Posts Tagged interview

Author Spotlight: Joy Jones… plus a GIVEAWAY!

For today’s Author Spotlight, I’m pleased to interview Joy Jones, author of the debut middle-grade novel, Jayla Jumps In (Albert Whitman, 2020). Plus a giveaway!!!!

About the Book:

When 11-year-old Jayla finds out that her mother used to be a Double Dutch champion, she’s stunned. Who knew her mom, who’s on doctor’s orders to lower her blood pressure, could move like that? Jayla decides to follow in her mom’s footsteps, thinking that maybe Double Dutch can make her stand out in her big, quirky family. As she puts together a team at school and prepares to compete, Jayla finds that Double Dutch is about a lot more than jumping rope—and it just might change her life, in ways she never imagined. Full of hilarious family dynamics and plenty of jump-rope action, Jayla Jumps Infollows one girl’s quest to get her mom healthy and find her place in her community.

And now, without further ado, let’s jump into the interview! 

Interview with Joy Jones

MR: Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Joy! First and foremost, I need to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. It’s filled with heart, humor—and, of course—Double Dutch. What was the impetus for writing this novel?

JJ:  I’m so glad you liked it! I want the reader to have fun. I always feel great when I jump Double Dutch; I’m hoping the reader gets to feel a little bit of that joy–and maybe even decide to actually try it!

When I first came up with the idea to jump Double Dutch, I was trying to lose ten pounds. Now, I’m trying to lose twenty. Hmm… the weight loss has been a little tricky but I gained a great deal of creative capital. I got a stage play and a book out of the deal.  So what happened? Well, some co-workers and I were talking about losing weight and I suggested we jump Double Dutch during lunch. Everyone said they were already too fat to exercise so we never did it. But I thought it was a pretty good idea. Since I didn’t get to do it in real life, I did it in my imagination and wrote a play called Outdoor Recess about a group of adult women who form a Double Dutch team. When I was promoting the play, someone suggested that I actually get some women together to jump rope–and I did. That’s how DC Retro Jumpers got started. {Check out this video of the Team in action!}

Years later, I would talk to my agent in passing about the various exploits of DC Retro Jumpers. “You should write a middle-grade novel about Double Dutch,” she said. But because I had already done a play on the theme, and as the team’s founder who was often promoting our activities, I didn’t think I had anything more to say about Double Dutch. But she brought up the idea again, and this time I decided I’d try writing on that theme. That’s how Jayla Jumps In was born.

Combatting Loneliness

MR: Speaking of your book, Jayla, the 11-year-old protagonist, often feels lonely, despite being part of a large extended family. As an only child myself, I can absolutely relate to this. Did you experience loneliness as a child as well? If so, how did it affect you—and how did you cope?

JJ:  I’m the oldest in my family so there were a few years when I was the only child. My way of coping was to inform my parents that I wanted a baby sister. When I was seven, they delivered what I requested–practically on my birthday! My sister, Lorraine, was born on November 22nd; I was born on November 23rd. (I think that was the last time my parents gave me what I wanted. ) I also have another younger sister, Vita, who is an August baby. But was I lonely as a child? No, I always had a book at hand whenever I wanted company, or was feeling bored, or had nothing to do and nobody else was around. Sometimes I preferred a book even when people were around.

A Jump on Health

MR: The importance of exercise and healthy eating factors heavily in Jayla Jumps In, when Jayla learns that her mom suffers from hypertension, a health issue that affects 1 in 3 Americans. If not treated, uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. What prompted you to focus on this particular health issue? What is the message—and ultimate takeaway—for your middle-grade audience?

JJ: Being physical is such a wonderful thing! All you couch potatoes, stop rolling your eyes. A physical body was made to be physically active! You’re zoned out on the sofa only because you haven’t yet discovered the activity that’s right for you. When you move, you stimulate your endorphins–the ‘get-high’ hormones in your body. Vigorous movement feels glorious! It’s not work, it’s pleasure. You do like to feel good, don’t you? As I like to say, not everyone likes to exercise but everyone likes to play.

Too many people spend too much time padlocked to a screen, watching somebody else do something fun. For many adults, we have childhood memories of being outdoors, playing a game that doesn’t require batteries or using our imaginations to entertain ourselves. But too many young people haven’t experienced the fun of physical movement, of outdoor play, or of at least actively exercising their own imaginations, rather than passively consuming someone else’s creativity that’s been packaged for sale.

