Way Out in the Desert
Jennifer Ward is a very energetic speaker. I only had to ask her
one or two direct questions and she could answer the rest.
My questions were:
Where did you get your ideas?
Her friend, T.J. Marsh, and she had been talking about writing children's
books while they were having lunch together when her daughter brought
out the book, Over in the Meadow. They thought that it would
be great to adapt it to the desert, and the first page immediately came
into Jennifer's mind. Over in the Meadow is a song that was composed
in the 1800šs, which the authors used to write the verses to Way
Out in the Desert. She was also influenced by the book, Napping
House, by Audrey Wood. In the illustrations, Audrey has the progression
of morning to night, which Jennifer thought wouldbe neat to incorporate
into a desert story.
What compelled you to write?
She showed me samples of her books that she made in her childhood.
She always loved creating her own books. As a teacher, she shows the
books that she made when she was younger to the class so that they can
see that it is all right to make mistakes, and that it is how everyone
starts out. She also doesn't expect students to rush through their creative
writing because even for her writing has several stages--of putting
the book away and coming back to it later with a fresh start.
Did you get to work with the illustrator?
No. An author does not get the privilege of picking out the illustrator,
so she was anxious to find out who it would be. The illustrations are
a major part of the book, that's what will make the book stand out.
She was excited when she found out that it was Kenneth J. Spengler,
who also illustrated, How the Jackrabbit got his Long Ears. Although
he has never lived in the desert, he has become a popular illustrator
of it. When she received the black and white copies of his work for
the book, she thought that he had drawn the leaves on the palo verde
tree too big. So she ran outside and cut a few sample of the dainty
palo verde leaves and mailed them to the illustrator; however, she found
out that she had worried too much and that the objects were actually
the bean pods from the tree.
Will you write other books?
Yes! In the authors work submitted to the publisher, they stated that
they would be willing to write verses for various places. They are now
in the process of publishing the next book called Somewhere in the
Have you ever wanted to illustrate children's books?
Yes. Her first major in college was art. She says that she needs a
lot of personal time of solitude in order to paint and write. She sometimes
gets up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning or works late at night. She recently
bought lots of different media to use in painting and hopes to start
painting soon. She says that she has always worked best under pressure.
When she was in college, she says that she produced her best papers
by staying up all night writing them the night before they were due.
Do you use your book in your class?
Yes. She also brings puppets for each of the animals so the children
can play with them along with hearing the book.
This interview was conducted in the fall of 1999.
You can visit Jennifer Ward's Web site at: http://www.jenniferwardbooks.com/
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