What I Write: An Artist Statement

A friend and I drew each other for fun one day. Illustration by Zoe Drew-King.

As a writer, I love to inhabit another life story and feel what it’s like to live inside my character’s thoughts and heart. That’s A. Then, B, I’ve got to harness my wild imagination to something. I’m too ambitious, determined and practical to let it loose all the time to no effect. That’s just how I’m wired.

As a poet, I search for patterns in the world and see a larger significance in them. This naturally translates moment into metaphor, metaphor into mirror, and mirror into world view. I studied with poets at Ohio University, The New School, in the Bay Area, and workshopped with the Poet Laureate of Napa County.

Mainly, I write for children and youth, and I write every day. I love the bright, fresh innocence of children and the satisfaction of bringing some light into the world. That’s why I babysat, camp-counselored, and au-paired when I was younger, and why I helped found a Waldorf charter school as an adult. I studied Journalism and French in college, worked in New York in publishing at The Foundation Center and Parabola Magazine, followed by many years with nonprofits, most recently at Land Trust of Napa County.

In college, I used my mother’s manual typewriter. That segued to an electronic Smith-Corona which I heaved from place to place, along with a typewriter table with snap-up extension where I placed my scribbled notes. In France, the non-KWERTY keyboard on my father-in-law’s manual provoked a lot of swearing (the link is PG, promise) but I wrote some of my best poems on it.

As a writer, next to sheer tenacity and a writing implement, one of your best assets is a writing community. I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), a membership organization that organizes kid lit conferences and workshops around the world. This is like being soft-released into the preserve of the published with all your favorite writing friends. SCBWI has given me opportunities for leadership (Napa County Coordinator, 2014-18), scholarship (Tribute Award, 2016), mentorship (Nevada Mentor Program, 2015-16), and led me to Critique Group partners (2004 – present) and a productivity partner (2015-present) who have become dear friends.

I am currently working on a fun, contemporary young adult romance for 14-18-year olds , and a humorous, ghost story/adventure middle-grade for 9-12-year-olds. You can follow me on Twitter at JRPessereau for more info related to writing and kid lit.

Thanks for reading my Artist’s Statement. What’s yours?