(Please note that this page was compiled by IPL staff who corresponded with this author in 1995. It has not been updated since. Those wishing to write to this author should not write to the IPL. They should write her through the e-mail listed on her official web site at: http://www.janeyolen.com/ )
Jane Yolen has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the 20th century because of her many fairy tales and strorybooks. The author of over 150 books for children, young adults and adults, and hundreds of stories and poems, she is also the editor-in-chief of the fantasy/sf imprint for Harcourt Brace’s Children’s Book Dept: Jane Yolen Books. A past president of SFWA ( the Science Fiction and Fantasy writers of America) and a member of the Board of Directors of SCBWI (Society of Chilren’s Book Writers and Illustrators) since its inception, Ms.Yolen is a much sought after teacher, lecturer, and critic.
Among her many award-winning books are Owl Moon (Caldecott, 1988), The Empereor and the Kite Caldecott Honor Book, 1968), The Devil’s Arithmetic (Jewish Book Award), The Girl Who Loved the Wind (Lewis Carrol Shelf winner), Piggins ( winner of both the Nebraska Golden Sower Award and the New York State Charlotte Award), The Seeing Stick (Christopher Medal Award), Commander Toad in Space (winner of the New Jersey Garden State Award) and others. Ms. Yolen has also been honored with three awards for her body of work: The Kerlan Award, the Regina Medal, and the Keene State Children’s Literature Award being given this year.
She has taught children’s literature at Smith College, and is the wife of Professor David W. Stemple, the mother of three children–all of whom have done books with her– and one brand new grandchild of whom she is inordinately fond.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Ideas come from all over. It is what one does with ideas that make the difference. I have gotten ideas from paintings, from other books, from eavesdropping on conversations, from my family, from dreams, from newspaper articles, from song lyrics…..etc.
- What kind of books do you like to read?
I like to read mysteries, poetry, fantasy novels, biographies, and history books.
- Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite authors include such writers as Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, John Donne, James Thurber, Hans Christian Andersen, T.H. White, Oscar Wilde, Louisa May Alcott, Natalie Babbit, Patricia MacLachlan, Patricia McKillio, Diane Wynne Jones and many, many others.
- At the end of your story Heart’s Blood, you had Akki and Jakkin hide inside the dragon. When they come out, they pick up certain dragon senses. Why did you decide to end the story this way?
Heart’s Blood ended the way it did because I knew there was going to be a third book.
- Did you have any relatives who were in concentration camps during WWII? If not, what got you interested in the holocaust?
My family–both sides–came over at the beginning of this century and we had no family left in either the Ukraine or Latvia during World War II. I am interested in the Holocaust as a Jew and as a citizen of the world.
- How did you get your idea(s) for the series on dragons?
I love dragons, so that is why I wrote the Pit Dragon books. And I loved horses as a child, but not mucking out horse stalls. It seemed a natural step to writing about mucking out dragon stalls.
- Were you ever asked to change your name or a book title? If you were asked, how did you feel?
No one ever asked me to change my name, but book titles—Silky became Greyling; Chaya became The Devil’s Arithmetic; Hobo Toad became Hobo Toad and the Motorcycle Gang; The Simple Gift of Sarah Barker became The Gift of Sarah Barker; The Singing Reed became The Seeing Stick, etc.
- Were books a natural part of your childhood?
Books were a natural part of my childhood. My father was a journalist, my mother wrote short stories, many of their friends were authors. They thought books were Very Important.
- Did you have a favorite author while growing up?
My favorite authors growing up: Andrew Lang who put together the The Color Fairy Book collections; James Thurber, Louisa May Alcott, Albert Payson Terhune, Walter Farley, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
- How did you get started writing children’s books?
I got started in children’s books by accident. I began as a journalist and poet.
- Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy in your spare time?
My hobbies include: reading, traveling, antiquing, and listening to music.
- How long did it take to complete the dragon series?
It took about 4 1/2 years to write the three Pit Dragon books. I am thinking of writing a fourth one.