Interview with Jean Ransom, Runner Up in the WOW! Q1 2023 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Saturday, February 18, 2023


Jean Ransom has been writing for a living since she sold her first story to Seventeen magazine at age seventeen. Over the years, she’s written for radio stations and advertising agencies, traveled internationally with a bed-and-breakfast magazine, and published numerous articles in national and regional magazines and newspapers. The author of nine children’s picture books, Jean became interested in writing flash fiction and micro memoir after participating in workshops at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She’s also taken several WOW! Women on Writing classes over the past several years. Jean divides her time between a house in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, and a cottage in northern Michigan, where she’s working on her Northern Naturalist certification at the local college. When Jean isn’t reading or writing or taking classes, she spends all the time she can in the woods or on the water. 

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Welcome, Jean, and congratulations on placing as a runner up in this contest! “Leaving” is a concise essay that’s also full of wisdom and emotion. What was the writing and revision process like for you with this piece? 

Jean: I think the story had been percolating for at least a year before I realized that my obsession with collecting a variety of differently-colored fallen leaves was actually helping me process my mother's decline due to Alzheimer's. That "aha" moment led to the first draft of "Leaving," written for an online class on short essays. I revised it once with suggestions from the instructor, let it "rest" for several months, then had my writers' group give me feedback. I didn't revise again so much as I cut words, but I think the final version was better for it. It was an emotional piece to write, but it came to me almost fully formed. I just had to get the words on the page. 

WOW: As a children’s book author, what advice would you give to writers hoping to explore that genre? 

Jean: Read, read, read! The children's book industry has changed a lot since I first started writing for kids. I'd advise anyone interested in exploring this avenue to binge-read as many new books as possible before even thinking about submitting a manuscript. "New" means books that have been published in the last five years. This is especially important for potential picture-book authors (and illustrators!). A public library is a great place to start! Learn what's out there, who publishes the books you're attracted to, and where you see your book fitting in. To find out how to format your manuscript, which publishing houses are open to unsolicited submissions, and whether you need an agent or even how to get one, the internet is your friend! There are so many free resources online, as well as classes, webinars, you name it. Attending a conference focused on writing for the children's market also can be a great introduction. SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) has national, regional, and state conferences, plus lots of free information on their website, 

WOW: Having been published in regional and national magazines, where do you get the inspiration for your article ideas and pitches? 

Jean: I've always been curious, though my husband says I'm just "nosy." I may read or hear or see something that catches my attention, and I'll want to know more . Whether it's an off-the-beaten-path place to visit or a person with an unusual hobby, I'll often disappear down the proverbial rabbit hole to satisfy my curiosity. I might be inspired enough to pitch a story or write an essay. At the very least, I'll end up with some "fun facts" to spring on family and friends! 

WOW: I love hearing that you sold your first piece to Seventeen magazine. What a great place to start! Do you mind telling us what it was about? 

Jean: Seventeen magazine was a wonderful place to start! Back in the day, I was an avid reader of the magazine, as well as an aspiring writer. don't know what made me think Seventeen would want my work, but I submitted it anyway! (There's something to be said for being young and fearless!) Seventeen accepted my first story, "Kitchen Capers," a humor piece about my dubious cooking skills (think chocolate-chip cookies made with salt, not sugar, and meatloaf with the consistency of a hockey puck), which ran in the June 1978 issue. I still have a copy of it! 

WOW: What books are you excited to read next? 

Jean: My TBR (To Be Read) stack is pretty tall, thanks to my book-loving and book-giving family. I'm looking forward to reading the books I received this past Christmas, including "Underland: A Deep Time Journey," by Robert Macfarlane; "Slow Birding," by Joan E. Strassman; "Sisters, " by Daisy Johnson; and "In the Company of Crows and Ravens," by John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell. I also love a good psychological thriller, and am always on the lookout for books that will keep me reading long after I should have turned off the light!


Margo Dill said...

Congratulations, Jeannie! It's great to see your smiling face on here.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I love Jeannie's writing! So wonderful to see her among the winners.

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top