Jill Bryant - Author

Jill Bryant is an author who specializes in children's nonfiction. “When I was a child, I loved anything creative or active. I liked climbing trees, walking on stilts, building forts, and putting on puppet shows. I was always busy.” It's not surprising that Jill has found much of her inspiration from her own childhood.

Her long-time interest in foreign cultures prompted her to travel overland from England to India in 1991. Soon after she travelled around Southeast Asia and worked in Sapporo, Japan. Jill has lived and worked in five countries: Canada, Japan, U.S.A., England, and Germany. Her experiences abroad have made her better able to see new things with fresh eyes, and consider different perspectives.

Jill's foray into the publishing industry began when she was a co-op student at the University of Waterloo, where she earned an Honors Bachelor of Arts in English and Applied Studies with a minor in Drama. She published her first book seven years after graduating while working as an editor at a publishing house in Toronto. Since 1998, Jill has worked as a freelance editor for Canadian publishers, including Scholastic, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Pronk & Associates, and Nelson. She also writes reviews for Quill & Quire magazine, and contributes science articles to KNOW magazine.

Jill's book Making Shadow Puppets, which she co-authored with Catherine Heard, won a Parent's Guide to Children's Media Award (Honors) in 2002, and a Parent's Choice Award (Approved Award Winner) in 2003. This book was also on the Our Choice List in 2003. Jill's personal favorite is her latest book, Backyard Circus.

Jill Bryant lives in Kingston, Ontario with her husband and their two daughters. “I am very happy to be back in Canada, surrounded by great Canadian books!”

Birthplace?
Toronto, Ontario

Birthday?
April 1! I'm not joking.

Where do you live now?
On the coast, just outside Halifax, Nova Scotia.

When did you start writing?
I enjoyed recording things as a child. In the summer, I played make-believe “Spy” with my friends and I jotted down neighborhood happenings in a little notebook. I remember that I used to “narrate” in my head as I walked home from school, pretending I was a famous author. I liked writing nonsense poems, using “Jabberwocky” as a model.

What is the thing you like the most about creating kids' books?
I love turning kids on to books! I love seeing a child get really excited about a book. As a creator, I hope that some of my books will draw kids into the world of reading.

What were your favorite books when you were younger?
I loved Charlotte's Web by E.B. White and the Anne and Emily series of books by L.M. Montgomery. I liked poetry books a lot, too. My favorites were Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

What are your hobbies?
I like swimming, canoeing, cycling, aerobics, cross-country skiing and camping. I enjoy traveling to faraway countries with really different ways of life, like India, Thailand and Iran. I also have fun sewing and making gifts for people.

What is your favorite food?
Mmmm, vegetarian lasagna is one of my favorite meals. I also love homemade cookies --- oatmeal raisin are the ones I crave most often.

What was your training or schooling?
I went to the University of Waterloo. I completed an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Applied Studies Arts Co-op with a major in English Literature and a minor in Drama.

How did you get involved with children's books?
When I was at the University of Waterloo, I had a co-op job at a resort as a children's supervisor. At this job, I rediscovered children's books. I used to do lots of reading aloud and role-playing with the kids. Then I started thinking maybe I could write children's books. I wrote a story that summer called “Wimpy Wave.” It was never published, but it made me want to learn more about writing and the publishing industry.

Do you have any tips for young creators?
Enjoy your childhood and pursue your dreams.

What is your favorite movie?
I've Heard the Mermaids Singing.

Where do you work?
In my fourth-floor study. My house looks like a lighthouse, and the study is at the very top. I have a great view of the ocean from my desk.

How do you research?
I use the library and the Internet. I talk to people I know and sometimes I use directories to find experts in a field I don't know. Then I phone them, or meet with them, and ask them questions.

Where do you get your ideas?
Sometimes people come to me and ask me to do a book with them on a certain topic. I'd like to use ideas from my childhood for books in the future.

What's your greatest childhood memory?
I have lots of fabulous memories from my childhood. In grade one, I used to ride an imaginary horse, named Crackercrumbs, to school. I would stop to pick up my friend down the street who also rode an imaginary horse.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
In grade three, I wanted to be a lumberjack because I wanted to stand on logs and roll them in the water. I thought this balancing act looked like great fun! Later, I wanted to be a writer, an actor and, for a while, a marine biologist.

What is the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had?
The most interesting job I had as a teenager was explaining petroglyphs, ancient wall paintings painted by Native peoples, to visitors at Agawa Bay Provincial Park in northern Ontario. This was a special two-week placement that I had while working as a Junior Ranger.

Making Shadow Puppets

2003 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2003 - Parents' Choice Approved Award, Winner

Non-fiction