Truer words were never spoken than those above, and we’re delighted to see that the speaker, PJ McIlvaine is one of our favorite people and a top writer as well. Hi, PJ!
by Johnell Dewitt
PJ McIlvaine has been published in The New York Times and Newsday. PJ is also a regular contributor for the Children’s Book Insider newsletter, and a co-host of #PBPitch, a Twitter pitch party for picture book creators.
PJ has written across ages and genres, including a screenplay for Showtime which became the movie My Horrible Year. Her picture book, Dragon Roar, releases on Oct. 19, 2021 through MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, Inc, which specializes in books for readers with dyslexia.
You’ve had quite a career in writing, including writing a movie for Showtime (which earned a daytime Emmy nomination, very cool). What has that been like and why did you switch to kidlit?
Well, it’s like being on a roller coaster without a harness or safety belt. Sometimes you have to hang on and hope when the rides over, you haven’t broken every bone in your body. I consider myself a Jill of all genres when it comes to writing: I started out writing short stories, then poems, song lyrics, then eventually novels and screenplays but nothing in the kid-lit arena. Then my mother died (I was her caretaker for years), and I was now a grandma. I read picture books to the babies, and I realized hmmm, this was something I could write. So then I immersed myself fully in picture books, and soon graduated to middle grade and young adult. I have a good feel for kid lit—I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden growing up. So given where I was in my life, it was a natural evolution.
What’s been the most challenging part of writing for kids that you didn’t expect as a writer in general?
In my experience with kid lit, it’s not enough to dream up stories for kids because, generally, they aren’t the ones buying—its the adults in their lives: their parents, grandparents, relatives, etc. My goal is to write stories that kids will enjoy and adults will engage in as well….