Jean E. Pendziwol - Author
Jean E. Pendziwol is the author of Once Upon a Dragon A Treasure at Sea for Dragon and Me and No Dragons for Tea, which has been recognized by the National Fire Prevention Association as a recommended resource for teaching fire safety. She lives with her family in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where she divides her time between family, writing and pursuing elusive dragons.
I was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, but at that time Thunder Bay was two cities, Port Arthur and Fort William. So, technically, I was born in Port Arthur.
Where do you live now?
When did you start writing?
Even as a very young child, I had an active imagination, and once I could write, I loved putting words together into rhymes and stories. I went through poetry stages and stages when I did very little writing at all. When writing professionally for magazines, I did very little creative writing.
How do you research or create your stories?
By being with my children and experiencing life through their eyes. I try to write stories that will speak to them and that they will learn from. I also draw from my life experiences --- my childhood, my interests and activities. When I need to, I contact people who are experts in an area that I'm researching and look for their input. Other books also provide inspiration and information.
What is your favorite book?
Just one? O.K.,To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Do you have any pets?
We make do with the neighbor's dog, and all the wildlife that comes to visit us --- rabbits, deer, coyotes, the occasional bear, once, a moose and, once too often, a skunk.
What is your favorite food?
What are your hobbies?
Besides writing, I like to cook (especially pizza), hike, cross country ski and kayak.
What was your training or schooling?
After high school, I worked for a printing company that gave me the experience to get a job at an advertising agency that published a city-lifestyle magazine. From there, I started freelancing, mostly for trade publications. I guess you could say my training was in reading good quality, well-written books.
How did you get involved with children's books?
After my own children were born, I fell in love with children's literature. At the heart of every good children's book is a story. The simple beauty of the story is then dressed in exceptional, even poetic, writing, and paired with breathtaking, enchanting art. Some of the best books ever written were written for children. I also use a literature-based educational program for my children's schooling. We use well-written, living books with characters and stories wrapped around history and experiences. I've learned a lot about what makes a good children's book by choosing, reading and learning from these books.
Do you have any tips for young creators?
Experience life and read, read, read! (Of course, writing helps, too!)
What is the thing you like the most about creating kids' books?
That someone will read my story and it will become part of their life experience.
Where do you work?
I have a computer in my family room/school room. But at this busy stage of my life, a lot of my “writing” is done in my head while I'm walking, kayaking or doing something else. That way, I have a better sense of where my story is going when I sit down with pen and paper, or at the computer.
Where do you get your ideas?
From my children, from my life experiences, and from things that interest me.
What's your greatest childhood memory?
Sailing with my parents. We spent our summers on Lake Superior, and one year, when I was a teenager, we spent 14 months living on our boat. We sailed from Thunder Bay to the Bahamas and back.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to live on a farm like Laura Ingalls and grow my own food and milk my own cows and heat my house with a wood stove and eat corn dodgers. (I've since had corn dodgers and they taste really awful.).
What is the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer with my children at Fort William Historical Park and re-enact the fur trade as it was in the year 1815. I became “Sophie,” a Metis woman married, “in the custom of the country,” to a tradesman under contract with the North West Company. I worked in the garden, talked to tourists from the year 2000 about my life and learned more history than I realized. What a great life experience! (Kind of like Laura Ingalls, but we got to go home and have pizza for supper.)