Best-selling author Holm talks shop ahead of appearance at Lacey event

lpemberton@theolympian.comFebruary 11, 2013 

This year’s Lacey Loves to Read celebrates the work of author and illustrator Jennifer Holm.

The New York Times best-selling children’s author’s novels “Our Only May Amelia,” “Penny from Heaven” and “Turtle in Paradise” all have been selected as Newbery Honor Books.

The Olympian talked with Holm, 43, of Foster City, Calif., about her writing career and the Lacey Loves to Read communitywide literacy partnership.

Here are excerpts of the conversation:

Question: First, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into writing?

Answer: I was a huge reader when I was a kid. I loved to read more than anything.

I was working in advertising when I started working on my first novel, “Our Only May Amelia.” It was inspired by my father’s family. They’re Finnish, and he grew up in Naselle (in Southwest Washington). Later, I did another book called “Penny from Heaven.” I learned if you write a book about your dad’s family, you had better write one about your mom’s family. (Laughs.)

My mom’s family was Italian, and it was the inspiration for “Penny from Heaven.” My mother’s grandmother was actually from Key West, and my book “Turtle in Paradise” is (based on) her time during the Great Depression.

Q: Where did you go to school?

A: I went to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. I studied international relations. I’m a walking example of a liberal arts education.

Q: How did you get into writing?

A: I grew up mostly in Audubon, Pa. I’m one of five children, and I’m the only girl. That definitely inspired a lot of my writing. Growing up with so many boys, there were a lot of comic books in the house, and my dad was a huge comic book and comic strip fan. He collected them.

I loved comics, I loved them so much, and I still love them. But I noticed there weren’t a whole lot of ladies in themes, and the ones that were in there weren’t wearing many clothes. “Babymouse” grew out of that.

Q: You have collaborated on several graphic novels with your brother, Matthew Holm. How does that work?

A: I do the text, and he does all of the drawings. We work on the stories together; he’s also a writer.

I’ll do layout and he’ll do sketches, and then he’ll do the final art. It’s pretty collaborative.

Q: Have you been a featured author for any other One Book events?

A: No, this is a completely new experience for me. It’s so cool.

Q: What’s the last book you read?

A: My daughter is 5, so we have been reading the “Little Bear” stories. They’re such fabulous, crisp, clean storytelling for that age group.

Q: What advice do you have for people who want to pursue writing books like yours?

A: First of all, read a lot of comics, and get a sense of how they flow. In terms of the art part, my brother said you have to start doodling and sketching every day. Even if you doodle in a notebook at school, that’s fine — keep your imagination going.

Nobody’s first effort is perfect — it’s usually the 20th effort that looks good. Writers and artists revise so much. We have to revise, we have to re-sketch. You have to learn to allow that process to happen and not be upset.

Q: What do you plan to talk about at the Lacey Loves to Read community event on Feb. 28?

A: I’m going to talk about how my family has inspired my books, the process of writing. I’ll also talk a lot about “Babymouse,” and how you make a graphic novel. Kids are really into comics these days. I’m also hoping to do some drawing. We’ll do some “Babymouse” art.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

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