Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


An Interview with Joni Sensel

I met Joni Sensel a few years ago when she was a group leader at our local SCBWI Great Critique. Things went so well that night, the five of us decided to continue meeting as a critique group. One member eventually dropped out, but the rest of us are going strong!

Joni is a busy gal. She has written two humorous picture books (one of which earned a 2001 Henry Bergh Children’s Book Honor from the ASPCA); a nonfiction history of Weyerhaeuser’s first 100 years; a very funny middle grade novel (Reality Leak); and, so far, three compelling fantasy titles: The Humming of Numbers (a Junior Library Guild selection), The Farwalker’s Quest (a 2009 Cybils Award finalist, now in paperback), and the forthcoming The Timekeeper’s Moon (available March 2). Joni also currently serves as Co-Regional Advisor for the Western Washington chapter of SCBWI.

In the midst of all this activity, Joni agreed to answer a few questions for our blog.

When you need a break from writing, what do you like to do?

Walk or run in the woods with my dogs. Or walk the earth in distant travels. But I rarely can resist working on a writing project for more than a few days at a time, so what I most like to do is be walking a bunch and writing a bunch on the same day.

Who/what inspired you as a kid? Now?

The first person I found really inspiring was Tina Turner. Her life story gave me a solid appreciation for determination, endurance, courage, and persistence — all traits I think writers need a lot of. Now I am inspired primarily by my travels, my experiences outdoors, my random imagination, and the general wackiness of life.

If you could time-travel through history, which era would you visit? Why?

I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to go backward, unless I can get a gender switch while we’re at it; otherwise, I would probably get myself burned at the stake or stoned or something equally unpleasant. So I’d like to move forward about 100 years — far enough that I won’t be here otherwise, but near enough that I might still recognize things. Or maybe not, but I’d like to find out!

I know you like to travel. Where is the coolest place you’ve ever spent time?

The Sahara, so far. (Well, it was quite hot, actually, but we’ll talk metaphorically.) I love deserts and I’ve been to several in this country and in Niger and Namibia. For me, the emptiness makes it easier to think, to gain perspective, to relax, and, if this doesn’t sound too corny, to feel the presence of the divine. And there’s so little sensory input, relatively, that everything that IS there to see or hear or smell gains brilliance. I find being in a desert cleansing and remarkably life-affirming.

Please complete this sentence: “The best part of being an author is…”

... being part of a close-knit community of other authors, both published and unpublished. I LOVE to see the work of people working toward publication and then look on (or even help) as they make progress and contacts, sign with agents, submit to publishers, and sell books. It allows me to enjoy all the excitement of succeeding with my own projects, without any of the revisions, insecurities, long waits, or headaches! As for the already-published writers, it’s great fun to feel like they’re kinda-sorta peers and that we have things in common. I think this tribal vibe is stronger with childrens’ writers than in any other genre or category, and I really appreciate that.

For those who want to learn more about Joni and her books, you can check out her website, www.jonisensel.com. She also blogs on the Jacketflap site.

Thanks, Joni!


Stephanie said...

Great questions and answers. I was hoping you would pick Joni so we could learn more about her:)

Pam Calvert said...

I love the tribal analogy Joni used for children's writers. I know she's right! We're all bonded like a tribe and that feels good.

Great interview!

Edie said...

Very interesting interview, and I like learning something new about a fellow SCBWI RA! Also interesting thoughts to ponder about deserts.

Lauren said...

Tribal vibe-- I like this too-- I have felt it ever since I began painting picture books 16 years ago. Your thoughts on traveling backwards in time were very wise-- not something women should do unless it is several tens of thousands of years-- but traveling forwards would indeed be interesting. I look forward to reading your books, Joni!

Kim Baker said...

Great interview!
Joni's so interesting, and wicked talented. I'm always learning more about her. I'm pleased as punch that she's in our "tribe." :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fun interview! I love Joni's answer to the time-travel question... she's probably right about that for most of us. ;) I'm pleased as punch to be in Joni's tribe, too, and always love learning more about her--although I can't stand the desert (give me a Pacific Northwest rainforest any day). :)
Thanks, Mark!

Joni said...

A little slow on the uptake, I lost track of when this was going to be posted and missed the chance to chat with commenters, but you've made me blush anyway, so just as well!

Thanks, Mark -- and yay, Tribe! :)