Meet the author: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

• Author website/social media: Twitter: @jtbigelow Instagram: @authorjamilah

• Tell me a little about yourself: I am an African American Muslim woman from Philadelphia, PA. I am married with two sons. I work for Mighty Writers, a nonprofit that provides free writing program for youth ages 2 to 18. I am also a new children’s book writer. I love children’s literature. My favorite types of kidlit to read are picture books and YA fiction.

• When you were my age, did you like to read? I’m not sure how old you are but I’m going to say yes because I can’t really think of a time in my life when i didn’t enjoy reading. I’ve always liked reading stories but as a little girl, I even liked reading newspapers even though I didn’t understand what I was reading. I liked trying to read difficult words and the feel of them on my lips.

1 What was your favorite story? I fell in love with a book when I was in 4th grade called The Shimmershine Queens by Camille Yarbrough. It’s not exactly well known but it was probably the first time I read a book about girls who had lives similar to mine and that made me feel good about myself.

2 How do you get your ideas? My kids give me lots of ideas and so do the kids I work with. Sometimes, I simply sit down and make myself start writing even if I don’t have an idea. Eventually, an idea will come.

3 What author do you really like right now? Right now, I love all things Jacqueline Woodson.

4 Do you have any new or lesser known authors or illustrator you would suggest? Look for Ashley Franklin in 2019. She has some pretty impressive work coming out including her debut picture book, Not Quite Snow White.

5 There is a lot of talk about the need for multicultural books. What do you think about this? I think we need to keep talking about it. There are still so many unheard stories and so many people who are not represented in kidlit. The quality of kidlit has improved with addition of more diverse voices. Let’s add more.

6 What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author/illustrator? I would say read, read, read the types of books you like–the ones you wish you had authored. Then, imitate. Try to write your own version of that work. Try to recreate that art–again and again. Recreate and then put your own twist on it. Nothing will teach you more than imitating the artists who have already done it.

7 As an illustrator/author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? A little bit on social media. I am new so I don’t have many readers yet, but it does feel worthwhile when someone tells me how much they love my work or how my work made an impact on them.

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