#RisingStarsinKidLit Erika Lynne Jones

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To close out this crazy and unprecedented year, I wanted to take some time to highlight my fellow kidlit creators who are working their tails off to birth their beautiful book babies into the world.  These interviews will cast a light on the wonderful work of these pre-published, unagented authors and author-illustrators who are destined to be stars! 

​Meet Rising Star 
​Author-Illustrator Erika Lynne Jones!

Erika Lynne Jones is an author and illustrator living in Dallas, Texas with her husband and three daughters. Experiencing different cultures and relating to people with a variety of life experiences was one of the key values instilled in her growing up. Getting to pass this on to her children as a homeschool teacher and to many others through her art and storytelling truly lights her up. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Storyteller Academy and has taken MANY Make Art That Sells Courses. 
​Erika won the “Beans Around The World” illustration contest sponsored by They Draw and Cook and The USDA Dry Bean Council (2020). She also won an illustration scholarship to the Kweli Journal Color of Children’s Literature 2020 Conference. She’s also published in They Draw and Travel’s map anthology, 100 Illustrated Maps of Very Special Places. And most recently she won the Make Art That Sells Illustrating Children’s Books Video Competition.

Erika Lynne Jones is an author and illustrator living in Dallas, Texas with her husband and three daughters. Experiencing different cultures and relating to people with a variety of life experiences was one of the key values instilled in her growing up. Getting to pass this on to her children as a homeschool teacher and to many others through her art and storytelling truly lights her up. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Storyteller Academy and has taken MANY Make Art That Sells Courses.

Erika won the “Beans Around The World” illustration contest sponsored by They Draw and Cook and The USDA Dry Bean Council (2020). She also won an illustration scholarship to the Kweli Journal Color of Children’s Literature 2020 Conference. She’s also published in They Draw and Travel’s map anthology, 100 Illustrated Maps of Very Special Places. And most recently she won the Make Art That Sells Illustrating Children’s Books Video Competition.

Experiencing different cultures and relating to people with a variety of life experiences was one of the key values instilled in Erika growing up. Photo Credit: © 2020 Erika Lynne Jones

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

AD: ​Welcome, Erika and thanks for joining me on the blog! I’m so excited to have you here and to learn more about who you are and the work you create for kids. You are another Rising Star who had a recent milestone so before we jump into your interview, please tell us about your BIG news….drum roll please….

ELJ: Thanks, Amanda. I recently accepted an offer for representation with Painted Words, an illustration and literary agency! My agent is Claire Easton. I actually queried the agency exclusively three plus years ago, and I wasn’t quite ready. I kept working on my art. As I was getting ready to start querying again this year, they were at the top of my list, so I’m thrilled it came full circle. One cool/helpful thing is my soon to be agent was following me on Instagram and excited about my work.

AD: That’s amazing, Erika! Full circle is right!! How exciting it must have been to have one of your top agencies follow you on Instagram and now you are a part of that same agency! Dreams come true! I suppose that is evidence of the importance of putting our work out into the world. You never know who is looking 🙂 Can you tell us a little bit about your time querying?

ELJ: My querying period this time was pretty short. I began in September sending a mix of query letters and attending virtual pitches and critiques at conferences (I’d scheduled them in July). I had offers to consider in October, officially accepting in early November.

AD: Well….it’s official! You are now agented!  Woohooo and BIG congrats! What an inspiration! I can’t wait to hear more about you and your work!

AD: Let’s jump into a speed round…
  • Top three favorite children’s books of all time? The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, The Best Time of Day by Valerie Flournoy and George Ford (out of print but I found an old library copy on Amazon), Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • Coffee, tea (or neither)? Tea
  • Where is your safe place? My home
  • Dogs, cats, (or neither)? Neither
  • Early bird or night owl? Night Owl
  • Three words to describe what it takes to make it in the kidlit world…

           Determination, Inspiration, Talent​

AD: Okay, now down to the serious stuff….
Did you always know you wanted to be an author-illustrator? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
 
ELJ: I fantasized about being an author since childhood. I didn’t realize until the last five years or so that I could learn how to draw and become an Illustrator. I worked in education and was a nonprofit executive director in the past. I am also a homeschool teacher.
 
