Interview with Debut Picture Book Author Amanda Jackson

Amanda Jackson’s Debut picture book, My Shape is Sam, comes out this September! She has been generous enough to agree to an interview and TWO GIVEAWAYS! Stay tuned till the end to get the details.

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Amanda with her copies of My Shape is Sam!

If you haven’t heard of My Shape is Sam, here’s a review by yours truly:
My Shape is Sam is a powerful book about self-discovery and self-acceptance through the eyes of a square named Sam. It has the feel of an inspirational movie and the fun of a day-in-the-life of a kid.
Jackson has a flawless way of tying everything together. For example, “Sometimes Sam was part of a bridge. Sometimes he was part of a building. But the best days were when he was part of a train rolling over a bridge. Or a truck zooming past a building.”
The story will keep you hanging on every word, and so many parts will give you the feels: “But when he turned to leave, something inside him nudged, Try again.” To me, that was just like the call in Field of Dreams!
Finally, the ending is perfect, so well stated and satisfying.
I truly believe this is going to be a classic of our time, reminding us all to accept ourselves for who we are, even if it doesn’t fit what’s expected.

Amanda, thanks so much for joining me today on the Math is Everywhere Blog.
Happy to! Thank you for asking me.

You’re welcome! You know I love math, so a shape story is right up my alley, AND it has a great theme for all, helping kids ENJOY math! Makes me so happy!

Okay, enough of my gushing, let’s jump into the interview:

You recently shared a video showing when you received your author copies of My Shape is Sam. I loved seeing that video, feeling like I was there, and crying with you. Can you share with us what was going through your head at the time?
It’s a moment I’ve dreamed of for so long, that actually being *in* it felt surreal. Like it was still a dream. This whole publishing journey has felt like that, actually. So I’m doing my best to remind myself to be present at every step. It’s all such a joyful privilege.

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I adore your positivity and desire soak it all up! In that same vein, what hopes do you have for My Shape is Sam?
That it finds the readers who need it most. That it helps readers challenge norms that may not fit them, and continue to discover who they are, in spite of prescriptive expectations.
That’s so beautiful, now I have to know, what inspired you to write this story. And, was it about shapes from the start?
It was! Backing up, my heart is especially tender for kids who identify as gender queer. And I have a deep hope for a more inclusive and understanding society. That was the hope that inspired this story. However, Sam is for anyone who feels they don’t fit, in whatever way. So, at the start, when I was trying to imagine the simplest way of showing a character’s evolution, shapes fit the bill.
Can you share a bit about the process for getting this book published?
Yep! I connected with Charlotte Wenger, my then-editor (now agent!), through the Twitter pitch event, Pit2Pub. She requested my Sam pitch and a couple months later Page Street Kids made an offer of publication! One of the most thrilling moments of my life.

One of the best parts of this process was being able to give feedback regarding illustrators. Page Street Kids has been a joy to work with – so wonderfully collaborative. They sent me several names of talented illustrators, and I was delighted to find Lydia Nichols among them. She was an easy “yes!”

Congrats on getting your amazing agent, Charlotte Wenger! Can you share how you landed her and what you love about her?
Thank you! YAY! Charlotte is a gem. As I mentioned, she was my editor, and we worked really well together. So, it was a no-brainer for me when she made an offer of representation. I actually didn’t know she’d transitioned to agenting until she contacted me to ask if I’d be interested. (Um YES)
She’s encouraging, communicative, and she’s got a sharp eye for edits, while honoring the author’s vision. That combo makes her a great collaborative partner and mentor. Can you tell I’m stoked to be working with her? lol
Haha, I definitely can! I bet she’s just as excited to be working with such a natural storyteller, what inspired you to write kidlit?
Thank you, Kaitlyn! I started writing for kids when my husband and I moved to California in 2016. We went for his job and quickly realized we may not be staying for as long as we’d imagined. I’d been offered a job working with a child with autism, but without a commitment to staying in the area, I couldn’t, in good conscience, accept the position.
That instability kept me jobless, and initially that was really tough. Unstructured time is NOT my jam. But I remember realizing one morning that I could keep fretting, or I could decide to see this unstructured time as a gift. Free time. Now, what to do with it?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but had never tried writing for kids. Because most of my professional life has been spent with picture book readers/listeners, I started there. I promptly wrote my first picture book story (which will of course never see the light of day) and realized this was “my thing.” That realization made me feel like the luckiest person in the world. And it was such a clear realization too. Like stumbling across something I’d been looking for my whole life. It was magic, and I dove in head-first.

