Today on Tuesday Tours, prolific author Jane Yolen invites us into her home to see where she has written over 350 books. Jane received her first book contract on her 22nd birthday and she hasn’t stopped since. Instead, her tenacity for creating a variety of work—picture books, poetry, fantasy, science fiction, non fiction, and historical fiction, has won her numerous awards, and she’s been given six honorary doctorates in literature. Jane currently splits her time between writing from her house in Western Massachusetts, and a lovely home in Scotland, where she lives about three months of the year. She has made her books a family event, co-writing some of her newest releases with her daughter and sons.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am an author and I always call myself a short form writer—poetry, picture books, short stories, song lyrics. But the other day, about to be on a panel of historical novelists, I counted up the number of novels I have out there (for middle grades, for young adults, for adults) and it was over 60. Gulp!
How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My space has changed with my age, the needs of my writing, the woes of my body, and who is living in the house. When my husband and I were first together, we lived in an apartment in New York. We carried a lovely $25 dollar used/antique store oak rolltop up to our second floor apartment and I worked on that. Eventually I outgrew it, though when we moved to the country, after a year living in a VW bus through Europe and the Middle East (it was the 60’s of course!) we carried only two things out of storage to our first house in Massachusetts—the rolltop and our brass bed. I didn’t do any of the carrying, being 8 and a half months pregnant at the time!
We eventually made a built in-desk with bookcases on both sides in a lovely downstairs room in our third house where I could watch the children playing out the window or later when they walked home from school. That room is now the music room and those bookcases, glassed in, hold first editions of my 350+ books.
When my father, ill with Parkinson’s, and moved in with us, plus his round the clock nurses, we redid the attic as a writing space for me and it was there, for the next 20 years, I wrote. We called it the Aerie, it was my eagle’s nest.
Now, after back surgery and a laptop, I work (as I recover) on a stuffed chair that folds back and has lumbar support. I have been six months there, but I’m looking forward to graduating. Where will I work next? It doesn’t matter. I carry my head and my ideas wherever I go. I also spend three months every summer in a house in Scotland where I work in a sunny room and carry my teacup out into the garden when the ideas need an airing.
Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
I have an hour of exercises I am just getting back into (after surgery) and then a cup of tea and off I go.
Do you listen to music while you work?
I need absolute silence. As I am very musical, even sang for money in college and a bit after, I get caught up in the rhythm of the music and not in the music of my writing.
Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Nope.Though I have a LOT of stuff! Living in the same house for 40 years will do that to you!
What is your favorite book?
It changes on a weekly basis! What are am I reading now? A medieval midwife mystery, and the second book of the WICKED quartet. Also Scottish fairy and folk tales for as project about to go to contract, and stuff about the Lodz Ghetto for a novel I am writing.
What colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space?
Nature, not indoor colors.
What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Make it yours and not a space that needs to be cleared away for others every time someone wants to eat or watch tv or chat.
What would you say is the greatest source of inspiration to you as a writer?
Being engaged with the world. Addicted to nature. Loving story. Being touched by a lucid and lyrical line. Eavesdropping.
What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
I had three novels and a nonfiction (ish) collection come out this past fall: THE LAST CHANGELING, (2nd book of THE SEELIE WARS trilogy, written with son Adam), PLAGUE OF UNICORNS, a medieval fantasy, and CENTAUR RISING, a historical fantasy set in the mid 1960s. And NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’S ANIMAL STORIES, a volume written with my three (grown) children.
This spring and fall I have a short animal fantasy out—TRASH MOUNTAIN, and several picture books, including SING A SEASON SONG, HOW DO DINOSAURS STAY SAFE, YOU NEST HERE WITH ME (written with daughter Heidi), THE STRANDED WHALE, and THE STONE ANGEL (a pictute book about Paris during the Nazi years). You can find out more at http://janeyolen.com.
Boy are you busy! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your lovely home with us, Jane. I’m looking forward to your new books, especially STONE ANGEL, which looks like a very interesting story and beautifully illustrated!
Please join us next week when author and illustrator Chris Sickels, mastermind behind Red Nose Studios, invites us into his amazing studio garage.