AD: Yes! I love this! It is never too late to learn a new skill, and you are proof of that. So inspiring! 🙂 I get frustrated and discouraged when I hear adults and students say, “I’m not an artist” or “I can’t do art.” As you said, making art is something everyone can learn. It’s just a matter of interest , dedication, and effort. AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing/art? Favorite genres you like to write in or favorite art materials/techniques?ELJ: Oddly enough I focus on fears I had as a kid that held me back in some way or took me off my path. I feel like there’s power in calling these things out for kids at an earlier age so they aren’t robbed of the joy of being themselves. I like picture books, although I do have a middle grade book in the digital cloud. I’ve fallen in love with collage during the pandemic. ​AD: There definitely is a power in bringing attention to our fears through our stories and helping children work through them. It is easy to get caught up in the worry and anxieties of life but as you said, this robs us of our joy. I’m so glad you highlight this in your work. Children (and adults) need these stories.  
© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

 

AD: Breaking into the publishing industry is not easy! What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far? What have you done to persevere?

ELJ: The time it takes to learn and practice your craft and you have to invest quite a bit in materials and courses. To persevere I’ve relied heavily on the support of my husband and on accountability and critique partners. Without people to talk to and get encouragement from who really understand the journey of a creative, I think this would be impossible. My faith in God also plays a role in my ability to persevere. I consistently meditate and journal to overcome imposter syndrome, and it’s in my journaling that I often receive Wisdom about the next steps for my career journey.

AD: The creative life can be very solitary and isolating if we let it so I’m glad you have your support systems in place to lift you up and keep you accountable. I’ve found mediation and journaling helpful as well. There is something powerful about quieting our minds and making space to really listen and reflect.

AD: As creators (and humans), we tend to focus on the flaws of our creations or areas for improvement. This helps us grow and develop, but we need not forget the many things we are doing well.  With this in mind, what has been your biggest accomplishment or something you are most proud of thus far on your writing/illustration journey?
 
ELJ: Submitting my work to an illustration contest and being chosen as a cash, grand prize winner earlier this year was a big deal. I’m also proud of persisting past doubt to hone in on my own style and voice in art and storytelling, and most recently, I’m proud of signing with my agent.   

AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author/illustrator? What makes your art/writing unique to you?

ELJ: My strengths would be my sense of humor and my empathy for people in general, but especially for people with differences. I think the combination of every life experience makes your work unique – my experiences as an African American woman, my experiences as a daughter, wife, mother, travel and educational experiences etc.

AD: Yes! Our experiences make us who we are and help our unique voices shine through in our work.  

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

 
AD: What inspires your work?
 
ELJ: My family and my childhood inspire it quite a bit, as well as other artists and forms of art.
 
AD: Tell us about your creative process and what you do to keep ideas flowing or what you do when feeling stuck?
 
ELJ: My creative process hmmm. Well I try to journal every morning – like morning pages. I try to get regular exercise and eat well. I think these choices all help more than we know. Sleep is a plus too. 
I usually begin a new art project or assignment with Pinterest, lots of copy paper, and a pencil or pen. I go back and forth using the strengths of both digital and analog tools until I’m happy with the final product. Writing projects usually begin with flashes of images and me grabbing something to jot down what I see in my head. 
 
AD: I love when those flashes of images or inspiration come to us! It’s always a great feeling!
 
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author-illustrator?
 

ELJ:

AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?

ELJ: Have fun creating, because people can feel it. And be yourself. 

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

© 2020 Erika Lynne Jones Art

AD: Where can readers find out more about you and your work? ELJ:

Erika, thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself and contributing to the Rising Stars in Kidlit series and congrats again on landing an agent! We can’t wait to read your stories and see your work in the hands of young readers! Best of luck as you continue this next phase of your journey! Feel free to drop a comment below to support Erika and her work. Stay tuned for next week where we get to meet another Rising Star in Kidlit, and be sure to subscribe below so you don’t miss out and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit.If you are interested in being featured in the Rising Stars in KidLit series, please complete the following Getting to Know You form to be considered. Thank you!  ​

Responses to “#RisingStarsinKidLit Erika Lynne Jones”

  1. Dedra Davis

    Wow! You’re beginning story is so much like mine! Fail forward! We will get there!!

    Reply

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