Comeback Interview with Jess Stiles (formerly Jess Carroll) Writer, Illustrator, and Freelance Editor

Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,

We have a super inspiring guest today to share about her epic comeback to the kidlit world, Jess Stiles (Formerly known as Jess Carroll)!

Another great comeback is the Fall Writing Frenzy which is back for its second year! We have some awesome information to reveal today, so stay tuned to the end for a double GIVEAWAY from Jess and info on the Fall Writing Frenzy that you don’t want to miss!

Jess was on a roll in 2017 when I met her! She was an amazing freelance rhyme editor—the first professional critique I ever received—was an illustrator and had an agent. But then life happened. And now she’s back! Let’s talk about what she went through, what she’s doing now, and what advice she has to give.

Kaitlyn: Hi, Jess, thanks for joining us today! Can you share a bit more about your journey, what happened and what brought you back?

Jess: Hi, Kaitlyn! Thanks so much for the invite! It sure is nice to reconnect with you and my fellow kidlit-ers. What an amazing community to welcome me back with open arms! ❤

Boy are you correct when you say that “life happened”. Phew, what a ride it’s been! Not to sound cheesy and cliche, but, as most know about me, I’m an open book and I certainly don’t mind sharing my story.

The first of the events that led to me seemingly falling off of the face of the Earth was when I fell ill after having recovered from what was a typical flu. I woke up one day completely numb from the waist down. I didn’t panic because instinctively I checked to make sure that I could wiggle my toes and move my legs, then I (stubbornly) made my way to work. Near the end of the day, I left early to get checked out by my doctor as my symptoms were getting worse, and ended up being hospitalized for quite some time.

Long story short, my editing business and rhyming course that I was creating came to a halt, and my writing and illustrating career was forced on hold. As a result I lost my agent. There are zero hard feelings as she is absolutely amazing, however, this is a business and I couldn’t produce any material for her. She made the right call.

During all of this, my mother fell ill from unrelated circumstances and was also hospitalized, in ICU. My step-father and I lived in the ICU waiting room for several months and we nearly lost her twice during that time. After what an eternity, we were given the green light to bring her home for the remainder of her recovery. I put my creative work on the back burner and moved in with them to help out.

Oh, and to round things out and lighten things up a bit, let’s toss in a divorce, a loss of a job due to Covid-19, a move to a new province, an amazing new partner, a great new job, and a wonderful new dog. That brings us to today!

Kaitlyn: Wow, that is A LOT. I’m so glad that things are better now. Let’s go back to before all this, how did you become a freelance editor?

Jess: It all began with my very first professional rhyme critiques by Jim Whiting and Kim Norman. I learned SOOOO much from them both, in terms of rhyme mechanics, storytelling and development, and discovered my own ability to scan rhyme effectively.

I then began scanning manuscripts in my critique groups, and was soon receiving requests from other writers and writing groups for scansion. I half-jokingly mentioned to one of my critique groups that I might start a business and they all encouraged me to do so. Had it not been for those wonderful ladies, I never would have had the courage to go for it.

So, I launched the business and it took off! I developed a scansion legend to help my clients visualize rhyme and also recorded myself reading their rhyming manuscripts aloud (just for the client) so that they could also hear where the meter was tripping me up upon a first read through. My clients found this incredibly helpful in training their ear for rhyme. It was also a lot of fun for me! 🙂

Kaitlyn: I was one of the clients who found it incredibly helpful! That was the part I was most wowed by, when I first understood how to actually hear rhythm. How did this come about, using a recording for rhyming manuscripts? 

Jess: One day it dawned on me that I was being asked the same things over and over, by different clients, and seemingly with each manuscript. Things regarding rhythm and meter, word pronunciation and variance, and how word placement in a phrase or sentence can impact where the reader places emphasis on certain syllables, etc. So, in addition to my explanation in words and my suggested edits, I thought that I would try recording myself reading a client’s manuscript out loud for the first time to see if that helped clarify my scan of their text. Turns out it was a big hit!

