An Interview with Jaqueline Woodson
Preview Magazine, Spring 2002
What do you have to have by you to write?
Paper, a good pen, sometimes my dog. Having lots of quiet surrounding me is always nice.
Where do you write?
Wherever I can and on anything that’s handy.
What time of day do you get your best ideas?
My ideas come to me all times during the day and night. I write best in the mornings.
Describe your writing uniform.
Whom do you share your writing with first?
My girlfriend, Juliet. My friends Toshi and Teresa and then my writing group.Do you read reviews of your own work?Sometimes, and only the good ones.
What are you reading right now?
Nothing. I’m taking a long-needed break from reading and writing. Feels strange—good strange.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Some of my favorite books were No Roses For Harry, Zeely, Chicken Soup With Rice, and Stevie by John Steptoe was an all-time favorite.What was the first book you remember reading, or being read to you, as a child?I remember my big sister reading Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates— I think that was the name of it. I didn’t really like it.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
From the time I was about ten, although I was writing poetry and stories when I was seven.
What were you doing when you found out that your first book was accepted for publication?
I was working two jobs and hoping that would change.
What did you treat yourself to when you received your first advance check?
Tell me about writing Hush.
It was hard. It was a very different story for me. It gave me headaches at times and sometimes it was really rewarding. I’m glad it’s done and that Evie/Toswiah and her family are okay. Once I’ve written the book, I try to put as much of the writing experience of that particular work behind me so that I can move on. As I said before, right now I’m moving on to a break—thank goodness —and then, maybe in the new year, I’ll get back to writing. I think writing Hush really exhausted me.
Jacqueline Woodson writes picture books (The Other Side) as well as books for middle graders (Locomotion) and young adults (Hush). She tackles tough issues head-on: race relations, foster care, and incarceration are just some of the issues that her characters confront. In 2014, Woodson won the National Book Award for young people's literature, the Newbery Honor, and the Coretta Scott King Award for her memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming.
In 2018, Woodson was inaugurated as the sixth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. During her tenure (2018-2019), Woodson will travel nationwide over the course of her two-year term promoting her platform, “READING = HOPE x CHANGE (What’s Your Equation?),” which encourages young people to think about how reading can help them create the hope and the change they want to see in the world.
You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, read a short biography on Jacqueline Woodson, or see a selected list of her children's books. (This video is also available on YouTube and iTunes.)