I also do yoga, take frequent walks, swim, and dance–my favorite physical activity. I hope by reading Jayla’s story, young readers get motivated to try some old-school, screen-free fun. I’m not at my goal weight, but I am convinced that my good health is in large part due to being physically active. My mother has hypertension–she’s 89–and although sometimes we have to nag her about being consistent with her medication,  she regularly exercises and is in pretty good shape. She can still fit into the wedding dress she wore in 1952!

Team Spirit

MR: You founded the DC Retro Jumpers, an adult Double Dutch exhibition team, in 2004. What was your motivation for forming the team? Did you jump as a child, or are you relatively new to the sport? Also, what is it about Double Dutch that appeals to you most? I’m guessing it’s more than exercise.

JJ:  Yes, I jumped rope as a child, but single rope more than Double Dutch. Although I enjoyed it hugely, I think I get even more enjoyment now. Jumping Double Dutch gives a rush that’s both easy and exciting at the same time. Plus, my ego gets stroked because often people are surprised–and impressed–to see someone old doing it. During DC Retro Jumpers demonstrations, I love it when someone comes forward to jump. Usually, it’s been years since they jumped or they never learned how. But once they start jumping and they find the rhythm, the joy that suffuses their whole being is gratifying to witness. People on the sidelines are cheering them on, and cell phone cameras are recording their triumph. The experience hits all my pleasure centers: fresh air, having fun, helping others, ego strokes.

Renaissance Woman

MR: In addition to being a middle-grade author, you are a playwright, a poet, an educator, a journalist, a trainer, a motivational speaker, and you write non-fiction for adults. You’re also active in the DC Retro Jumpers. How do you juggle so many balls—and keep them in the air? Also, what does your writing routine look like? Enquiring minds want to know!

JJ: Some years ago I was working a job that sapped my energy, and my soul. I wanted to quit and spend my days lazing around in bed and reading novels. But my wallet said, “No, Joy, that won’t work!” So I started saving money aggressively. I managed to accumulate a nice stash that allowed me to leave my full-time job for part-time work. I landed a job at DC Public Library (an ideal place for a writer!), working 20 hours a week. This allowed me to have time for my creative pursuits.

My writing routine? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Even now that I’ve got a less stressful schedule, the writing happens catch-as-catch-can. I used to believe one needed long stretches of time to get writing done. That’s nice, but life seldom accommodates me in that way. Usually, I write in stolen snatches of time. I always keep a journal with me, so I can write while in a waiting room, on the subway, during slow moments at work. If you keep doing a little bit of writing, eventually the bits and pieces become pages–and then the pages become books. I begin in longhand, with pen and paper for the first draft, then go to the computer to edit and refine.

Question from Jonathan Rosen

MR: Oh, and Joy? MUF member Jonathan Rosen has a question for you, so I kind of feel obligated to pass it on…

JR: Hi, Joy! Which version of the song “Double Dutch Bus” do you prefer—the original 1981 hit by Frankie Smith or the remake by Raven-Symoné, as featured in the 2008 movie, College Road Trip? (I should mention that “Double Dutch Bus is my go-to karaoke song.) <MR: Sadly, it is.>

JJ:  Shhh… I don’t normally reveal this, but I can’t stand that song. I cringe any time it is played when we’re doing a demo. But I’m sure when you sing it on karaoke night you rock the mic. <JR: Yes, people have noted my rockstar quality…>

And finally, no MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred writing snack? Fruit.

Coffee or tea? Tea.

Cat or dog? Traditionally, I’ve preferred cats, but over time dogs have become more appealing. But I’m too lazy to keep a pet myself.

Favorite song? (And certainly not “Double Dutch Bus”! I’m partial to R&B oldies. Too many favorites to single out just one.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Nay. Unless you count the way everybody is glued to their screens like zombies. In that case, the zombie takeover has already happened.

Superpower? I’m a pretty good listener; especially at hearing what’s not being said.

Favorite place on earth? Muir Woods in California. When I’m among those majestic redwood trees I feel like I’m in God’s living room, basking in His company.

Signature Double Dutch move? Pop-ups. That’s when you propel yourself straight up in the air while jumping. I never could do that as a child, so it’s been especially exhilarating to learn how to do it as an adult. Old dogs can learn new tricks!

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be? A library, a dance partner, and a box of Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies.

MR: Thank you for chatting, Joy—and congratulations on the publication of Jayla Jumps In. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know MUF readers will too!

And now… a fabulous

GIVEAWAY!!!

