Jill Esbaum is the author of seven picture books and her latest, EVERYTHING SPRING, is released today from National Geographic Kids. There are 3 more in the pipeline:  WINTER WONDERLAND with National Geographic, TOM’S TWEET with Knopf (fall 2011), and I AM COW, HEAR ME MOO! with Dial. She lives on a farm in eastern Iowa with her family and lots of pigs 🙂

Jill, thank you so much for visiting The Writing Cave. First off, I have to ask, is there any chance some cows will ever join your pigs on the farm?

When my kids were in 4-H, my daughter refused to show pigs at the fair. She begged to participate in the bucket calf program instead. So we did have 4 steers, over the years – Brody, Buddy, Bailey, and Bobbsey (who was a twin). They were more like pets. Huge, hungry pets. Not likely we’ll have more. At this point, my husband’s more interested in DEcreasing his workload.

You’ve clearly got this writing thing figured out. How does your writing process work?

There’s a process?!   🙂

I wish I could report that I write X hours per day, without fail. But my writing habits stink. On Good Days, I might fall into The Zone fairly quickly and write for 3-4 hours before a ringing phone or doorbell has me swimming up through the story murk to wonder if it’s 9 a.m. or 5 p.m. Have I had lunch? Have I missed Gilmore Girls? What am I going to fix for supper? LOVE that.

On Bad Days, I’m staring at the screen wondering how to get from point A to point B, how to get from scene to scene in logical fashion, etc. When that happens, I’m likely to:  a) jump up to toss in a load of laundry, b) find a snack, c) go read a chapter of somebody’s else’s work (you know, as a reward for writing one good line?), d) click into Spider Solitaire, or e) read writing blogs. I can procrastinate with the best of them.

If I’m writing a rhyming pb story, I do a-e above plus sigh a lot – because I know, by now, what a rhyming story has to look/sound like in order to get published. So even in the *go ahead and write crap* stage, there’s an imp on my shoulder trying to convince me that my mojo’s kaput and I’ll never again be able to write another publishable rhyming story. Dang imp.

What things do you do to promote your books?

I send out postcards before signings, do school visits, try to maintain a web presence, and speak whenever and wherever I get the chance. I have a (sadly neglected) blog and am on Facebook. I’m not a Twitterer, even though I can see the terrific promotional possibilities there. I’m just not a chatty enough person for it. And it takes TIME, which is already in short supply. Also, I balk at the idea of trying to keep up with everybody else’s news and comment on it constantly. I have enough of my own stuff to keep sorted in my head – and space is limited in there!

Looking back on 2009, what were your three favorite reads last year?

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (and I would have said that even before it won the Newbery)
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway (FUNNIEST and most authentic YA voice I’ve encountered in a long time)
The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (he cracks me up)

I’m going to have to check those out! Do you own an electronic reader? Do you have an opinion on ebooks?

No. I’ve been tempted, but I keep thinking that as soon as I buy one, they’ll come out with The Perfect E-Reader 2.0. Besides, I’m a big supporter of the public library; most of the books I read are from there….Truthfully, I like the IDEA of ebooks, but I’m afraid I’d be too tight to be downloading them all the time. I know, I know. Not a very good opinion for somebody who’s trying to sell books, is it? Oops.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

  1. Don’t write to the market.
  2. Write from your heart, and write the story that makes YOU happy.

What are you working on next?

I’m a whopping two stanzas into another rhyming story. And those two stanzas took me two weeks to write. Hopefully, the rest of the story won’t ooze out at this glacial pace.

Finally, I’m a cheese freak, so I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

Sharp cheddar, definitely, alone or on Triscuits. I crave feta occasionally, too. I buy it for salads, then sneak most of it, pinch by pinch, before it ever has the opportunity to meet lettuce. Or, ooooh… warm Kalona cheese curds. Heaven! Great, now my stomach’s growling….

Thanks so much Jill! Learn more about Jill on her website and blog, and check out EVERYTHING SPRING, released today!