Kaitlyn: I’m so glad you started doing the recordings. We use this in our rhyme critique group sometimes and it’s so helpful! (Shout out to my Murray’s Honorable Mentions critique group!) What advice can you give to writers working on rhyming manuscripts? 

Jess: The biggest piece of advice I have is this: grab a pile of rhyming books (not your favourites because you likely already know the words and meter by heart), and record yourself reading them out loud for the first time. Then take note of any words and/or lines that caused you to pause, or break rhythm, or took you out of the story, then analyze the reason why this happened. Also, don’t be afraid to write down suggestions (just for yourself, of course) on how to improve the areas that tripped you up while reading aloud. Now record yourself reading the story again, but this time with your own suggested edits, to see if there is a change/improvement (again, keep this for yourself if using someone else’s published works). 

Also, if you’re fortunate enough to be in a rhyming critique group and your fellow rhymers don’t mind you recording yourself reading their manuscripts aloud and sharing with them, then do it! This practice is what really honed my skills and trained my ear (I have read and scanned over 400 rhyming manuscripts, and many, many rhyming picture books!)

Kaitlyn: This is phenomenal advice, rhymers! So, Jess, what’s next for you?

Jess: SO many things! I have started scanning and editing PB manuscripts again and have started working on a few of my own projects (written and illustrated), one of which is an animated stills short, “narrated” through music. I’m super stoked about this collab as we are planning on documenting our creative process, in all of its messy glory, then launching this documentary of sorts via a channel we’re creating. We’re still in the very early stages, but I will release the info on my website and social media once available. I’ve also been working at honing my illustrative style and have recently begun to seek out representation again, AND I will soon be launching my Etsy shop for art prints. Super excited for this as well! Again, I’ll post the info on my website and social media once available.

I have one other top-secret project that I’m currently working on involving art, animals, and utter silliness, so stay tuned!

Kaitlyn: That all sounds (and looks) AMAZING! I can’t wait to see where this all takes you! Thanks for sharing your inspiring story and good luck!

Jess: Thanks so much for having me! I wish you and everyone happiness and health as we power through 2020. ❤

Jess’s Bio

Jess Stiles is a children’s picture book author & illustrator residing in New Brunswick, Canada. With a passion for old fishing towns and folklore, K-9s as much as felines, unusual pets, gardening, welding, piano, video games, teeny toys, and bourbon, Jess never runs out of ideas for her stories.

A proud mama of a human child and an awkward fur-child, Jess enjoys cuddles ‘n snuggles, movies ‘n snacks, fort-building ‘n ninja hide-and-seek. And of course, playing drone tag like a maniac.

As an accomplished photographer and artist, Jess has sold her work privately throughout Canada and the US. And though she is self-taught, Jess has learned a great deal as a member of the KidLit community, SCBWI & 12×12, and while participating in multiple critique groups and as a freelance picture book editor of rhyme and prose.

Jess has also taken Aree Chung’s course, Making Picture Book Stories and Dummies. Jess is actively building an online platform and presence and welcomes you to view and share her Instagram feed @_jessstiles.

Jess is, and always will be, a dance-machine extraordinaire.

website: https://jessstiles.com/

Twitter & Instagram: @_jessstiles,

 FB: facebook.com/JessLynnStiles,

Testimonials

“Jess is an amazing editor of both prose and poetry/rhyme. Her picture book critiques have taken my books to a whole new level and have helped give me the confidence needed to push-on in this very competitive industry. Her knowledge of rhyme and meter has already helped perfect several of my rhyming picture books. I am always excited when waiting for a critique from Jess as I know her advice and corrections will give me the book I hoped for when first putting pen to paper. Jess is a constant professional, her creativity and her work ethic will give your book the polished feel that keeps readers smiling and brings them back for more. And what’s more, Jess is a truly lovely person to work with. Thank you so much Jess!”

