You’re Never Too Old or Too Late to Follow Your Dreams with Author PJ McIlvaine

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!

PJ McIlvaine

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.

Dragon ROAR!!!

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….

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