By TIM CLEVELAND
People who came to Boardman library on Aug. 1 were treated to an appearance and a presentation by best-selling children’s author and three-time Newbery Honor recipient for children’s literature Jennifer Holm.
Holm’s presentation focused on her work on the two graphic novel series, “Babymouse” – which has sold 1.8 million copies – and “Squish,” which she does long-distance with her brother Matt [he lives in Oregon while she resides in California].
Holm talked about her childhood and how that influenced her writing career. She also involved the children, doing a live reading from one of her books and a drawing contest.
“I was a huge bookworm but the real reason I wanted to do graphic novels for kids is I grew up with four brothers and I loved reading their comics, and I wanted to see a character that I could identify with in those comics they loved so much,” she said.
Holm said almost all of her fiction is inspired by family stories or genealogy within her family.
“I usually have a kernel of an idea that was inspired by something I’ve heard about that happened in our family,” she said. “Usually it’s just the first little raw bit of sand that I’ll hopefully turn into something. I then start doing a lot of research for the historical fiction and as I write and research, I kind of go back and forth as I’m drafting.”
Holm said she focuses her fiction on the children’s market because she feels the group best represents her writing style.
“I just started writing and that was the voice that came out,” she said. “I kind of write a 13-year-old and under age group and that’s sort of my sweet spot.”
Holm said writing and finishing her books is a much more thorough process than her graphic novels.
“My novels now are taking three to four years to write,” she said. “The graphic novels come out much faster.”
One of the attendees at Holm’s appearance was 12-year-old Emily Protain of Boardman. She said she’s enjoyed reading Holm’s books.
“I read a few of the ‘Squish’ books and I’m starting to read others,” she said. “They’re fun to read.”
Holm said she loves doing appearances like the one at Boardman library because of the instant feedback she gets for her work.
“I think this is the best part of being a children’s author is seeing the audience, seeing their reaction to your stuff,” she said. “The majority of the time, you’re in your own little office with no feedback from the universe. Kids are awesome; they’ll tell you if they like it or not. They’re the most honest critics in the world.”