Sunday, June 21, 2009

Author Spotlight on: Rena Jones

When I started blogging last fall, I discovered an amazing community of writers. Some were published, some were pre-published. Little by little, more writers are finding homes for their stories. I'm excited for my friends and encouraged with every success.

One of those writers making the move to becoming a published author is Rena Jones. Her first picture book, A New Job for Dilly, released last week through a small publishing company, 4RV Publishing. Rena also has the books available for sale through a new website linked to her blog.

What attracted you to writing for children?

Actually, it was a little white mountain goat! After visiting Glacier National Park with my family one year, I was inspired to write a story about the mountain goats we had seen. Manny the Mountain Goat was born and I soon became interested in writing stories for children. I have several different versions of Manny and I still have hopes of having them published someday.

How many drafts did you go through to get the story of Dilly just the way you wanted it?
I honestly don't remember the actual number. I have a really bad habit of printing something up dozens and dozens of times and changing it each time.

Do you have an agent?
No, I don't have an agent at this time.

Then how did you find your publisher?
Vivian Zabel [President of 4RV Publishing LLC] posted a thread on a writer's board asking about illustrators. That led me to their website where I saw they were accepting manuscripts and looking for new authors. I jumped at the chance and she got back to me very fast. I received my first contract on 08-08-08. Considering the number "8" has been my favorite since I was a little girl (I was born on the 8th), I took that as a good sign.

And then your books shipped on the 8th of June…
Seems to be a good number -- LOL!

Not only are you a full-time mom to four children, you also home school. How do you find the time to write?

In spurts -- I get in writing frenzies where an idea hits me and then I just make the time. Other times, I'm at a loss for something to write about, so I think it works out pretty even.

Did you always plan for Dilly to be a series of books?
No, and it's funny how Dilly came about. I had plans on writing about a rat who lived on a pirate ship, but I got stuck on the story. Then I decided to turn it into an alphabet book and it just took off from there. Once I had the first story, the next 2 came easily. I have a few more ideas for Dilly too, but that will depend on how well the first books do and if my publisher wants to take on anymore, as well as the illustrator, Lisa Oakman. Dilly is a little neurotic because in order to get anything done, he has to look from A to Z, so that's a repeating feature in the series.

You have SEVEN books coming out over the next 15 months. Tell me about your Critter books. Are they PBs as well? Are they with the same publisher?
I'm really excited about the Critter books also! There are 3 in the series -- Lemur Troops & Critter Groups, Stork Musters & Critter Clusters, and Pony Strings & Critter Things. These are picture books with short rhymes to teach children animal congregation names. An example of one would be, "A pride of lions, dressed like Hawaiians". Nikki Shoemaker is illustrating them and her animal drawings are just cuter than cute, so I know these are going to be adorable books. The only reason there are 3 of them is because I had 66 animal groups listed, which would have made for a pretty long picture book. By spliting them into 3 books, we will have a fun little series. And yes, they are with the same publisher.

I know you were expecting to get the books in April. What caused the delay and how hard was it waiting?

From what I've been told, Dilly's illustrator, Lisa Oakman had some unexpected family emergencies that threw her off schedule for awhile... Then there were some problems with the file size for the printer, so that added to the delay. It was hard waiting, but by that point, the situation was out of my hands. In the end, the wait was worth it because I love the book. I'm as happy as a cucumber in a jar of brine!

What did your kids say when they saw and touched the books for the first time?
Oh, it was fun! For the past 3 days I've been driving down to our mailbox (2 miles away) to see if the books had come. Each day I've come back kind of sad. Today, as I drove into the driveway, I saw my youngest, Neil standing at the window looking out. I held up the book as I drove into the garage. I saw him throw up his fists in the air and it looked like he said, "YES!" He ran into the garage to meet me and I gave him the book. Then he ran downstairs screaming, "Dilly's here! Dilly's here!" Rick, Nathan & Neil came upstairs and each of them grabbed a book. Rick read it outloud and the boys followed along in their copies. It was fun. Both my daughters are out of town though, so they haven't seen it yet. Nicole will be home in a week, but Nichelle is in Maui, so I'm planning on mailing her a copy... I'm sure she will get a kick out of sharing it with her new friends. Not only that, but I just know Dilly will love going to Hawaii! They do have pickles in Hawaii, right?

With so much going on, how do you find balance in your life?

