Welcome to my inaugural debut author interview!
I am excited to usher in this new blog series with debut author Jacquie Sewell. Jacquie’s book, Mighty Mac, The Bridge That Michigan Built is on shelves today..
Jacquie, thank you so much for letting me celebrate the release of Mighty Mac with you. Have you always been a writer?
No, I have a background in Laboratory science but left that to be a stay at home mom. While my boys were young, I did a lot of freelance writing for a local magazine, the Lansing City Limits and healthcare publications. Then I discovered my dream job as a children’s librarian.
The library is my happy place! Have you been published in any KidLit publications?
Yes, in 2006 I had an article in Cobblestone Magazine. It was about Anna Coleman Ladd, a Boston sculptress who spent a year in France during World War I creating life-like masks for disfigured soldiers. It was republished in 2017 as part of their World War I commemorative issue.
I love Cobblestone Magazine! As a former American History teacher, I would have definitely used your article in my classroom. I had never heard of Anna Coleman Ladd so I read the article posted on your blog. She was a very interesting woman. I’m impressed with the amount of research you must have done on her. I’ve included a link to the article at the end of this post. I encourage my readers to go read about this fascinating woman.
So, tell me about Mighty Mac. What was the inspiration behind the story?
I was asked by a 4th grade student for a library book about the Mackinac Bridge. We didn’t have one in our library or any library I checked that was suitable for children! I decided to research it and write it myself.
What a great story! Inspired by a 4th grader’s question. What kind of research did you do for your story?
I read David Steinman’s book, Miracle Bridge at Mackinac. Steinman was the bridge’s architect and engineer. There was a lot of online research and I interviewed Larry Rubin, the Secretary of the Bridge Authority who was tasked with building the bridge. I also interviewed Steinman’s grandson on the phone. I also studied the historic photos online, and read books and articles about bridge building.
I have a passion for research. The thrill of hunting down that elusive piece of information or finding an unknown nugget that is screaming to be told. Did you enjoy the research?
I love to do research! Dig into databases, books and archives for the treasures hidden there. It’s hard to stop researching and start writing. I pray a lot for wisdom in what to include and how to say it.
I’d say that’s a pretty solid writing process! I tend to get so involved in the research and then want to include every nugget that my story ends up way too wordy. How long did it take for Mighty Mac to go from a 4th graders question to publication?
17 years! The story of getting MM published is a cautionary tale of woe. I had two publishers “very” interested – but no follow through, and a third one even offered me a contract – which she reneged on. There were periods of years where MM sat in my file drawer – but I never forgot it – or lost my belief that it was a book that kids needed. The Mackinac Bridge is awesome – and at one time was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Kids (and adults!) needed to know the story of how it came to be. So two years ago I read about a regional publisher just getting started and emailed him with my idea. Russ shares my vision for the book and he agreed to publish my manuscript – and now, Mighty Mac, the book, is a reality!
I wouldn’t call that a “cautionary tale of woe.” I think it is inspiring for those of us not yet published. Never give up on a manuscript you believe in, it’s time WILL come. What is your favorite line in Might Mac?
The first line, “This is the bridge that Michigan built.” It’s meant to be reminiscent of “This is the house that Jack built.” MM is written in layers. The first layer is a cumulative verse that grows with each spread as we explore the Who and How of the bridge’s construction. Each spread also contains text that elaborates on the subject being explored (eg: the towers or the special equipment). And then I included some “fun facts” in a bulleted list on each spread.
I love the first line! How creative and what a great hook! Do you have a special or favorite place to write?
For writing, my home office supervised by my dog Minnie. Otherwise I love being in the woods or a rocky beach.
I hope your four-legged supervisor isn’t too “ruff” on you! Sorry! I couldn’t resist a little dog humor. Who were some of your favorite authors/illustrators as a child?
I was a voracious reader as a child. I don’t remember reading many picture books (my loss!) but at an early age fell in love with Judy Bolton, Girl Detective – a fabulous series by Margaret Sutton. I also loved Little Women and the Bobbsey Twins.
What drew you to writing for children?
I love sharing our amazing world with them through the magic of books – especially picture books.
One last question. What do you know now that you wish you had known before you began writing?
How discouraging it can be. Build community and support early!
That’s sage advice. Writing is a solitary venture and the number of rejections before you finally get a yes can be numerous.
Thank you Jacquie for letting us help you celebrate Mighty Mac, The Bridge That Michigan Built. How are you going to celebrate?
Shout for joy! Email everyone I know. Post a celebratory post on Facebook.
Jacquie is available for school and Skype visits. You can find her on the Internet at her website jacquiesewell.com
Jacquie’s Cobblestone article about Anna Coleman Ladd
Jacquie has graciously offered a copy of Mighty Mac to one lucky blog reader. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway. I will email the winner to arrange shipment by Jacquie.
The Rafflecopter doesn’t look right, but I promise you that if you click the link it’ll take you there!