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Amanda and her husband, Thad

Diving in head first; that’s the way to do it! How do you dive into your stories? Plotter? Panster? A mix?
I used to be a full-on pantser. But after so many “WHERE IS THIS STORY EVEN GOING OHMYGOSH??” moments of frustration, I’ve become a combination pantser/plotter (…plonster?). Now, even when I plot stories from start to end, there always seems to be an element of organic development in my process, and I go off-roading. That’s when I get to be a pantser.

Sam is definitely math related with the shapes, but let’s do some numbers for writing. How many drafts do you think you write before you think a story is ready?
Oh heavens, that’s a tricky one. There’s often no clear beginning/end in my revision process. Like, I’m just continually tinkering with my stories until they’re polished. That’s probably such an unsatisfying answer!

No, that’s the best answer, for writing and math! For writing, it makes me feel good that I’m not the only one who is always trying to improve. Mathematically, it makes me think of and of course continuous functions!

Next math question: where do you see math in writing or publishing?
Interesting! I’ve never considered this question. This is probably not at all what you’re asking, but when I think of numbers in relation to my writing journey, I think of all the many stories I have yet to tell. Of all the years my family nurtured my creativity as a child. And of all the times my husband has cheered me on, no matter what shade of hopeful or discouraged I was.

Those are such beautiful numbers, sounds like uncountable numbers, like infinity, which ironically in the 19th century Georg Cantor discovered that there’s a countably infinite (I know sounds contradictory and mind-blowing, check it out at this link if you’re interested).

Amanda, do you have any advice you have for up and coming writers?
READ. A lot. And that goes for writers, new and seasoned. I rarely make absolute statements, but writers must be readers. Good books are an education in voice, tension, pacing, etc. Libraries give us access to brilliant work, and it’s free! Soak it all up.
Also, connecting with other writers has been a lifeline for me. Both personally and professionally. Some of the best people are kidlit people (I’m looking at you, Kaitlyn!), and I’m totally not biased. 😉 So, I’d encourage writers to find their communities – those that understand this journey better than most and cheer you on as you work toward your dreams.
Yes, yes, YES! You are one of those amazing friends who not only makes my writing so much better but is also so supportive in my life! Last but not least, I gotta know, if you could spend the day with your favorite author, would you rather go outside and fly a kite or sit by a fire with tea?
I’m definitely more of a tea by the fire gal. Or better yet, beer. That said, if Neil Gaiman or Madeleine L’Engle wanted to fly a kite with me, then I’m a kite-flying gal all day long.

Now that you know Amanda and have heard about her amazing book, hop on over to her website and pre-order your copy today! https://www.amandajacksonbooks.com/

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Giveaway time! If you want to get into the drawing for a signed copy, retweet this tweet. (US only)

If you want to get in the drawing for a picture book critique by Amanda 600 words or less, comment below, open to anyone world wide!

Connect with Amanda Jackson

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Instagram: @amanda_jackson_books

49 thoughts on “Interview with Debut Picture Book Author Amanda Jackson

    1. YAY! Hope is a definite necessity in this business, and you’ve picked the right woman to get your hope from, Amanda is the one of the most encouraging people writing kidlit. I’m so glad you enjoyed the interview; thanks so much for reading!

      Like

  1. When my oldest was younger I would look for any alphabet and math picture books I could find to read to him. Without a doubt it’s the main reason he was able to pick up reading and math. Now with his a little brother I plan to do the same and look forward to reading your book with him and the older one as well. Nothing more exciting than an educational book with other lessons weaves throughout. Congratulations and I can’t wait to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations, Amanda! This sounds like such a great book! I can’t wait to see it. Thanks, Kaitlyn for a wonderful interview, lots of good questions and information.

    Liked by 1 person

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