As in, once I start, I get lost in the writing and I don’t pay that much attention to the things happening around me. Recently I was writing and a few hours had gone by and I thought it had only been about half an hour! That tends to happen to me a lot.
Amanda: Oh my goodness, I know exactly what you're talking about. I get that way, too. It's usually the culprit behind me forgetting to eat, when I do.

Amanda: Do you have a typical process or any writing rituals? Anything you have to have with you while writing? (Besides computer, paper, typewriter, whichever…)
Jessica: I write the best in the afternoon. I like to make sure I have a snack and some tea before I start writing. It’s like my fuel! That’s pretty much it.
Amanda: Tea is a must for me!!

Amanda: Who is a character that has influenced you (not from your books)?
Jessica: A character (not from my books) who has influenced me is Eowyn from Lord of the Rings. At first, she is afraid and lets those around her have control of her life. As the story progresses, she grows and finds her courage, helps save her uncle and becomes a hero, both in her own life, as well as in the larger aspects of the whole story.

Amanda: Which of your characters would you least want to go on a road trip with? Why? Most want to?
Jessica: A character of mine that I’d least want to go on a road trip with is the entire crew from my story “Keeva’s Dance.” It’s about a fairy trying to reconcile with her sister. I love that story and I love the characters but there’s just too much family drama going on there for me to handle! But I’d love to go on a road trip with the lady from The Cloak Made of Stars. She travels around in a floating ship and replaces the nightmares of children with good dreams. I’d love to go flying and plant some good dreams. Sounds like a pretty awesome trip!
Amanda: Oh yeah, I agree!! That would be an awesome road trip!!

Amanda: Top three favorite books and authors right now.
Jessica: First, I’ve been on a Neil Gaiman kick recently. My favorite book of his is Neverwhere. It’s just different and bizarre in the best way, and transported me so quickly into the story. I also recently finished For One More Day by Mitch Albom. The characters were relatable and beautiful. The story carried powerful lessons in a short read. Finally, Lancelot by Giles Kristian. It’s a different perspective on the King Arthur stories as Lancelot’s life story and perspective are the focus here.
Amanda: Big Neil Gaiman fan!! I loved Neverwhere!! Lancelot sounds very interesting. 

Amanda: What about poets? Do you have any favorite poets or poems?
Jessica: My favorite poet has always been Poe. The Raven is my all-time favorite. I love the eeriness of it and I’d like to memorize it at some point. If only I didn’t keep putting it off!
Amanda: I love Poe!! My favorite by him is Annabel Lee. I'd also like to memorize that but I also keep putting it

Amanda: Poets who have influenced your work? Or authors who have?
Jessica: Some authors who have influenced me are YA authors: Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series, Michael Scott, author of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series and Maggie Stiefvater, author of The Wolves of Mercy Falls. These authors have the ability to transport the reader into entirely fictional worlds, while making them seem very real. It’s also super easy to get attached to the characters!
Amanda: Maggie Stiefvater is one of my absolute favorites!! Did you introduce her to me or did we just happen to be reading her around the same time?...

Amanda: Favorite writing craft book?
Jessica: My favorite writing craft book is The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics by Diane Lockward. It helped me tremendously!
Amanda: Do I know that one? Hmmm...

This or that:
Strawberry vs. Chocolate
Poetry vs. Fiction Tough one: I prefer writing poetry but reading fiction.
First draft vs. Editing
T. V. Show vs. Movie
Book vs. Movie
Hero vs. Villain
Villain vs. Anti-Hero
Witch vs. Vampire
E-book vs. Physical Book
Tea vs. Coffee

Amanda: Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now?
Jessica: I’ve recently finished Beneath the Willow so I’ve already started working on my next poetry and prose collection! I only have one story written so far but I’m happy with how it turned out. It’s about a young woman who is facing struggles with her family so she turns to the animals in a nearby lake for guidance. I love the characters so much!
Amanda: No way! That's terrific! So excited!!

Amanda: Any last comments to share? Advice to aspiring authors/poets? :)
Jessica: Some advice to aspiring authors and poets: don’t be too hard on yourself! Don’t expect to get everything right the first time. That’s why there’s editing. Just keep going with it. Even if your work is very polished, there will still be negative reviews and that’s totally ok. Focus on the positive.
Thanks for having me!
Amanda: Thank you SO MUCH for being on the blog!! Excellent advice. There's that quote about how you can edit a bad page but not a blank page. It's so true. And yes, not everyone will like your book and that is completely okay. We need reminding of that sometimes. I'm so proud of you, so excited for this collection!! Doubly so since I designed the cover and formatted it (oh my gosh!!!!). It's so exciting and I can't wait to share it all over!! I'm so grateful to know you!!

About Jessica VanderWerff

Having always had a love of literature, Jessica VanderWerff earned a BA in English and Writing at Pace University in New York. During this time, she was president of the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, and an editorial assistant at the University's own: Vox Arts and Literary Magazine.
Her debut poetry collection Like a Child is an assortment of 77 poems, dedicated to early childhood memories, nature and dreams. It is a collection that effortlessly lifts the spirits and transports the reader back in time.
When she isn't writing, Jessica enjoys reading, hiking, and swimming.

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