Good question! Honestly, even though I have 4 children, there's an 8 year gap between my girls and my boys. That makes a big difference. Nichelle is 19, Nicole is 18, Nathan is 9, and Neil is 7. I'm homeschooling everyone but Nichelle, and Nicole will be graduating this year. Since we've been homeschooling 11+ years, we're set into a routine, which makes it easier. Finding balance can be tricky and I have a habit of putting my family first. I consider myself pretty low-maintenance and really don't have any huge desire or need to get out and spend time on myself. "Me time" would be being able to write, listening to music, or taking pictures. As long as I give myself time for simple things like that, everything seems to balance itself out.



Written by Rena Jones and Illustrated by Lisa Oakman
Dilly loves pickles, and the more sour the better. He has just one problem -- finding pickles he can eat. A 48-page alphabet rhyming book for ages 4-8.

If you'd like to win a copy of A New Job for Dilly, tell me about your best and/or worst experience with pickles in the comments. Entries will be randomly drawn on Sunday, June 28. Followers get an extra entry :)


Rena Jones said...


Thank you so much for featuring me on your blog today. You did a lovely job and I hope the rest of the tour is as fun as your stop has been. I'll check in throughout the day in case anyone has any questions for me. Thanks again!


Mandy said...

I love pickles.... the best pickle I have ever eaten was in Disneyland... what could be better... Disneyland... and a pickle : )

Rena Jones said...

Mandy -- Ironically, I'm going to CA next month and will be at Disneyland for 3 days. I see a photo-op in the future! :)

Ransom Noble said...

I've never liked pickles. My grandmother used to make them in her basement - it made the whole place reek!

On the other hand, one of my favorite pictures of my husband on vacation is him eating a fried pickle. (We were in South Carolina.)

Great interview, Rena!

Tracy said...

Great interview Rena! I can't wait for my copy of Dilly!

Hm, my best and worst experience with pickles?

Well my worst is easy. When I was pregnant with my son, a friend of mine brought me a jar of pickles (because you are supposed to love them when you are pregnant!) I dipped one expectantly into some ice cream.... and promptly threw up! lol It has made me wary of pickles every since!

As for my best experience, it was actually my funniest. My son is 4 years old now and was at the table for lunch. There was a jar of pickles on the table beside a jar of jam. He was reaching for the jam and knocked the pickles... everywhere. He yelled "5 second rule" and ran around shoving pickles in his mouth as fast as he could. Wish I had a camera ready.

Great interview guys!

Beth Bence Reinke said...

What a lovely interview! It was fun learning more about Rena. :o)

Suzanne Casamento said...

Great interview Sherrie! I'm so happy for Rena. So many good things are happening for her. : )

Kelly Polark said...

Fantastic interview with Rena, Sherrie!!! I'm so happy for her!
One day five and a half years ago, I had a taste for ham roll ups (mini pickles wrapped in ham with a flavored cream cheese spread) so I bought the ingredients and kept eating and eating as I made them and ended up eating 15!!! Well, two days later, I found out I was pregnant! (and it was a total surprise!) So I had a craving and didn't realize it!

Rena Jones said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

Ransom -- I've never tried making my own pickles, but I would like to try deep fried pickle chips sometime.

Tracy -- I'm so glad you were able to post finally. Loved your stories, especially the one about your son shoving pickles into his mouth.

Beth -- Thanks, and I'm looking forward to stopping on your blog with Dilly tomorrow.

Suzanne -- Thanks. When it rains, it pours, I guess. A lot has been happening lately, especially with my girls being gone. The book has helped me take my mind off all that. Well, a little ...

Kelly -- Those ham roll-ups sound like something I'd like to eat! Great, now I'm craving pickles!

Kate said...

I love dill pickles. However, I hate sweet pickles. We went out to dinner one day when I lived in Colorado. I'd ordered the hamburger, and as usual, they bring all extras on the side, which is good cause I prefer my hamburgers ketchup only. However, I will eat the extras separately. I started to eat a pickle and just about gagged. Whoever heard of hamburgers with sweet pickles???

Michelle D. Argyle said...

First of all, Sherrie, I have to say that I LOVE the new look of your blog! I've missed a whole week of blogging, so sorry if you did it awhile ago... :S

I can't wait to read Rena's book!!! My daughter will just love it, I know. And it's even better because I am so in love with pickles. They have always been my favorite. My mom makes them every summer, and we enjoy them all year long.

One, I can't eat a hamburger without pickles. And I don't even care WHAT kind of pickles they are. Sweet. Dill. Mustard. Mmmm! Second, I can't eat a grilled cheese sandwich without a pickle, either. Third, pickles are probably the best food EVER. Can you tell I love them? They're even good with chocolate. Yes. Chocolate. My refrigerator is never without pickles!

Now I must go. My mouth is watering.

CONGRATS, Rena! And awesome interview. Thanks to you both. :)

PJ Hoover said...

Whoo hoo! Way to go, Rena!

Um, never liked them until about six months ago. But now there are those Kloester or whatever the brand is in the fridge section.

Congrats! said...

Hi, Rena,

Great Interview to start Dilly's tour - Dilly looks ready for the adventure as well (cool cover), and hungry. Lucky I stopped by with some Kosher Dills. They're the closest to the home-canned I had as a kid.

My pickle story - home canning as a kid in late August - one of the last 'events' of summer before school's routine. We kids would wash the cukes and set them on a cloth-covered table to dry while my mom prepared the brine. We would then watch the shrunken cukes slip into the jar, where they were magically transformed into crunchy juicy dill pickles - we helped create - and of course, had to taste test ^_^

Well, I only took one from the jar; the rest is for Dilly. I'll pick up some more for the next stop.

Hope the tour is a scruptious success ^_^

Keep Writing!

Dee said...

I hated pickles as a kid, would take them off everything....

but now, I love them.. strange.

great interview with Rena!

Rena Jones said...

Dee -- I think I took pickles off things when I was younger too, but I liked eating them plain.

Kate -- That's a great story about making pickles as a kid. I never did that, but I'd like to try it.

PJ -- You didn't like them until 6 months ago? Wow, did you try one that really changed your mind?

Michelle -- I'm like you and some things just HAVE to have a pickle with them, especially a hot pastrami sandwich.

Thanks for all of your replies! We're talking more about pickles tomorrow on Beth's tour stop, so I hope you'll join us there too!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Great pickle stories!

Thanks, Glam -- I just changed it on Friday :)

Kelly H-Y said...

Great interview ... very inspiring! And, I LOVE the new look of your blog - - my favorite color combo!! :-)
My pickle experience ... my mom-in-law gave me a Tupperware pickle holder. Problem is, I can't seem to close any lid made by Tupperware. So ... I put all the pickles and juice in the silly holder, popped on the lid, and picked it up to put it in the fridge. The lid was NOT on ... and you can imagine what happened from there ... a big, pickly mess!

KR said...

I teach kindergarten. This would be a wonderful addition to my classroom library!

As for pickles, I've never tried making them but I've never met a pickle I didn't like except for my sisters homemade ones. (Shhh...don't tell her tho.)

Adrienne said...

Great interview. Interesting about the lucky number 8!
I love dill pickles, but not dill pickle relish. I'm still miffed at my husband for buying a jar - I keep mistaking it for the sweet kind.

elysabeth said...

Great interview. I know Rena will do well with her books. Thanks for hosting her, Sherrie. See you all in the postings - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery, trivia series

STATE OF WILDERNESS, Book 1 of 50 now available.
STATE OF QUARRIES, book 2 of 50 now available
STATE OF RESERVATIONS, book 3 of 50 coming 2009

WHERE WILL THE ADVENTURE TAKE YOU NEXT? (series newsletter forum)

C.R. Evers said...

YaY! Rena! Awesome interview!

I always love to go to the convenient store when I was a teen and get a giant pickle from the pickle jar. YUM!

I always take my hubbies pickles when he gets one w/ a sandwich at a restaurant. There ain't nuttin' like a good dill!

Donna McDine said...

Terrific interview on Rena Jones. I've found juggling two children, working from home, and sport and art activities for the girls takes quite a bit of juggling. I couldn't even imagine four children and homeschooling them to boot. Sounds like you do a terrific job.

Best wishes for your continued success,
Donna McDine

Rena Jones said...

Thanks to everyone who took the time to stop, read, and comment. Sherrie, Dilly & I appreciate it!

janetfaye said...

I love Pickles, especially Dill. I like to slice them and put them on sandwiches.

Thank you!

janetfaye (at) gmail (dot) com

Brimful Curiosities said...

My mom always makes sweet pickles and my aunt asked for her recipe. Apparently as part of the brine process, mold develops on top and you need to skim it off and drain the pickles and continue pickling. Well my aunt didn't really understand the curing issues and threw out her entire batch thinking it was ruined.

Vivian Zabel said...

I'm running very late, over two days late. Sorry, but life hasn't been calm and lazy lately.

This interview was delightful. I'm always glad to learn more about our authors, and their characters.

Alice H said...

My best pickle memory is the pickles my grandmother would give me for lunch when we'd visit - always with a salami sandwich. I just found your blog - I really love it. Thanks for the chance! alicedemskehansen at

H. Pinski said...

Great interview and congratulations, Rena!

Dill pickle flavored potato chips. Nuff said.


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