Saturday, October 22, 2022

Q&A with Jayne Pillemer




Jayne Pillemer is the author of the new children's picture book Still Mine. A former children's book editor, she lives in Westchester, New York.


Q: You’ve said that your grandmother was the inspiration for Still Mine--can you say more about why you decided to write the book?


A: My oldest child was two when my grandmother passed away. Until then, I hadn’t really thought about how to talk to a child about death, and the loss of my grandmother sort of jolted me.


I realized how difficult it was to grieve while being a parent, to work through your own emotions while simultaneously being responsible for explaining such a hard thing to someone so young.


I was a children’s book editor for HarperCollins for several years before I left to raise my family, and being a book person, I naturally turned to books to help me find the words. But I couldn’t find anything that felt right to me at that time. 


My Grandma Helen had an incredible ability to make special time for each of her 10 grandchildren, which created unforgettable memories. I thought about all the ways she would always be in my heart, and how I could share some of the things we loved to do together with my kids. 


These feelings, a need in the market, and my experience in publishing led me to start writing, and as I worked through various ideas, I really began to feel I had something that wasn’t just for me and my kids, but could be a story for everybody.


Q: What do you think Sheryl Murray’s illustrations add to the book?


A: One of the things I love to show in my visits to schools and libraries is the original manuscript of Still Mine. I always ask the kids, “Does this look like a book?” and they yell, “Noooo!”


Sheryl’s illustrations turned my Word document into a book, and without her, Still Mine wouldn’t exist in the beautiful form it is today. I don’t really think of her work as additive, I think of it as life-giving!


Sheryl certainly brought her own grief and her own love to the book—she connected with the text so personally.


What I adore most about her artwork is the way that she achieved movement in each background. This fluidity depicts love in the air—it swirls all around us in this almost magical current, because it is the most beautiful and indestructible force. 

In the breeze, in the steam of the hot chocolate, in the glimmer of the stars, love is moving all around the characters in invisible but feel-able ways, just like it does for all of us.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: This manuscript went through many different incarnations. The central idea—love never goes away—was always at the core, but the voice and structure morphed many times.


In the beginning, I was playing with something like “With You, Always” but it never felt right.


At one point, I began thinking about the confusion that loss can create. I wondered, “If a child loses a sibling, are they an only child now, or do they still have a sibling?” I also thought about how children feel comfort when emphasis is placed on what they get to keep, versus what is being taken away.


Those two musings began to work together and sparked the Still Mine refrain.  Once that clicked, the rest of it began to flow into final form. Still Mine signifies the permanence of love and memories, a gentle reassurance that those we care about stay in our hearts forever.


Q: The Kirkus Review of Still Mine says, in part, “Although carefully devoid of nominal spirituality, the message the story sends is clear: The lost loved one is still there, still theirs, living on in the memory of the love they shared.” What do you think of that description?


A: I was so happy Kirkus Reviews understood that my intention for Still Mine was to be universal in message. My husband and I were raised with different religions, and I wanted this to be a book that could be for everybody, regardless of their religion or spirituality. 


There are all sorts of beliefs and terminology about where we go after life on Earth and all sorts of practices and rituals that are followed at the end of a life, but we all cherish memories and love just the same.  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Raising three young children, mostly! I try to carve out time during my littlest one’s naptime a couple of times a week to work on a few different ideas that I have percolating! Still Mine took years, but I got it right in the end, so I’ve embraced the slow and steady method.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: It can be really meaningful to have a book like this signed in memory of someone who is Still Yours. I gladly send signed bookplates to any reader who would like to put one inside their copy. 


An adult can message me on Instagram @jaynepillemerbooks, and I’ll put one in the mail as quick as I can. All I need is the name of the person the book is for, the name of the person the book is in memory of, and an address for mailing! 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment