What is your earliest memory of books?
My parents never read to me, but sometimes my older sister did. I had no picture books, or any books, of my own as a kid. I discovered the love of books when I was in second grade. The first one I read was The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. I was so surprised that I knew all the words and could read it by myself.
The first chapter book I read was the Little Bear, by Elsa Minarik. I loved Little Bear's family and how sweet his mother, father, and grandparents were. I had no grandparents, and while my dad was nice, my mom was "challenging." Little Bear became my favorite as a child. I still like the Little Bear books and read them to my daycare kids.
The summer I turned ten we moved from Pennsylvania to California because there was no work for my father. He worked in the steel mill, and he spent more time laid off than working. My uncle lived in California and said that he could get my dad a job.
I was a little hick from the farm country who was now living in a city. I had never seen a sidewalk, a water sprinkler, or a grocery store. I talked funny and got teased for that. In that summer, my mom took me to the library. I had never seen such a place.
I know now that is was a tiny library, but to me it was an amazing place.
Mom thought it was wonderful for me to read, as long as I got my chores done. I remember reading Gone with the Wind while trying to set the table. She didn't care for that. But, I never got into trouble for reading.
What sparked your interest in becoming a picture book creator?
I have a Facebook page for my daycare called “Harriet the Nursemaid”. It is from my dog Harriet's point of view. She is an integral part of the daycare. My sister-in-law challenged me to write a book about Harriet. That's what got me started writing children's stories.
Harriet is my muse, as well as the children. I listen to their play, and when I hear a good idea, I write it down. I have a lifetime of reading books to children, and I have learned what stories interest kids.
Tell us a little bit about your current project and what else you are doing to work toward publication.
It is called Harriet, Lilly and the Rainbow. It is the story of a sensible dog named Harriet and her best friend Lilly, a little girl with a big imagination. Lilly's creativity gets them into some prickly situations, one being how to have a tea party on top of the rainbow that appeared in the backyard one day.
I have other books in the making as well. One is about Harriet playing hide and seek in the forest with a child. Another is about a new baby starting in the Daycare. Also, I have another 'Harriet' story about her taking a child to meet the school bus and all the adventures they have along the way.
I recently completed a picture book writing course with the Children's Book Academy. I am in an ongoing critique group with some fellow students from that class. I belong to SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), and there are some meetups and events in the future with them.
I do want to submit the 'Rainbow' book as soon as I get it to the place that I am happy with it. And I write a pitch!
What is the best advice that anyone has given you during this journey toward a published author?
My husband asked me one day “Are you having fun doing this ?’’ He told me that if I’m not having fun, then it is just one more chore I have to do. I would like to submit someday, but I don’t have a goal yet for that.
Your husband's advice sounds right on the spot. Especially when writing for kids, as authors we have permission to play! Contrary to what some writers would have you believe, creating is about joy. Your husband is a smart guy.
Last question for you: if there was a book written about your life, what would the title be and why?
I always thought the title of a book about me would be Hey Joy-Joy, in the style of James Herriot, the Yorkshire vet from the 30's and 40's. Years ago I had a little guy in my daycare. He was a little cutie bug.
Every day we had this conversation:
You get the picture. It would go on for several more times before he told me what he wanted to say. It was adorable! This little guy is 15 now and still just as sweet and cute.
To this day I still get 'Hey, Joy-Joy' all day long.
Thank you, Joy, for taking the time to share your journey as an aspiring writer, as well as that of the beautiful Harriet, with us. This was fun. Good luck to you and Harriet. We hope to celebrate a book birthday with you guys in the future.
If you want to follow the day-to-day adventures of Harriet the Nursemaid and her buddies at the daycare, check out her Facebook page here.
*ALL PHOTOGRAPHS ARE PROPERTY OF JOY ERIKSEN AND MAY NOT BE USED WITHOUT HER PERMISSION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED**