Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America” (Newsweek) and the “Aesop of the Twentieth Century” (N.Y. Times) is the author of well over 360 books, including OWL MOON, THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC, and HOW DO DINOSAURS SAY GOODNIGHT. Her work ranges from rhymed picture books and baby board books, through middle grade fiction, poetry collections, nonfiction, and up to novels and story collections for young adults and adults. She has also written lyrics for folk rock singers and groups, several animated shorts, and done voice over work and talk radio.
Her books and stories have won an assortment of awards–two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, the Golden Kite Award, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, among many others. She has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. She is also the winner (for body of work) of the World Fantasy Assn. Lifetime Achievement Award, Science Fiction Poetry Association Grand Master Award, the Catholic Library’s Regina Medal, the Kerlan Medal from the University of Minnesota, the 2012 du Grummond Medal, the Smith College Alumnae Medal, and the New England Pubic Radio Arts and Humanities Award in 2014. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates.
Also worthy of note, she lost her fencing foil in Grand Central Station on a date, fell overboard while white water rafting in the Colorado, and her Skylark Award–given by NESFA, the New England Science Fiction Association–set her good coat on fire. For more info, visit her website.
What aspect of the “good old days” do you wish would return today?
When editors could just chose a book they wanted and not what they could convince a committee of marketing folks could be bestsellers.
What is the weirdest thing about your relatives?
They are all great storytellers which means I never know if they are telling me the truth about family stories or just exaggerating (wonderfully) for effect!
Why would somebody choose not to date you?
Beats me. I’m smart, funny, and engaged in the world. Of course, I am also old, not particularly pretty, and can’t cook.
What item have you kept over the years for no good reason?
If you were the boss at your job, what incentive or perk would you offer your employees?
I AM the boss at my work, and my daughter is my PA. I let her have time off whenever she needs it and still pay her.
If you could buy one object to complete your home, what would it be?
A new roof and new paint job. Oh wait, you mean an actual item? I am at an age where I am trying to give away objects, not add to them!
If you were caught sleepwalking, where would we find you?
Opening the fridge.
If you talked in your sleep, what kinds of things would you say?
First lines to new novels or a stanza of a new poem.
What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed in the morning?
Fifteen years ago, I would probably have said, do a happy dance. Now I would say: Take a pill.
Tell us about a time that you were incredibly lazy.
I am never incredibly lazy.
What is the most physically painful thing that has ever happened to you?
Passing a gallstone. Having progressive spinal stenosis.
What profession have you always admired but could never do?
Musical comedy and Broadway.
Fill in the blank. If I had a pet robot _____.
It would make all my meals.
What are your nightmares generally about?
My husband’s death.
What is the most childish thing about you?
I read children’s books.
What expression do you normally have on your face?
I can’t see my face most of the time so haven’t a clue.
What is the most annoying thing about computers?
They try to help too much when all I want is a super fast typewriter.
If money wasn’t an issue, what would you love to own?
First class seats on every airplane I fly.
If you could bring someone famous back from the grave, who would it be?
Emily Dickinson to discuss poetry and eat some of her famous cakes.
What is the key to happiness?
Infinite available dark chocolate without any bad health reactions.
How do you know when a book is finished?
When you have nothing left to say.
When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?
When I was young. Since both my parents were writers, I assumed all adults were writers, no matter what other jobs they held.
What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have compared to people who are not creative?
We live more in our heads. We feel very alive when we are working. And often we are totally pissed off when we are interrupted. I will probably yell at Death when it comes for me, because it will be the most final and definitive of interruptions.
Have you ever felt that your personal expectations have limited your creativity? If so, how have you dealt with this?
Go on to something else.
Do you ever feel that you have to censor your creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone?
Nope. If they take offense, that’s their problem, not mine.
Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?
Wake up in the morning.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?
Don’t quit your day job, or marry well.
Why were you drawn to a career in writing instead of to a job that might offer more stability and security?
That wasn’t the choice.
Who do you consider a literary genius?
Shakespeare, Dickinson, Yeats, Isak Dinesen, Ursula Le Guin,