Joy has generously offered to gift a lucky reader with a signed copy of Jayla Jumps In. Just comment on the blog (and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files Twitter account) for a chance to win! 

JOY JONES is a trainer, performance poet, playwright and author of several books, including her MG debut, Jayla Jumps In (Albert Whitman & Company, 2020). She has won awards for her writing from the D. C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the Colonial Players Promising Playwrights Competition, plus awards from both the D. C. Department of Recreation & Parks and the D. C. Commission on National & Community Service for outstanding community service. She is the director of the arts organization, The Spoken Word, and the founder of the Double Dutch team, the DC Retro Jumpers, which has led exhibitions and classes throughout metropolitan Washington and abroad. Joy often leads workshops on creative writing, communications and black history. Learn more about Joy on her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Interview with Julie Dawn Cole, Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

We are in for an enormous treat today!

Whenever I interview anyone, I usually ask them what their favorite childhood movie was. Among the top answers I always receive is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It’s among my favorites as well, and that is why this is definitely among the most excited I’ve ever been to conduct an interview. Please help me welcome one of the stars of that film, Julie Dawn Cole, who played one of the most memorable child characters ever, Veruca Salt!

                                                                                                                                     Julie Dawn Cole

JR: Hi Julie, and thanks for joining us today!

To start with, after you agreed to do the interview, I went back and watched Willy Wonka again, and it brought me right back to my childhood. It’s a movie that I watched as a kid, and loved when I got to see it again through that lens when I watched it with my children. The film has such a timeless feel. How often do you go back and rewatch it and can you distance yourself from the film and just enjoy it, or is it a more analytical and emotional experience?

JDC: I confess that I don’t go back and watch it as a whole, but if friends are around and it is on, then I might dip in. Though when I do watch it, it is like watching a scrap book for me, I remember what happened just before we did that etc etc, I remember the stuff surrounding it.

JR: I’m sure in many ways it’s like a home movie. At what point did you realize that the movie would have such tremendous staying power?

JDC: Not until the 80’s probably when it was shown on TV regularly and then gained its cult following. When It was released, it didn’t do well at the box office and came and went. In fact for many years, I hardly mentioned it, and I think for a while I left it off my resume, as it wasn’t relevant, and was a ‘kids movie’ and not a very popular one.

 

JR: That’s still amazing to me how it only got popular years after its release. You are my daughter’s favorite in the movie. Even though you played the perfect bratty child, you’ve picked up a big cult following, including a rock band named Veruca Salt. That’s a testament to your performance. What do you think it is about that character, which even though she was soooo bratty, kids still loved her?

JDC: I guess secretly we all have an inner dark self that we might like to let loose! Veruca does and says what we might secretly think but would never dare do, or be allowed to do.

                                                                                                                        Julie as Veruca Salt and now

JR: Have you had any interaction with the band?

JDC: Sadly no, though I think we connected via twitter.

                                                                                                                                  The band, Veruca Salt

JR: Other than Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, you were the only kid to have a song, which was a memorable one. That must’ve been a feather in your cap.

JDC: It still annoys Paris, (Mike Teevee) he was desperate to have a song, and used to walk around singing ‘where is love’ hoping they might relent and write him one!

                                                                                                                     Paris Themmen as Mike TeeVee

JR: That’s very funny. Willy Wonka was your first film. What was that like for a kid to go in filming with some established actors and big names like Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Roy Kinnear?

I was in awe of the woman who played my mother, Pat Coombs, and she doesn’t even get a credit! But don’t forget I was 12, and didn’t know who Gene and Jack were. I had seen Roy Kinnear on British TV, but as a kid I think you just accept things.

                                                                                                                Julie with Roy Kinnear and Pat Coombs

JR: That innocence was probably a good thing! What are your memories of Gene Wilder?

Gene was very sweet and kind, especially when he found out that I was the only kid who didn’t have a relative with them on location. 3 months in Germany away from home. I think he felt for me with that, and went out of his way to make a fuss of me. Plus probably the British accent helped!

                                                                                                                     Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

JR: The accent certainly works on my daughter, she’s obsessed with all things British! I just read and loved your memoir, I Want it Now, which was so much fun. You included so many personal items like pictures and letters that you wrote from the time, that I felt like I was a part of the experience. There are tons of great stories that fans of yours and fans of the movie will find amazing and they’ll love being able to reminisce with you. I highly recommend everyone to go and purchase it from your website, https://www.juliedawncole.co.uk/ where they can get a signed and personalized copy, but are there some fun anecdotes from the making of Willy Wonka that you can share with us here?

