Judy Schachner was born into an Irish Catholic working class family from New England. Money was as tight as their apartment was tiny and though she may not have had the easiest of childhoods, she credits her imagination with helping her survive it. Described by the New York Times as “ …something like the James Joyce for the elementary school – set…”, Judy Schachner is the #1 NY Times Best Selling Author/Illustrator of over 23 books for children including Bits & Pieces, the Skippyjon Jones series, Yo Vikings, The Grannyman and Willy and May. She has won many awards including the first E. B. White Read Aloud Award.
Judy will be leading a workshop called “Strength of Character” where she will introduce the writer to creative strategies and techniques that help bring characters to life.
We asked Judy to share her thoughts on the conference and what drives her. This is what she had to share:
PWC How has your writing community influenced or assisted you?
JS My writing community has always consisted of two people, me and my editor. I’ve never been much of a joiner – wasn’t even a successful Girl Scout. Writing was never part of my plan – I wanted to become an illustrator. Even though I have penned 17 of the over twenty books I’ve published, I’ve never been comfortable calling myself a writer…I’m a fraud.
PWC Where do you draw your inspiration?
JS I’m an inspiration junkie… I see stories everywhere, EVERYWHERE! Walking into an antique store is like mainlining on inspiration…I get high holding a pair of worn baby shoes from the 1800’s. Show me an old sparkly ornament from Christmas past and I’m a goner. One man’s junk is this girl’s treasure…My life, my ancestors, my pets, my childhood and my dear children have all served me well. I need to go to rehab now…
PWC How important are conference and conventions to writers?
JS I have mostly participated at conferences and conventions as an invited speaker. When I started out in this business I was barely aware that these things even existed (more proof of my fraudulent ways) but have come to see their great value for both attendees and faculty. Conferences offer a wealth of knowledge to those hoping to publish and talk about inspiration!!! Well, these get togethers ooze that stuff. Back in the old days it was much easier making personal contacts with editors and art directors, you had only to pick up a phone – not so anymore. Todays conferences offer writers and illustrators opportunities to make connections with real people. This is the *new* old way of pounding the pavement on the road to being published.
PWC Any hints for getting butts in the chair and hands on the keyboard?
JS NO hints really, just do it! Make a schedule, develop rituals, clean your space, make plans, set goals, stop talking about it. All these things are well and good but YOU MUST WANT IT more than breathing…you must want it more than breathing. AND you must LOVE it like it is your child…and when your child is acting out and misbehaving? You must love it even more.
PWC How do you balance writing time with the rest of life’s responsibilities?
JS When my children were young, I worked when they slept.
Now, my life comes second to my work. The work is always there waiting to be fed. When the books are finished and put to bed, there are questions ( like these ) to be answered and fan mail to get to and keynote speeches to write and book tours to travel and schools to visit and contracts to read over and seminars to prepare and thinking caps to be made.
“Your work should be in praise of what you love” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
PWC When did you realize you were a writer?
JS I was never very interested in reading when I was a child – I was more interested in making up my own stories and illustrating them. Writing the stories down was never even a part of what I did, no, that would take too long. I would quickly sketch out the characters and then morph into my drawings. I became my drawings. I felt what it was like to be inside their heads and skin. That’s when I became a writer. Nobody ever told me that that was what writers had to do –
I did it intuitively…It’s exactly the same thing I do today.
PWC What do you most look forward to at the 2014 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference?
JS I look forward to meeting some new *inspiration junkies* just like me.
Find out more about Judy at her website www.judithbyronschachner.com.
Want to meet Judy in person and find out more how she’s created such memorable children’s characters like Skippyjon Jones? Register for the conference HERE.