2 Minutes with…Raising Voices Fellow: Jennifer WallacePublished 17/07/2022
Meet Jen Wallace, another of our Raising Voices Fellows. Jen is an author and parent from Cork who hopes to bring more neuro-divergent perspectives to children’s publishing.
1) What do you think are the best things about children and young adult publishing at the moment?
I get a real sense of enthusiasm and possibility around the sector right now. I love that everyone who I have met is passionate about the work that they do.
There is also a wonderful variety of festivals and events happening around young people’s literature in Ireland. I am excited to be participating in The Dublin Book Festival this year as a Raising Voices Fellow.
And the books, I love all the books!
2) What would you hope to learn from the Raising Voices Fellowship?
I hope to develop my skill to craft and polish my stories, so they become ready for publication. I also look forward to gaining some insight into the workings of the publishing world. I am grateful for the support, resources and access being provided by the Fellowship.
From the very beginning I have enjoyed the feeling of being welcomed into this community. I am looking forward to forming connections with lots of other folk who are passionate about stories.
3) What would you like to see more of in Children’s publishing?
In children’s literature, I would like to see more neurodivergent characters and more representation of different ways of being in general. We are a fabulously diverse bunch, us humans, and I would love to see the evolving language around our differing experiences reflected more in children’s books.
As a parent who has read hundreds of books aloud, I particularly love to read children’s stories grounded in landscape and the wider natural world.
From my perspective as a writer who is also a carer, I would like to see a continued and growing provision of online free/affordable workshops, information sessions, and networking for writers. Online platforms provide access to support and resources that many writers would have difficulty accessing otherwise.
4) Who or what inspires your own work?
My work is inspired primarily by my inner child, who is always encouraging me to play and to remember my sense of wonder. She loves the magic of words and she reads lots and lots of books and writes stories instead of doing housework or paperwork or boring adult stuff.
5) Recommend one piece of essential Children’s/YA literature
My kids and I have been enjoying The Great Irish Weather Book (written by Joanna Donnelly, Illustrated beautifully by Fuchsia MacAree and published by Gill Books). The author is a meteorologist and there is absolutely loads of information on all kinds of weather phenomena and on the work of the scientists. We loved reading about the weather events we had experienced, like The Beast from East and Storm Ophelia.
I must also recommend The Caterpillar. It is a gorgeous journal, full of treasures, and a pleasure to receive in the post.
Over the next six months, children’s artists Conor Bredin, Nene Lonergan, Carol McGill, Kate Moore, Aileen Swansen and Jennifer Wallace will be connected to a welcoming community of practice and supported in developing their careers. As part of the Raising Voices programme, the fellows will benefit from a host of creative and practical supports throughout the year. The fellowships are run by a group of literature organisations including Children’s Books Ireland, Illustrators Ireland, Publishing Ireland, the Dublin Book Festival and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig.
What is the Raising Voices fellowship?
Raising Voices aims to develop and support aspiring artists who make work for children and young adults and whose voices have been underrepresented in literature. The fellowship aims to break down barriers to publication, progression and inclusion and to increase diversity and representation in the Irish literature sector for those whose voices have been underrepresented due to background or identity.
The creative and practical supports all six fellows will benefit from include:
Mentorship with an experienced writer or illustrator
A detailed critique from an editor/art director suited to the fellow’s practice
A week-long residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig
Access to a bespoke speaker series, bursary information clinic with the Arts Council, and various events and courses.
Tools, information and guidance needed to finalise a manuscript or dummy, prepare work for submission, research the market, and apply for bursaries.
Jennifer Wallace is an author and mother from Cork who loves stories. She works in both verse and prose and likes to weave stories from a child’s perspective, full of wonder, deep wisdom and questions about the world. Her perspective is an autistic one and is informed by her years of working with children. Jennifer applied for the Raising Voices fellowship in the hope of securing support and guidance in moving towards publication and learning to navigate the children’s literature world. She looks forward to co-creating, and learning with, the fellowship of writers, artists, mentors, contributors and facilitators.