Questions and Answers with JaNay
Tell us about your name. Are there any significant meanings?
My name is JaNay Brown-Wood. JaNay is spelled with a capital “N”, a “y”, and no space. Not Janay. Not Janae. Definitely not Ja Nay or Ja-Nay. Just, JaNay. And it’s pronounced Ja (JUH) Nay (NEIGH, like the sound a horse makes). All together now: JuhNeigh. JaNay.
My dad picked the name and the spelling. Something about it stood out to him and that’s how I got my name. As far as the meaning, I’m not 100% sure of the meaning, and whether it has one. But I have to say, I’m pretty anal about my name. Although many people spell it or say it wrong, it is one of my favorite parts about myself. I love, love, love my name, especially with the newest addition of Wood (thanks to my wonderful hubby!)
When did you know you wanted to write?
I’ve known from as far back as I could remember. I think I knew I loved writing and coming up with stories before I even knew it—if that makes sense. What I mean is, it’s always been a part of me. Even before I could write full sentences, I remember making up stories. That’s how my mind works. Thinking of stories about characters doing different things, or concepts I’d like to explore with words. I’m just lucky that I get to capture them on paper (or computer screen) and share them with the world.
What were your favorite books or authors as a child?
One of my all-time favorite books is Where the Wild Things Are. It’s simple yet satisfying. As far as authors, I loved Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstien. I’d say both of these writers influenced my own author voice, since many of the stories I write come out in rhyme. As an older kid (like teenager) I’d say J.K. Rowling because ummm…HARRY POTTER. No need to say more.
I know you are a new mother, do you read to your baby girl?
YES! I read to Vivian when she was still in my tummy. And I read to her now, even though she can’t talk. And I’ll read to her into perpetuity—or at least until she can start reading to herself. Then we’ll read together. But, my family and I try to read her at least one book per day. And I read her all types of books too. So far I’ve read her several novels (we’re working on Charlotte’s Web right now) in addition to tons of picture books and board books. I love to read and I want her to have that same love too!
What is your favorite letter of the alphabet and why?
What a fun question! But, I have to say that it is SO HARD to just pick one. I love the letter “J” because of course, it is the leading letter in my name. I also love how it looks when it is written in cursive both uppercase and lowercase, and I like that there are so many active and fun words that start with “J” like “jubilant,” “joyous,” and of course “jump!” As a poet, I also really like letters that work well in alliteration like “P”,“L”, and “T” which can make such enjoyable sentences like “pick a perfect lollipop and taste it with your tongue!” See, I told you I’d have a hard time just picking one.
Top 3 places you’d love to visit:
Maasailand (the parts of Africa where the Maasai people live. I’d love to meet the Maasai in person).
This is hard because I’ve only visited a few places out of the country including Paris, France; Dublin, Ireland; Stockholm, Sweden; Rome and Florence, Italy; Victoria, Canada. So in other words, I’ve got so many more places to go. But, Santorini, Greece looks amazing.
Hogwarts. Because ummm…HARRY POTTER!
What was your inspiration for Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story?
I have a H-U-G-E family. My dad had 13 siblings, and all of them have kids, and many of their kids have kids, etc., etc.. Imagine cramming all those people into a tiny house...lots of fun, and the inspiration for GTH. Those gatherings always made me so happy and filled me up with so much joy. I wanted to capture that in a book, and thus, Grandma’s Tiny House was born.
Grandma’s Tiny House counts to fifteen. Is there a reason you picked fifteen instead of just ten?
So, I call myself, JaNay Brown-Wood, Author & Educator. Just like I love writing, I also love educating. Educating kids and adults, teachers and parents, authors and poets. You name it! And from my experience working with young kids, it seemed to me that counting to ten came a little easier than counting to fifteen, you know, since numbers like eleven and twelve don’t fit the same mold as other numbers. Can you imagine if it did? We’d count “…ten, one-teen, two-teen, three-teen…” instead of “eleven, twelve, thirteen.” And since those three numbers can be a little tricky, I wanted to include them in my book.
Which of your books or works is your favorite?
That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite (and since I only have one right now, I can confidently say Vivian is my favorite kid). But, as far as my works, I LOVE Imani’s Moon because it’s a story about believing in yourself and never giving up no matter how insurmountable a task might feel. I also love the setting of Africa, and the Maasai people. Imani’s Moon will always be my first book baby, and that means a lot to me. Grandma’s Tiny House is also near and dear to my heart because it reflects my happy childhood and wonderful family. And the poems I write are fun for me to read aloud. So, to answer your question, all of my works are my favorite.
What are you working on right now?
I’m always working on manuscripts. I have several that I have finished and that my agent is sending out. I’m also venturing into longer works too, not just picture books. I’m working on a middle grade novel and I’m feeling pretty good about it.
Any advice for the kids out there?
I’ll quote Imani’s Moon for this: “A challenge is only impossible until someone accomplishes it…it is you who must believe.” Never stop believing in yourself. You are magical, so set your goals as high as the moon and never stop striving for them, no matter how hard it seems. YOU CAN DO IT!