Meet the author: Jean Reagan

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Tell me a little about yourself:  I’m the author of the silly HOW-TO series that started with HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA in 2012.  Lee Wildish is the super talented, hilarious illustrator.  HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDMA came out in 2014, and then in 2015 HOW TO SURPRISE A DAD and HOW TO CATCH SANTA were published.   Next year will bring two more books:  HOW TO RAISE A MOM and HOW TO GET YOUR TEACHER READY.  Just in time for Halloween 2018, HOW TO CATCH A GHOST will be out.

I was born in Fairhope, Alabama, but spent most of my childhood in Japan.

Something you may not know about me is that each summer, my husband and I are wilderness volunteer rangers in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  We live in a little cabin without running water or electricity. Elk, deer, bears, and an occasional mountain lion are our neighbors.

When you were my age, did you like to read?   I struggled to learn how to read, even though I tried really, really hard.  I felt SO frustrated. Finally at eight years old, I became comfortable reading.

What was your favorite story? SMILING HILL FARM was the first book I loved.  Then I discovered Beverly Cleary’s early books and ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN.

How do you get your ideas? I start with a title (or premise) and then brainstorm ideas around that.  All kinds of ideas—good and bad, serious and ridiculous.  Then I choose my favorites and try to work a story around them.  I also ask friends and family for suggestions.  (I’m great at “stealing” ideas!)

Is it hard to write a book? 
 For me, sometimes writing flows very easily, but other times it feels positively hopeless and impossible.  While writing each book, at least once I experience a period of I-should-go-do-dishes-because-at-least-I-know-how-to-do-dishes!! I can be quite dramatic and pathetic.  ☺  By the way, I got over 300 rejections from publishers before I sold my first book.  So, yes, it was hard for me.  Other authors have success WAY before that many rejections!

Do you have a favorite among the books you have written/illustrated? Generally my favorite book is the one I just completed.  It feels so fresh and exciting.  Plus, I love wallowing in my huge sense of relief that it’s off to the printer!

What author do you really like right now?
  I love anything by Kate DiCamillo.  I also find Sandra Boyton’s books absolutely delightful, but they’re for very young kids.

What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? Read, read, read!  And better yet, do what you’re doing, review books.  While you read ask, “What do I like?  What don’t I like?” and most importantly “Why?” and “How did the author do that?”

Enter writing contests!  My first successes came from writing contests.  Winning contests kept me going despite all those dreaded rejections.

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