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Books: It’s Grandma’s turn for babysitting tips in Utah author’s series for children
Interview » Utah author releases the latest in a series for children.

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What does your writing process look like?

Messy! When I first start, I brainstorm — jotting down any and all ideas that pop in my head. I pester my friends and family for their ideas. At school visits, I solicit ideas from students. For the sake of "research," I indulge in "Calvin and Hobbes" and other comic books.

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For more about Jean Reagan and her books, as well as information about upcoming events, visit her online at www.jeanreagan.com.

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Then, I buckle down and figure out how to string together the best ideas to create a story that is fun and makes logical sense. This step can be very frustrating. I usually experience a crisis where I think the idea is completely unworkable and that as a writer I’m utterly hopeless. After several days of wailing and lamenting, I solve the problems in the story and I’m back on track. (My books only have about 600 words. How novelists survive their crises, I don’t know.)

Next, my critique groups help me polish the manuscript. After they give it their seal of approval, I send it to my agent and editor for their response. If all goes well, after some back-and-forths, it’s done! This process has taken me as long as five or six years or as short as six months. Then the illustrators work their magic. I’m always wowed by their creative expansion of the story.

What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?

Rejections. Since I started writing over 10 years ago, I have received well over 300 rejections from publishers and agents. ("How to Babysit a Grandpa" had 29 rejections.) It’s just part of the process of getting published, but it’s still hard.

The best thing?

Knowing that your book might create a magical moment or a chuckle between a child and an adult who loves them. Makes me smile just thinking about this.

I also love "fan" letters from kids that say things like: "You spell good." (Little do they know how much I rely on spellcheck and copy editors!) Or another fan who proudly stated, "I went to a bookstore and almost bought your book."

What are three things readers don’t know about you?

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1. I have never downhill skied. (I’m a scaredy-cat.)

2. As a child I struggled to learn to read. My mom made flashcards and snaked them all over the floor, putting candy on every fifth card. But it was still torturous for me to conquer reading. I was well into third grade before I read my first book with ease and joy.

3. Whenever I have to attend a fancy shindig, a friend loans me clothes and jewelry and writes instructions on what to wear with what. On my own, without her cheat sheet, I’m totally clueless.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a national organization that has an active Utah chapter. They offer online resources, conferences, advice, grants and awards for aspiring and established authors.

Form or join a critique group. (I would have given up long ago if it weren’t for my critique buddies.)

Enter local and national writing contests.

But, the single most important quality is perseverance. Don’t give up. Good luck to you!

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