JDC: I think most of them are covered in the book, apart from the fact that we used to play with an Ouija board in our hotel room. ( I didn’t include that bit,)  let’s face it we were often bored and there was no cable TV.

JR: Actually, the Ouija Board sounds like an interesting evening. I was saddened to read about Denise Nickerson’s unfortunate passing. Did you have contact with her before then?

JDC: I saw Denise regularly, and we were in contact just 2 weeks before she had her stroke. Paris was staying with me on vacation and Rusty Goffe (who played one of the Oompa Loompas), had joined us for lunch, so we gave her a call. Denise and I always called each other Sis. I was incredibly sad, when she died. She had a terrible year following her stroke and never recovered. Paris and I visited her in September just after her stroke. She had recovered well, but her speech was slow, and she struggled, So we sang Willy Wonka songs, and she seemed really happy. It was one of the saddest days I have known. That was the last time I saw her, waving goodbye from her balcony window.

                                                                                                                                    Denise Nickerson

JR: I’m glad you had that time together. You’ve gotten together with the cast many times for reunions. Do you all still keep in touch?

JDC: Yes all still in touch, last time was when I saw Paris and Pete for the launch of a pinball machine! We had a lot of fun.

                                                                                                                               Peter Ostrum

JR: Okay, I have to ask, the Oompa Loompas seemed to be working day and night at the whim of Wonka, shouldn’t they have unionized?

JDC: Of course they should!!!! Wonka was exploiting them.

                                                                                                                                     Oompa Loompas

JR: Speaking of Oompa Loompas, what was your first impression at seeing the chocolate room?

JDC: It was beautiful, and such fun to run round. I used to take my lunch to the riverbank and have my own little picnic.

                                                                                                                          Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room

JR: I don’t blame you. That set looked magnificent. And I read that you actually hated chocolate? My daughters are the same, and I question their bloodlines because of that, but how was it for someone who hated chocolate to be surrounded by it?

JDC: There wasn’t as much chocolate as most people think there was. I guess the most was in the salts salted peanut factory when they were shelling wrappers, but most of those were dummies.

 

JR: You have had such a lengthy and fantastic career. Out of your post-Wonka roles, which are some of your favorites and why?

JDC: Couldn’t really say, but I have certainly had fun, and got to travel lots. I worked out once that work had taken me to 40 countries!

JR: That’s amazing! You really have been fortunate to get to see so many different places and cultures. Can you share any fun anecdotes regarding some of your other roles?

JDC: I was working on a movie called ‘Camille’ with an amazing cast, including the gorgeous Colin Firth. I shared a trailer with Billie Whitelaw, and we were on location near Versaille. Relaxing after lunch there was a little knock on the door. It was Sir John Gielguid. He asked if he could join us, as he was lonely on his own! What an amazing afternoon. Another time I had to meet Katherine Hepburn, and read a script with her. (I didn’t get the part) she said in that wonderful voice, “Oh you are so much better at this than I am!”. Not true of course, but oh how magical to read with her.

                                                                                                                                   Camille (1984 film)

JR: Do you ever do conventions?

JDC: Yes, we had some planned for the 50th anniversary, but sadly all on hold.

 

JR: That is sad. Would love to get to see you at a convention! How are your interactions with fans?

JDC: Interesting, especially the lady who has a full sized tattoo of me on her back! (Kansas City)

JR: Now THAT’S a fan! On your Facebook page, Julie Dawn Cole – The ORIGINAL Veruca Salt, you recently posted videos of you reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was such a treat. I read the comments in the videos, and you just saw how much that meant to fans. It really was nice of you to do. Did that give you a new sense of how much of a part you played in the childhoods of so many people?

JDC: That was a fun thing to do, and early lockdown was such a scary time for us all. It was lovely to see all the comments, and I feel I know so many of the fans. It was such a thrill that people enjoyed it. When  we first did it, my kids said ‘ who is going to watch it?’ I” don’t know “I replied, ‘but I know the neighbours’ children will be watching, so that is 3.”I was stunned when we were getting thousands of hits. We are thinking of maybe doing it again for a YouTube channel. Watch this space!

JR: Will the videos be up for a while?

JDC: Hope so!

JR: Since we’re a site dedicated to children’s books, what was your favorite childhood book?

