We spoke to first-time author Jessica Janowsky of the recently published children's book "A Mountain’s Wisdom: The Slate and the Granite" and asked her some of our most burning questions!
What are three interesting factors about yourself?
1. My first career job was as a Probation and Parole Officer for the State of Nevada.
2. I recently started a Ph.D. program in Health Psychology through Northcentral University.
3. I am a Yoga and fitness instructor and own a small studio called Ultimate Fit Chick in Elmira, NY where we seek to empower women to live healthily and well, especially through fitness and a positive mindset.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to dance on Broadway.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have been writing since I was very young. I wasn’t a very good reader when I was in primary school, and my mother sent me to our local college where students enrolled were learning to be teachers, and they had a reading program for kids that struggled. My tutor asked me what I liked, and I said, “delicious food.” She thought if I wrote something that interested me, that could spring-board a love for reading. She was right. I wrote a cookbook, and we “published “it. I gave copies to all my family, and I loved to read it.
When I feel the world needs to learn a message, I write. I wrote a children’s book in 1997 and tried to get it published but was unsuccessful. I wasn’t developed enough as a writer.
In 2020 I wrote some blogs for a children’s yoga company that are published on the web.
I continue to write whenever I feel like there is a story to be told and a lesson to be learned. I like writing for children because I think that if they can have open hearts and open minds, they can receive messages of love, kindness, peace, and justice. I believe the direction (our future) in which humans interact will depend on the lessons children are learning now. I want to write stories that promote cooperation, not competition.
Can you tell me about the book?
I wrote, “A Mountain’s Wisdom: The Slate and The Granite” for my students in 2018. At that time, I was piloting a social-emotional learning (SEL) program for the district I teach in. The sixth-grade classes were having trouble “letting go” of things that had happened in their classrooms or on the playground. Each week they would come to see me to work on calming and mindfulness. They were rehashing past events that I thought we had worked through - clearly not.
I knew I had to teach them about the importance of forgiveness. I wanted them to learn that hate and resentment builds up in our bodies and can solidify. It can stay there and isolate us from others and stop us from enjoying the world’s amazing offerings. I also didn’t want any one student to feel like I was picking on them, so I wrote the book to be about communities. In 6th grade, when two kids have a problem, it is almost certain that their peers will choose a side. So, teachers really must deal with these issues in their own classroom communities.
After the lessons, I kind of forgot about the book. It sat on my USB drive for a couple of years. Then in the summer of 2020 the United States experienced a horrific upraising of violence fuelled by racial hate. It broke my heart and upset me deeply. That’s when I thought of “A Mountain’s Wisdom” and decided to try to publish it. I felt the world needed to hear the story and its messages.
How long did it take you to write your first book?
A Mountain’s Wisdom took me about a week to write. I knew what I wanted to say. The editing took the longest part.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story is captivating, relatable, and also has a message. I think people can relate to feeling angry at someone else. I think they can also be open-minded enough to realize that everyone has something to offer, so if we can share our resources, we all benefit.
What inspired you to write your book?
I wrote the book to read it to my students. Of course, there were no illustrations at that time. They had to “create mental images.” Then we did several mindfulness lessons on the importance of forgiveness and of caring communities.
What did you learn when writing the book?
I learned that you need to consider the audience. What will their perspective be? If you don’t think of them, then it’s possible no one will read it. Writing and publishing is about sharing ideas. It is one way we connect and influence each other.
What surprised you the most?
Never having gone through the process before, I was surprised at how long it took from submitting the book to be published, to actual publication. Don’t get me wrong; it was well worth it. But it is a longer process than you think when you are a novice author.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I am a BIG advocate of do not let fear get in your way. If your book is not published, it will never be published unless you TRY and you submit it. Now you have a chance. If it doesn’t get accepted, try not to feel bad. Try to view it as a learning opportunity. Fix the problems, follow their suggestions, and try again. In education, we call that having a Growth Mindset.
Also, before you send it to the publishers, first give it to people who are the experts to look over and provide you feedback. For instance, I wrote a children’s book, and I am an educator, so I asked many of my colleagues who are always reading children’s books to review it and give me honest feedback. They all encouraged me and thought it was just as good as the books that line their classroom bookshelves.
Jessica's book 'A Mountain’s Wisdom: The Slate and the Granite' is available now!
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