Jayne M. Rose-Vallee. Jayne is an author and publisher of children’s books. Her mother’s love of poetry and quick-witted humor sparked an early appreciation for a good rhyme. Being raised on a farm taught her hard work and a little bit of dirt builds character. After raising three children on the east side of Detroit, she found time in the next chapter of life to follow her passion and write. The hesitant Jayne was encouraged by her daughter to publish her first book, Dinosaurs Living in My Hair, which catapulted her into a new business venture. Dinosaurs Living in My Hair is now a series with the third book currently being illustrated. The educational DLIMH!2 Coloring Book takes much of her dinosaur research and presents it to children with creativity and fun.
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I grew up in the Midwest. Attended Michigan State University. Married. Three children before the age of twenty-six. Stay-at-home mom. Volunteered and served on a variety of non-profit boards and community organizations. President of the Mothers’ Club of Grosse Pointe South High School and board of directors. Baked thousands of chocolate chip cookies for children’s athletic teams.
In summer, I cheered from the steamy pool deck; fall I watched from the sidelines of a muddy soccer field; winter I was bundled up under heat lamps in an ice arena; spring I was outside stiff from anxiety holding my breath through tennis rallies. My life was consumed with my family. When the last one went to college, we continued to drive and watch tennis matches, however, life as I knew it shifted.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
My daughter was an ambassador for Lululemon (she’s an Ironman/triathlete). As training for her ambassadorship, she underwent a program which asked her to identify life goals. She began mentoring me. She wanted me to publish a poem I wrote for her when she was four. After a year of ignoring her, I began to wonder, “What if?”
I found an illustrator, Anni Matsick, who agreed to undertake this project with an unknown, unpublished author. We worked together with Chris Schechner, (art director), and published books one and two. Bonnie Hawkins will be illustrating book 3 which is an underwater reef book where DLIMH tackles the subject of caring for Mother Earth.
Twenty-eight awards later, hundreds of school visits done, and thousands of hugs given, I am grateful to Lauren, my daughter, for her persistent encouragement to publish. It’s been an amazing journey. Not only is she the protagonist for the main character, but she single-handedly kicked me to get here.
Dinosaurs Living in My Hair is a poem I wrote for Lauren which details early childhood living with a mass of blonde curls. She would come in from play with sticks and dried leaves stuck in her tight spirals. It pulled and hurt to brush, comb, wash, etc. Parts of her hair never saw the light of day. I used to say, “Lauren, dinosaurs could live in that mess and I’d never know?” She’d shrug with those round blue sparkling eyes and dart out the side door to go play. Dinosaurs were the most ridiculous thing I could think of to say. I love the word imagination. I think to write the ridiculous is fun and persuade children think like this. Adults ask “Why dinosaurs?” Children know the answer is, “Why not dinosaurs?”
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
As an author/publisher the most difficult challenge to overcome was to believe in myself; to take myself seriously. Traditionally published authors and traditional publishers used to make me feel ‘less than.’ It’s taken five years, but finally I acknowledge in my heart, I’m legit. It’s the students who cheer, laugh, applaud, hug, and love the books, who changed this for me. They are the best indicator of quality. I trust them.
Recently I founded, Literacy for Kids, Inc., (LFK) a non-profit corporation whose mission is to promote literacy, advocate education, support tolerance, and encourage acceptance. We are busy organizing our first AUTHORS: IN-Detroit program where the purpose is to unite award-winning authors/illustrators with students at a face-to-face event. Each child will receive an autographed book from the respective author assigned to their school. LFK will selectively choose titles which promote vocabulary, history, culture, acceptance, and self-esteem. Since we have seen firsthand how students respond with excitement and optimism when engaged in this personal educational experience, we felt Detroit Public Schools would be a great place to launch our first project.
I am currently editing my first YA novel. It’s a cross between John Paulson’s, “Hatchet” and John Grisham’s “Client.” I wanted to write a book where Mother Earth was also a character. We have a piece of property in the middle of nowhere which speaks to anyone who has walked there. It feels sacred. My intent is to paint this emotional reaction into words. What I lack these days however, is time.
The second DLIMH!2 book has been adapted into a Spanish version. This is currently being printed and will be available soon. The book series is in rhyme and it was challenging to give it a beat and rhythm through the translation. We look forward to its addition to our selections.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
Most of my writing ‘ah-ha’ moments come early in the morning when I first wake. A year ago, we travelled to Africa. I was able to write for three weeks continuously while overlooking a watering hole. Every animal imaginable within walking distance made its way to drink directly in front of me. The marmot monkeys flitted around the treetops overhead, the baboons strolled down the dried river eyeing me cautiously, the padded grey elephant feet snuck in quietly, and the towering giraffes blended into the trees miraculously. Sleeping outside in a tent for three weeks, waking and writing, falling asleep and waking to write again, was one of the most magical times of my life. The wee hours, with my sleep angels having answered manuscript questions, were still fresh in my mind when I started typing each day. I find if I’m struggling with writing plot – characters – etc. – I pose the question in my mind before sleep, invariably I have my answer in the morning. It’s best to keep my pencil and paper next to my bedside to jot down before the day erases all of my secrets. I think I have sleep fairies.
What are your interests outside of writing?
I am an avid fly-fisherman. It’s an activity my husband and I learned together about year ten (10/40) in our marriage. We began in Montana streams and rivers and fell in love with the speckled trout. Now, we fish most in saltwater. We divide our time between Michigan and the Florida Keys. I still prefer wading in water – but being in the back country of the everglades is also spectacular. I have a half-written book (where fly-fishing is a character), sitting in my bottom drawer. Time. It’s my worst enemy.
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I read a lot of children’s book because I like to introduce my granddaughter to the world of words. She loves rhymes which makes me happy. I love Jory John’s humor; Kenneth Kraegel’s, “Green Pants,” is awesome. When I hear my son read Mo Willems’ “Pigeon Needs a Bath” out loud it tickles my heart. It’s funny when his scratchy voice and scrunched up eyes recite words like, “too hot, too cold, too deep . . . “, it makes a mother proud to see him interacting with his daughter and a book. My all-time favorites though will always be nursery rhymes. They speak to me.
Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
My advice to anyone who wants to write is simply, “Write.” There’s no doubt the more you write the better you become. I love George Orwell’s advice when it comes to rules:
1. “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”
2. “Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
3. “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”
4. “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”
5. “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”
He goes on to say notice the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ suggest these rules are absolute and must never be broken. Although with all rules – he was known to break them often!
I would add two more rules from my experience:
6. When proofreading take out the word “that” It’s seldom needed.
7. Editing is done best when work is read out loud. If you stutter through a sentence, something isn’t right.
We must encourage children to be creative and use their imaginations. It’s a dying art. God bless the children and the young at heart.
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia,com