Jacqueline Jules Interview

Duck for Turkey Day

Jacqueline Jules is the author of fourteen children’s books, including Sarah Laughs (a 2009 Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner), No English (a DE Diamonds Booklist and TN Volunteer State Award nominee), The Hardest Word, The Princess and the Ziz, Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation, Benjamin and the Silver Goblet, and Duck for Turkey Day. Her poetry and prose have appeared in over sixty publications including Highlights, Cricket, Cicada, Spider, Ladybug, and Stories for Children. She won the Arlington Arts Moving Words Contest in 2007, Best Original Poetry from the Catholic Press Association in 2008, and SCBWI Magazine Merit Poetry Award in 2009.

Kathy: Love this new book, Jackie!  Can you tell us why you wrote Duck for Turkey Day?

Jackie: I wrote Duck for Turkey Day because I was a school librarian in a school with a large population of English as a Second Language learners. My students came from over sixty different countries. And on Thanksgiving, when I read stories about eating turkey and stuffing, they weren’t able to connect. My students told me that they ate traditional holiday foods from their birth countries on Thanksgiving, not turkey or cranberries. This got me thinking about my own childhood. My father was an immigrant who came to the United States in his mid-thirties. He didn’t particularly like turkey. It was an American food he never ate growing up in Switzerland. So on Thanksgiving, we often had duck or goose. It made me feel a little different from my classmates. I used those feelings to write my story about Tuyet, a Vietnamese-American girl who thinks her family is breaking the “rules for Thanksgiving” by preparing her grandmother’s special duck recipe from Vietnam.

Kathy: Tell us why we should buy this book.

Jackie: A September 21st review of Duck for Turkey Day, in Publisher’s Weekly said it was “A lighthearted reminder about multicultural traditions during the holidays.”  There are no other picture books I know of which validate the Thanksgiving traditions of immigrants. Families who were born in other countries come together to give thanks for each other and for America on Thanksgiving. But don’t always eat turkey and stuffing. Not everyone celebrates the same way and Duck for Turkey Day reflects the wonderful diversity of our country. Please visit my website to see a short video trailer to get a sense of the book and the illustrations by Kathryn Mitter. http://www.jacquelinejules.com/duck2.htm

Kathy: That’s an important message. Who or what has been the greatest inspiration for your stories?

Jackie: My greatest inspiration for my books have been my students. Many of my books have grown out of my experiences with the children I have taught in my fifteen years as a teacher and librarian.

My book, No English, http://www.jacquelinejules.com/NoEnglish.htm was inspired by a beautiful brown-haired girl who visited my library every afternoon to check out Spanish library books. Every day, she would smile sweetly, shake her head and say “No English.” I wrote that book as a way of reaching out to her in spite of our language barriers.

My book, Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nationhttp://www.jacquelinejules.com/unite.htm began as a short skit I wrote for my students to perform on Constitution Day.

In March, my first chapter book, Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off will be released. The character of Freddie was written for all the little boys who begged me for a book about a superhero.

Kathy: When do you find time to write?

Jackie: I write every available moment I have. In the evenings after teaching, and all of my days off from my job as a teacher. I recently changed my teaching schedule so I would have more time to write. I teach three days a week instead of five. On my writing days, I work as hard or even harder than my days at school. I start around 8:30 in the morning and try to work till bedtime if I can. Of course, I will take breaks for meals and for a walk if the weather is nice. But I do my best to write as many hours as I can on my days off from teaching.

Kathy: Where do you write?

Jackie: I do most of my writing in my upstairs office at home. However, I also write on my walks, particularly poetry. I carry a little notebook in my pocket to record ideas.

Kathy: What helps you write?

Jackie: Time is very helpful. Putting a manuscript away for several weeks and then coming back to it with a fresh eye helps me improve my stories. Comments from my critique group are also invaluable. I’ve dedicated Zapato Power to my critique group. Their comments really helped shape that book, which I wrote over a period of three years, expanding it from an easy reader to a chapter book.

Kathy: Aw, that is so sweet, and I’m sure they appreciate you, too.  How long have you been writing?

Jackie: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I declared my desire to be an author in elementary school and I have been writing stories and poems ever since.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite quote or bumper sticker?

Jackie: One of my favorite quotes comes from Martha Washington who said,

“The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstances.”

Kathy: I sure agree with that one! What’s an embarrassing story about yourself that you don’t mind telling?

Jackie: As a teenager, I worked as a waitress in a seafood restaurant. Once, I waited on a table of twelve people who all ordered shrimp cocktails. I carried a huge tray of shrimp cocktails to their table, but I was walking too fast, and there was a slippery spot on the floor. Well, I think you can guess what happened…. Ooops!

Kathy: I’m cringing for you!  :o)  What are you working on now?

Jackie: As always, I have several projects cooking. I put one thing down to let it rest and start on something else or go back to an older piece to do revisions. I am always working on something. There are not enough hours in the week for all the writing I wish I could do.

Kathy: Why should kids read books when there are so many other things to do?

Jackie: In a book I read over the summer, called Readicide, the author Kelly Gallagher eloquently describes how reading books provides “imaginative rehearsals” for life. I totally agree. All my life, reading has given me the opportunity to experience worlds and characters I would not otherwise have met. Through books, I have learned to understand my family members better, my world, and myself. When you read, you must be an active participant. You must imagine the character and what he or she is experiencing. It makes your mind work in ways that film and other types of media doesn’t. As Thomas Jefferson said on the mousepad I keep by my computer, “I cannot live without books.”

Kathy: “Imaginative rehearsals”–absolutely! Anything else you’d like to add?

Jackie: Please visit me at www.jacquelinejules.com I’d love to hear from you.

Kathy: Thanks, Jackie!  Learn more about Jackie and her books at her website.


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