– Vince Cleghorne Author/Screenwriter

____________________________________________________

I have only used Jess’s service a couple of times, but I will be sending every rhyming manuscript I write to her. She gives me such perfect feedback and fixes all my meter problems. She doesn’t miss a thing, and I feel confident when I send out my work that meter and rhyme will never be a problem.

– Rosi Hollinbeck

_______________________________________________________

I am thrilled with the critique I received on my 650+ picture book manuscript. It was very detailed and lined out several options for me to consider. It was presented in a way that was easy to follow. I definitely have some more hard work to do on this particular MS, but Jess’ well-thought-out comments and words of encouragement have propelled me forward. Being on the caffeine and chocolate because I’ve got some serious revisions to do!

(Side note: I’ll keep her review and look over it often as learning from it will make me a better critique partner.)

– Maria Bostian, children’s writer

______________________________________________________________

What a relief to find someone like her! Not just a scan of the meter but inventive suggestions and solutions worth their weight in gold! Jess has gone above and beyond with her critique.

– Joy Moore, children’s writer

________________________________________________________________

“I 100% recommend Jess Carroll for all your rhyme and meter needs. Whether for a single rhyme, a few stanzas, or an entire manuscript, Jess works magic! I’m fortunate enough to have had Jess work on (or critique) several of my picture books. I’m pleased to say they are now polished and standing tall. Thanks, Jess, you’re awesome!”

– Candace Spizzirri, picture book author

___________________________________________________________________

“Jess’ ability to take a well written stanza and make it sing is quite remarkable. If you are struggling with your rhymes sounding just a little predictable and dull, Jess is the woman to make it sparkle. If you’re meter is wonky or forced, she will identify the issue and help sculpt your words into beautiful rhyming stanzas.

I have had the fortune of working with Jess on several manuscripts and have found her suggestions invaluable. She excels at reading your work and rewording it in a way that is unpredictable and unique, without straying from your original concept. I would highly recommend her skills if you’re looking to take your rhymes to the next level, whether it be a few problem stanzas or something more substantial.

Here is an example:

And the friends all had fun

as they swam in the sun,

was transformed into

And the friends felt renewed,

in the blue solitude,

– Kate Talbot, children’s picture book writer & illustrator

Giveaway

Jess has offered TWO critiques for prizes today!

One free crit of a PB manuscript (up to 500 words) AND one rhyme scan of a PB manuscript (up to 500 words).

To enter into the giveaway (each way gives you an extra entry)

  1. comment on this post
  2. Retweet my tweet about this post and tag three friends who might like a critique from Jess

Thank you all for reading and learning and growing with us! Please wish Jess well on her comeback!

And finally for the Fall Writing Frenzy news:

THE DONOR PAGE IS UP!! Check it out here and please support these generous donors by reading, reviewing, and sharing about their books (and/or their clients’ books), visiting their websites, subscribing to their blogs, etc. ANNNND, yep there’s more news, we’re doing a live twitter chat on Sept 16th at 9 PM EST, we’d love for you all to join, bring your inspiration and your questions and as always please use the #FallWritingFrenzy hashtag! We can’t wait to read all your entries this October!

Sincerely,

Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez

PS Please take some time out of your day today to remember Sept 11, 2001.

31 thoughts on “Comeback Interview with Jess Stiles (formerly Jess Carroll) Writer, Illustrator, and Freelance Editor

  1. So glad you’re health has been restored and you are active in the kitlit community again! Best of luck with your agent search and all your exciting future projects!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are inspirational to have stayed so positive after all you endured. Thank you for the chance to receive a much needed critique on my picture book manuscript. It’s not in rhyme, but I do admire the talented writers who can produce manuscripts using perfect meter and rhyme.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The rewording of the poem, using the words solitude and renewed, painted stronger and more magical images. Writing good poetry comes with many ingredients, but choosing the exact, perfect word rises to the top. Jess, I’m sorry life dished out so many challenges onto your plate, and I’m glad you came through them with renewed energy to return to your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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