Ask the Author: Kjersten Hayes
What would you like readers to know about you?
This is by no means the most important thing about me, but I try to make a point during school visits of telling kids how terrible I am at spelling. I do this because I think when kids are young, they sometimes mistakenly equate good writing with neat printing and proper spelling. Also, there’s this persistent idea out there that people who read and write a lot somehow magically get better at spelling. This can be true, and in a way makes sense because practicing anything generally does help your skills improve. And yet, I’m here to say that some brains just don’t work this way with spelling. I cannot spell well—I rely heavily on editing and spellcheck— despite being a life-long avid reader and writer. I like letting kids know they can write and even be authors without being naturally great at spelling.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
My picture book THE ELEPHANTS’ GUIDE TO HIDE-AND-SEEK is a tongue-in-cheek guide for Elephants who want to overcome their size disadvantage when it comes to the game of hide-and-seek.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
My original idea came from combining two ideas during Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm challenge. First, I had this idea to make a parody guidebook as a picture book. Then, while looking through my idea journal, I stumbled upon a memory I’d written down a few years before. The memory was from when my son was young and we lived in Malaysia, where we learned about, met, and fell in love with elephants. One Christmas, while home in WA state for a visit, my son looked out the car window and said “Look mom! A forest! That where the elephant’s live!” I pictured elephants hiding in the NW forest which made me laugh. Anyway, from there I took the idea of hiding elephants and combined it with my parody guide idea to get a new idea: a guide for elephants wanting to be better at hide-and-seek.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
Brainstorming possibilities is nearly always my favorite part of writing. For this book I especially loved brainstorming during revision. For example, at one point I decided the first sentence was good, but probably could be better. So, I made a goal to spend a whole day coming up with one hundred different options for the first line. It was hard to come up with so many choices! But it really pushed me to make a fun opening that I love: “The game begins, dear elephant. But let us guess…you are the only pachyderm playing.”
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Gosh, too many to name. My favorite author as a kid was Ezra Jack Keats—I just loved the collage style of his illustrations and the sense of wonder and play in his writing. I especially loved THE SNOWY DAY. Even now when I think of the main character Peter, it’s like I’m thinking about a childhood friend instead of a character in a book.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun with both. That’s the advice I return to myself over and over. But also, especially for writers who feel like they are toiling rather than playing, I’d say try letting go of only perfecting that one manuscript (or part of a manuscript) you’ve been working on forever in favor of also writing a bunch of stuff that you are less attached to. You don’t have to let go of a precious work-in-progress altogether, especially if it’s a project of your heart. But improving at anything requires practice, and you will get more practice writing lots than you will get by toiling at one thing. When you get more practice, you will likely get better at your craft, and then, perhaps ironically, you may also find it’s easier to come back to that one precious thing and do it justice.
Where to buy my book: My local bookstore Village Books currently has signed copies. Otherwise, I’m happy to send people bookplates, especially when they support their local bookstores.
Social Media Links: