1. Introduce yourselves to us, please. Who is Olivia Jordan, the gal next door?
I am the mother of one grown daughter. I have spent over twenty years working in the early childhood education field. During my career I worked in the capacity of child educator, family community partner, and also as an administrator.
I have always had a great love for children and learning. When you can put both together and do something you love that affects so many people, it’s truly blessing.
2. Having been involved in child care and education, you must see lots of little things that spark ideas for stories. Can you give us an example of such an experience?
Absolutely. If you have ever been around small children you’ve no doubt noticed that they’re fascinated by everything. Even the smallest thing that we as adults take no notice of will spark their interest. When you work with children long enough, this amazement soon becomes second nature to you, and you find yourself seeing ordinary objects through new eyes.
An example could be something as simple watching an ant hill during the summer. How many times have we stepped over or even on the ant hill as we’re hurrying off to a meeting or to work? But when you stop long enough, you can watch all the tiny ants moving along, busy with their own individual tasks. If you’re really lucky, you can break things down even more and watch that one tiny ant carrying something much bigger than he is on his back along the trail leading to the ant hill. From there your imagination can break things down further still, and before you know it, you can have a whole kingdom of tiny ants and the adventures they have.
The key is seeing the ordinary and creating something extraordinary.
3. In what other ways does being a child care specialist enhance your writing career?
Young children generally have a short attention span. You have to capture their attention and hold it tight from beginning to end. As an author, you have to do the same thing.
I always try to keep my audience in mind when I’m writing. I want to tell the story and make it animated enough that the children want to see what happens. I’ve read hundreds of books over the years. Many times early in my career I would find a wonderful book I just knew the children would love, only to find out I was mistaken. I quickly learned that while as an adult I thought the book was awesome and had a message I wanted the children to hear, the book just wasn’t in tune with the way young children learn.
If you don’t engage your reader, your story goes unheard.
4. Rainy Day Friends is based around such a unique idea…the raindrop friend is quite original. What inspired this story?
Necessity is always the mother of invention. I’ve always been a huge fan of using thematic units when teaching. A thematic unit takes a central theme and then adds reinforcements by using games, stories, puzzles, etc to teach basic cognitive, physical, emotional, and social skills.
The unit I was trying to teach at the time was about rain and rainy weather. After searching through my very extensive library of children’s books, I realized I didn’t have much to build on so I came up with a little story to work as a flannelboard story. And I always wanted to cram in as many learning opportunities as possible.
So Stella was born as a way to discuss rain and weather. She needed a friend to play with so along came Ricky the raccoon, and all my children that year loved playing Hide and Seek. The story worked for my weather unit, it worked as a social activity, and it could be used for color recognition, or with slight adjustments, any type of guessing game I needed it to be.
Like most educators know, budgets are usually tight and getting the most bang for your buck really goes a long way.
5. Are you working on a new project? Can you share a bit about it?
My newest project is set up to be a series of books geared for children aged three to eight years old. At present I have three nearly complete. All books focus on a behavior that is common for children of this age and how they can learn a better way to control their situations.
The series centers around a precocious little girl and the ditzy, yet loveable fairy that’s been sent to watch over her while she learns that life doesn’t always let us have our way.
6. Share with us a bit about your journey into the world of children’s literature. How difficult was it to get that first book in print?
I’ve been writing and telling my own stories for years. I’m a very animated storyteller and have been blessed with the gift of gab. But it’s quite a bit different rattling something off to a room of three to five year olds that think you’re super duper amazing to begin with and attempting to get everything typed and set up for submission and possible publication. Especially when over the years parts of the stories were subject to change along with the storyteller’s memory. lol
I had so many doubts that my little stories were anything that would be publishable. Luckily I had lots of friends who encouraged me and urged me down that path.
7. Many people are under the mistaken impression that writing for children is easier than writing for adults. What do you find most difficult about writing in this genre? Most rewarding?
Writing for children is just as hard, if not harder, than writing for adults. There are many similarities between the two genres. Children are hands down in my opinion the toughest audience. Not only does the writing have to be good, it has to be engaging. You have to captivate them.
I would say the most rewarding is when you see that little face light up with joy when the story has not only entertained them, but they remember parts of it. They’ve learned something from it, and they love you for reading it to them.
8. What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I think my readers would be most surprised to know I am a massive pack rat. Left over habits from my years as a preschool educator. That empty oatmeal box can be turned into so many really cool things. LOL
9. Do you have a “preferred” writing environment?
I’m one of those ‘odd ducks’. I need quiet when I write. I’m too easily distracted by television noise or music. I tend to drift off to other places in my mind. I also prefer the crazy madness that is my desk. To the untrained eye it looks like a paper explosion along with random bottles of nail polish, paper clips, scissors, sticky notes, etc. But it works for me, and that’s what counts.
10. What one piece of writing advice has been most beneficial to you?
The most beneficial piece of advice I’ve ever received is in order to be a writer, you have to write. That’s key. To get anywhere as an author, you have to write and write and write. Even bad writing is better than a blank page.
Interview Questions Provided by Delia Latham