Please introduce yourself. What do you write and what are you working on now?
I’m jerjonji, otherwise known as Jeri Fay Maynard, but I’ve been writing online as jerjonji for a long time so when it came time to publish my first book, it made sense to keep the online persona. I write mostly YA, but I dabble in other genres and write screenplays. Right now I’m editing book 2 for publication and am trying to get book 3 ready for the editor, but I’m longing to start on my next book which will be about a middle-class teen going through homelessness. I tend to write character driven drama with an emphasis on redemption and healing (in a very abstract way). In Panda Girl, you get to watch the main character grow from a lost little sixth grader to a more mature fifteen year old as life happens. In Four Winds (my newest book which should be out in May), four young male protagonists learn to overcome the hurt done by adults. Social issues form the center of the conflicts in my stories because they are real and they cry out for justice.
Where do you usually write?
I write at home surrounded by large post-its with story details on them. I write because I have all these stories inside me that want to be told and when I run out of stories, I’ll stop writing (but that may take a while because new ideas keep popping up!).
Why did you choose to start writing, who or what influenced you?
People tell me all the time that they have a book idea and I say the same thing, “Start writing it today and write every day.” Books won’t write themselves. For a long time, a sign hung over my writing area that said: Writers write— every day. Writing is a discipline that requires dedication and hard work so find a group of people who will give you thoughtful but critical advice about your work and listen more than you talk (hard for me). The writing group I’m in currently has been a vital part of my growing as a writer. Even on weeks when we don’t discuss my work, I learn a ton. The process has refined my writing. Learning the craft of writing isn’t something you can do without practicing it. You have to write, rewrite, and write again. I teach my writing kids that writing is a two part process: the taking in and the letting out. Doing both with skill will give you a polished work that has depth and insight in the end.
What advice do you have for other writers?]
For writers, I’d say, “Be careful how much you talk about your current work.” Sometimes the process of talking about it steals away the need to actually put it on paper. Other than the few pages I share at writing group, I tend to say very little about what I’m currently working on. Not because it’s a mystery for you, but because it needs to be a mystery to me. I NEED to see the words on paper before I can talk about it in-depth. They always say to read, but I say read read read in your genre BEFORE you start writing. Read lots of different authors with different voices, but once you start the pre-writing process for a work, stop reading so that you aren’t influenced by another writer’s voice. When I’m writing, I read biographies or non-fiction. When I finish a book, I go back to reading fiction again. Some writers aren’t affected by what they read, but I am.
What do you do when you are not writing?
What do I do when I don’t write? This last year I’ve had the gift of spending three days a week with my young granddaughter and we go on adventures daily. They may be as simple as a trip to the pet store where she dances with the ferret, a visit to the comic book store to pick up a friend’s new issue and to talk about her favorite comic with a respectful adult, or story time at the library. Seeing the world through the eyes of a brilliant and gifted three year old has been a treasure. I am a huge Asian media fan and can talk for hours about movies and music. I was also given a brand new bike last summer so we are exploring bike trails in Ohio currently on weekends.
How do we find out more about you and about your book\writing?
You can find me on facebook under jerjonji and you can find Panda Girl at www.wordbranch.com in both e-format and trade paperback. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it so leave a line on facebook. I love to talk about writing as well, so I’m open to visiting schools and talking to kids about the writing process (or my book). Contact me and we’ll talk!