JDC: Pookie! By Ivy Wallace. I read them all as a child and have been collecting them for my Granddaughter. I loved them, they are out of print now, but I managed to find a first edition. Pookie got me through some very difficult times in my childhood.

                                                                                                                                     Pookie by Ivy Wallace

JR: With so many people saying that Wonka was their favorite childhood movie, do you have a favorite childhood movie?

JDC: In search of the Castaways, starring Hayley Mills. My childhood heroine!

                                                                                                                               In Search of the Castaways

JR: I enjoyed that one as well! You currently work in a cancer center as a psychotherapist. What made you decide to transition away from acting to pursue that field?                      

JDC: It was time to do something more meaningful.

JR: That’s very admirable. How can people follow you on social media?

JDC: My Facebook page is the best way, Julie Dawn Cole, the original Veruca Salt.

Twitter – @realverucasalt

JR: Julie, I’d like to once again thank you for joining us. This has been a real treat, and you’re welcome back anytime!

JDC: Thank you!

 

Again, I highly recommend checking out Julie’s memoir, I Want it Now! There were so many great behind-the-scenes stories from Willy Wonka, and Julie included perosnal letters and pictures from the time, which made you feel like you were there. 

Check it out:

Julie’s site, where you have an opportunity to have it personalized: https://www.juliedawncole.co.uk/

IndieBound:

B&N:

STEM Tuesday — Pollinators — Interview with Author Rebecca Hirsch

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Rebecca Hirsch, author of WHERE HAVE ALL THE BEES GONE? Pollinators in Crisis. The book received a starred review from Booklist, saying Hirsch gives “a well-balanced and objective presentation” and that the book is “an important resource for all libraries.”

Mary Kay Carson: How’d you come to write Where Have All the Bees Gone?

Rebecca Hirsch: Around 2010 my children and I began volunteering at the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden, a big pollinator garden in my hometown in Pennsylvania. Our job was to plant and weed a small area. The Master Gardeners who ran the garden would come by and share with us an interesting flower or a plant that was really buzzing with bees. I noticed how excited they were about all the bees. Native bees were something I had not previously given much thought to. Once I started paying attention, I began to notice all the bees too, not only in the pollinator garden but also in my own backyard. Around the same time I began to see news stories about possible declines among native bees. Finally in 2017 I heard about the rusty-patched bumblebee becoming the first bee in the continental US to make the endangered species list. I took the plunge and pitched the idea to my editor of doing a book on bees, and got an enthusiastic thumbs up.

MKC: The book features such great interviews with bee scientists, experts, and others. Can you share a memorable research experience?

Rebecca: A favorite time was the day I spent with a group of high school students and their teacher at a local school. The students are slowly converting the lawns around their school into a series of pollinator gardens. Every year, a new group of students competes to design a new addition to the garden, then all the students help plant and tend the old and new parts of the garden. I visited on a day the students were outside working. These kids were sweating, getting dirty, and having fun. And they took such obvious pride in their garden. The school board has been so impressed, they keep funding new additions to the project. How can you be around something like that and not be inspired?

MKC: How would you describe the approach you took on this book—and why you chose it?

Rebecca E. Hirsch has published close to a hundred books for young readers, ranging from picture books for young children to nonfiction for teens. Her books have been NCTE Notable, Junior Library Guild, and the Children’s Book Committee/Bank Street College of Education Best Books selections. Learn more at www.rebeccahirsch.com

Rebecca: I wanted my readers to grasp the importance of the pollinator issue, the urgency of it, but I didn’t want the book to come across as too gloomy. I wrestled a lot with questions like, How do I make readers grasp the immensity of this issue? How do I inspire them to care? I studied techniques of persuasive writing and discovered there’s a whole toolkit of techniques that writers can use. I read other inspiring environmental books, especially Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. If you open my copy of Carson’s book you’ll see lots and lots of my notes about her writing techniques scribbled in the margins.

MKC: Do you choose to specifically write STEM books?

Rebecca: In college I majored in biochemistry and went on to earn a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin. After graduate school I spent a couple of years working as a postdoc in labs at UW and Penn State. I liked laboratory research well enough, but my favorite part of my job was doing scientific writing. I started writing science for children in 2008 when my own kids were devouring books on all sorts of topics. I was very impressed with the books they were reading, and I realized writing science books would be a way for me to use my scientific training and share my passion for science and nature with young readers.

Win a FREE copy of WHERE HAVE ALL THE BEES GONE?

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado Scientist, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson