Janice Law is the author of the new children's book Capitol Cat & Watch Dog Hunt Thomas Jefferson's Hair in the Library of Congress. It's the third in a series. She is a retired Texas criminal court judge and the founder of the American Women Writers National Museum.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new children’s book?
A: My first two children’s books in this educational series were on the U.S. Capitol Building and Congress, followed by a book on the Supreme Court Building and SCOTUS justices. So it seemed sequential to next feature another landmark institution and building: the Library of Congress, known as LOC.
In the six years since I founded the nonprofit American Women Writers National Museum (AWWNM) in D.C., many women who work or worked at LOC continue to be extremely supportive with all aspects of AWWNM. I wanted to honor the institution in which they serve or served.
Also I want to acknowledge a new era with the appointment of Carla Hayden as Librarian of Congress, She is the first African American and first female to hold that distinguished post.
Q: Did you need to do much research to write the book?
A: Yes, I did a lot of research. It was tremendously fun, as was writing all the puns.
Although I am an attorney, I came from the “old school” journalism world. I grew up in the tradition of men with green eyeshades and white shirts with the sleeves rolled up, siting on “the rim” (desk edge) in a raucous, newsroom, competing for who could create the “best/worst” pun in headlines.
I tried to recreate some of their “pun-y” talent in chapter titles, dialogue, and when the book’s characters speak in poetry.
Q: Did you learn anything you found especially fascinating?
A: Given the intense interest in another Founding Father--Alexander Hamilton, via a magnetic stage musical--I reasoned that the subject of another Founding Father, President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), might prove an effective marketing peg.
President Jefferson’s hobbies and intellectual curiosity are central in solving my book’s core mystery--a missing LOC exhibit--a cutting of President Thomas Jefferson’s hair.
Everything about President Thomas Jefferson is fascinating.
As President John F. Kennedy famously remarked to a 1962 WH gathering of Nobel Prize winners: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House; with the possible exception of when President Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: The extent and variety of LOC collections. As Capitol Cat & Watch Dog show us, LOC is way more than books.
And the book corrects a common misunderstanding caused by the confusing name Library of CONGRESS. Because of that misnaming, many people think that LOC is only for Congress members.
LOC is open to the public, and is, in effect, America’s national library. A re-naming of LOC should perhaps, be considered to more accurately reflect reality: The Library of America.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Promotion, marketing, and publicity for Capitol Cat & Watch Dog Hunt Thomas Jefferson’s Hair in the Library of Congress! Those unfamiliar with the “book biz” think an author just writes a book and buyers immediately form lines at bookstores and log on to internet book sites to purchase copies.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Learning details of the clever work of Mark Dimunation, chief of LOC’s rare book section. Over decades, Mr. Dimunation has devoted his life to replicating or replacing about 4,000 of Jefferson’s book collection lost in two fires.
Dimunation’s unflagging persistence, enthusiasm and resultant success are a testament to what one devoted person can do to achieve a worthy goal. He’s a star!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Janice Law.