Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A View from Jenny B. Jones' Window! Welcome Jenny!

It is my pleasure to share with you my recent cyber-conversation with author Jenny B. Jones. She is a very special lady, and I know you will enjoy meeting her too!

1. Your story of Katie Parker represents many problems inherent to the drug culture that exists in today’s society. As a school teacher, have you encountered this first hand, and was that where the idea for this series originated?

The idea for the series did come from a blending of two students I had some time ago. That’s how Katie was born.

I was blessed with the opportunity to start a drama program at a small school some time ago. We saw kids coming into their own, using talents they didn’t know they had and just many a-ha! moments. I had a student who found her place through drama—something she discovered she totally rocked at. But then I also had a student, “Maggie,” who came from a horrible home life and got “stuck” in the class. Though she did her best, it wasn’t her cup of tea. I will never forget the night of the play for the community. The kids got a standing ovation, but “Maggie’s” family didn’t show. I remember thinking, much like if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear…if a kid gets a standing ovation and no one is there to see her… Anyway, that has always stuck with me. “Maggie” was later taken out of her home and placed with a friend’s family, where she was thoroughly loved and cared for and received the attention that she had never had before. She became a new person. My character Katie is a combination of both those students I mentioned. Their stories are etched on my heart.

Beyond that, I am heavily influenced by all my students, and that definitely includes those with troubled home lives and those in families with addictions. We see a lot of that in education.

2. What do you feel is the biggest challenge faced by today’s teens? Do you feel like your roll as a teacher can positively help them through these challenges? How?

The biggest challenge…I have to pick one? I think over-exposure to negativity. They are bombarded with negative images, sounds, influences everywhere, from movies to games, to videos and music. I don’t think access to sex, drugs, violence, and other things “dark” has ever been more easily accessible or prevalent. I really feel we, as a society, are od’ing our kids and fostering a culture of people who almost have no choice but to be angry, bitter, and unhappy.

I do think teachers are vital allies. The sad fact is that we spend more time with a child than the parent. As a teacher, there is only so much I can do to help a kid with personal challenges, but our job as role models and strong, dependable adults is pretty crucial, I think. For some kids, the teachers might be the only stable adults in their realm of influence. So while subject matter rarely speaks to a heart, as a teacher I desperately want my integrity, commitment, and encouragement to teach more than anything. We have an enormous responsibility to be people these students can count on and look up to as what an adult SHOULD be. Mostly, I just want my students to know through my actions and words that I believe in them and their future.

3. What reaction have you had from your students regarding your Katie Parker books? Do they read them? Can you share some of their comments?

The coolest thing of this writing journey is to be among a few thousand teenagers at my school and get instant feedback. The response has been amazing. I have students reading them who aren’t Christian. I have BOYS reading them. I have students passing the books onto parents and grandparents. I love their enthusiasm and their generosity with the compliments. But what always gets me the most is the kid who sees herself in the books. At the beginning of this school year, I had a student I didn’t know stop me and ask me if I was the teacher who wrote the books. When I said yes, she said, “I understand what Katie’s going through. I lived in a group home when my mom couldn’t take care of me.” The books were more than entertainment for her. It was a confirmation that other kids go through her trauma, but there is hope. And she got the message that she doesn’t have to inherit her parents’ addictions or “trash” as I call it. Their burdens don’t have to be hers long-term. SHE is the girl those books are for.

4. You state that this will be the last of Katie Parker. What is next on the book horizon? Is there a work in progress?

The Big Picture is the last of the Katie Parker series. Next is the Charmed Life series, which will debut with So Not Happening in 2009. It’s totally different from the Katie books, but still will include humor, sass, and teen issues. This series revolves around Bella, a 17 year old socialite from NYC. Her life radically changes when her plastic surgeon dad dumps her mom for a newer version, and Mom remarries…a professional wrestler from Oklahoma. I’m really excited about it, though I miss Mad Maxine already. : )

5. Can you share what exciting things God is doing in your life right now? Any words of

encouragement you want to leave with your readers?

That's a tough question! I think right now God is having (forcing me?) to look at my priorities
and what I fill my calendar with. Time is really precious right now, so it's been interesting to
see where I've been led to cut back. If the Lord tells me to cut back on the time I dedicate daily
to chocolate eating, I will bawl. I'm hoping to hear "Quit working out! No more exercising!"
So far...nothing of the sort. I would love to encourage your readers to pray for our schools and
our students (public, private, and the home school variety!). This generation is so challenged,
and they need all the help they can get. Pray up your children every day...and then throw in a few
extra names. We need student leaders and bold witnesses. Invest in those kids.

Thanks for letting me stop by, Kim!

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