"From the Hardcover edition.
I was a raw child. In fact, I am a raw adult. This is a hard quality to live with sometimes, but it is a useful quality if you want to be a writer. It is easy to hurt my feelings, and I am unable to watch the news or read about painful subjects without weeping. I was often called oversensitive when I was young, but I ve learned to appreciate this quality in myself, and to use it in my writing.
Growing up, I spent large parts of my life in imaginary worlds: Neverland, Oz, and Narnia, in particular. I read in the bath, at meals, in the car, you name it. Around the age of eight, I began working on my own writing. My early enterprises began with a seminal picture book featuring a heroic orange sleeping bag, followed by novel-length imitations of "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" by Joan Aiken and" Pippi Longstocking" by Astrid Lindgren.
I have never kept journals or notebooks for my own sake. I am a writer who writes always with the idea of an audience in mind and at nine I was determined to share my Pippi story with the world. I got my father to type it up in a book format and photocopy it fifty times. Then he took me to an artist friend s studio, where we silkscreened fifty copies of a drawing I d made for the cover. I gave it to everyone I knew. That was my first book.
I have always been interested in picture books as a form, which stems (I suppose) from my background in theater. I am fascinated by the intersection of words and images the way the meanings of words can be altered by changing their presentation. An actor varies her intonation or an illustrator changes a line and the story is new. In college, I studied illustrated books from an academic standpoint. I went to Vassar, where children s book writer Nancy Willard was on the faculty. She introduced me to illustrator Barry Moser, and the interview he gave me was the centerpiece of my senior thesis. While I was there, I spent three years as a student assistant in Vassar s lab pre-school, and after graduation found work as an assistant teacher in a Montessori school, teaching six- to nine-year-olds. That year, I began to write a novel with my father through the mail. I was in Chicago and he was in New York. We thought it would be a fun way to keep in touch. I wrote a chapter then he wrote a chapter. We rewrote each other s chapters. And rewrote them again. It took a long time, but eventually that story was published as "The Secret Life of Billie s Uncle Myron".
Now I write full time (except when parenting) in a tiny little office in Brooklyn, accompanied by two plump and ancient cats. The walls are raspberry-colored and lined with pictures by the artists I ve worked with.
Emily Jenkins writes books for both adults and children. She has a doctorate in English literature from Columbia and reviews children s books for "The New York Times". At New York University, she teaches a course in writing for children.