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Author Showcase

Summer 2008 Featured Author Jennifer Fosberry

RT: In your book, My Name is Not Isabella, the main character, Isabella, pretends to be different famous women: Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Annie Oakley, Marie Curie, and Elizabeth Blackwell. How did you select these five women of accomplishment? Were there many women on your "runner up" list?

Jennifer: Actually, these ladies came to me pretty easily. I thought of some of them because they are women I greatly admire, others because I wanted to round out the types of accomplishment that were featured (mental, athletic, and strength of spirit). Believe it or not, the most difficult character to have Isabella play was the mother. The first draft of the rest of the book was done and I couldn’t figure out the last character she becomes before returning to herself. I played with queens, swimmers, and nothing fit. Then I overheard my daughter and a friend playing house in the other room and arguing about who was going to get to be the Mom. It just clicked.

RT: Isabella does not see her own mother as a homemaker. In fact, she puts them on the pedestal next to the other accomplished women. How influential has your mother been in your life?

Jennifer: Isabella sees her mother as an omnipresent force in her life. Mothers are what mothers do. That is how our children see us. I hope history will be kind to me, as well. My mother was an incredible force in my life; her quiet strength and solid core have kept me grounded and yet she fed me with the knowledge that I could do anything I wanted to...and do it well. But I better not get too big for my britches about it either.

RT: Girl power and big dreams are underlying themes in My name Is Not Isabella. What would you say to young girls who aspire to do big things?

Jennifer: I would say to work hard at what you believe in. Rosa Parks is the person we remember for the start of the civil rights movement, but it took the work and the sacrifice of many to accomplish that change. Many women became doctors against prejudice after Elizabeth Blackwell. While we don’t remember all their names, we remember their contributions. Big things are also making an impact in the world around you and by striving to be your best.

RT: You describe yourself as "a science geek turned children's book writer" on the jacket flap. What led you to give up your Silicon Valley career and pursue writing?

Jennifer: The two items are actually not sequential. I always enjoyed writing during my school years. When I had kids, the ideas just started coming again. After we had our third child, the financial and logistical implications of day care versus job benefits no longer were in favor of me working outside the home. That is when I stopped the Silicon Valley career. Over time, the better book ideas and some practice developed into My Name is Not Isabella. Once I realized it really was pretty good, I wanted to put it out there and share it beyond my circle of friends. That is when we committed to publishing this book and it has been an exhausting and exhilarating journey.

RT: Isabella includes a brief biography of these women who have changed the world, including "mommy." You describe mothers as people who use "love and wisdom to raise children to be caring, accomplished adults." Do you have any advice for other mothers trying to fulfill this daunting task?

Jennifer: I am still a beginner on this journey, but I would say my best piece of advice is from my husband. He constantly reminds me to enjoy the kids. Every so often in the rush of day to day life, I have to remind myself that they won’t be this age forever, and while parts of now are hard, parts of now are simply magical. Sometimes we need to stop doing the dishes and enjoy the magic.

RT: Juggling life between Costa Rica and California, raising three young children, and being the "Top Banana" at Monkey Barrel Press sounds exhausting. Do you still have plans for future publications? Have you considered incorporating your science background into another educational kids book?

Jennifer: I absolutely have plans for more publications. But before that can happen, this book needs to be a financial success. I already feel like this has been a successful project and that I have a successful product. Now it needs to “show me the money.”

If all goes well, there are plans for a boy version because I think this message is so powerful. My vision is that most books from Monkey Barrel Press will incorporate either an educational component (math, science, geography) or a message of self-esteem. Whenever I sit to write, that invariably comes out.

RT: In a February 2008 post on Monkey Barrel Musings (Monkey Barrel Press blog), you explain that you are the top banana and that you have always harbored a "secret love of books and reading." As a child, what were some of your favorite books?

Jennifer: Where to start? My favorite picture books are Whose Mouse Are You? by Robert Kraus and Jose Aruego and The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. I recently read The Paper Bag Princess by by Robert N. Munsch and Michael Martchenko to the kids and enjoyed that. Of course Fancy Nancy is stupendous (that’s a fancy word for great). As I got older, Ellen Raskin and Madeleine L'Engle were some of my all time favorites. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner is particularly memorable, as is anything that can make me (or my mother) cry. Oh, don't let me forget Harry Potter.

RT: On Monkey Barrel Musings, you say that reading to your kids is one of your favorite activities. So, other than read aloud, how do you instill your love of literature in your children? How would you suggest other parents encourage their children to read?

Jennifer: I think the most basic thing about raising readers is not reading to your kids, but having your kids catch you reading. If you enforce reading on kids and then never read yourself, it is like telling them not to smoke and then lighting up. I read every day. I read every chance I get (when not doing the dishes or playing with the kids).

RT: Do you have an all-time-favorite book that you have shared (or can't wait to share) with your your kids?

Jennifer: I think that my favorites to share with them are the books that were my favorites as a kid. Whose Mouse are You? and The Lorax went over big. Of course, it was great to share My Name is Not Isabella with them, too. Isabella, my oldest, understands that the girl “is her.” But my baby girl, who is two, is convinced it is “Mio” also. My poor son has to wait for the boy version, but he enjoys this one in the meantime.

RT: The mother in My Name is Not Isabella seems relaxed, flexible, and fun. Those same qualities jump out from your blog as who you are, as well; and you've already mentioned your daughter Isabella. Is the book loosely autobiographical?

Jennifer: How I wish. In some ways, it is loosely based on my family. This mom is just what you said: relaxed, flexible and fun. Those traits describe my husband more than me. I’m a little more of a control freak. She is the Mom I wish I could be. It is the mom I want my kids to remember.

RT: You often blog about the publishing process. What is your one, essential piece of advice for any aspiring children's author? Jennifer: This is the hardest question. There are so many things to recommend: do your research on marketability, get critiques, and so on. There are many books on these topics and I also try to write about it on my blog. I guess the biggest thing is to think about why you want to be an author and understand what that means. From my research I know this is probably not going to make me rich or famous, unless maybe Oprah is reading right now. But I love sharing this book with kids. My greatest compliments come from parents right after their kids get the book. They tell me things like “my daughter makes me read it every night” or “my kids won’t go to bed unless I read this book” or “for two weeks straight, this was the book at our house.” That is what makes me the happiest.

RT: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Jennifer: You really covered a wide range of topics here. These were great questions that made me think. I just wanted to thank you and applaud your work at The Reading Tub®. Reading is so important and it is the best gift.

Website: http://www.monkeybarrelpress.com/


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