Episode 15: Master Class with Jane Yolen

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

This is a very special episode for DIY MFA Radio because it features a wonderful writer–and one of my writing heroes–Jane Yolen. She has written over 360 books, but what truly sets her work apart is her artristry and versatility. She has written in just about every genre imaginable, and for just about every type of reader.

Whenever I’ve heard her speak, Jane Yolen offers the perfect blend of practical advice and pure inspiration. This podcast episode is no exception.

I am overjoyed to share this episode with you today.

About Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America”(Newsweek) and the “Aesop of the Twentieth Century” (N.Y. Times) is the author of well over 360 books, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight. Her work ranges from rhymed picture books and baby board books, through middle grade fiction, poetry collections, nonfiction, and up to novels, poetry collections, and story collections for young adults and adults. She has also written lyrics for folk rock singers and groups, several animated shorts, and done voice over work and talk radio.

Her books and stories have won an assortment of awards–two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott Medal, the Golden Kite Award, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, among many others. She has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. She is also the winner (for body of work) of the World Fantasy Assn. Lifetime Achievement Award, Science Fiction Poetry Association Grand Master Award, the Catholic Library’s Regina Medal, the Kerlan Medal from the University of Minnesota, the du Grummond Medal, the Smith College Alumnae Medal and the New England Pubic Radio Arts and Humanities Award in 2014. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates.

Also worthy of note, she lost her fencing foil in Grand Central Station on a date, fell overboard while white water rafting in the Colorado, went dogsledding in Alaska, and her Skylark Award–given by NESFA, the New England Science Fiction Association–set her good coat on fire.

On a more personal note…

I myself have at least a dozen or so of her books in my home library, but her book on writing–called TAKE JOY–holds a place of honor on my bookshelf. In fact, she signed my copy back in 2010 and I’d like to share it now. “For Gabriela, One writer to another. Jane Yolen.” This was the first time a famous writer–someone I looked up to–ever called me a writer. This meant a lot to me and has been source of inspiration whenever I start to doubt myself.

In this interview…

Jane Yolen shared so many precious nuggets of wisdom in our interview that it’s hard to know where to start in listing them all. You’ll have to listen to the episode for all the details, but here’s list with some of the awesome insights and advice we covered:

  • Sharing our inner truth, how our perceptions can color our version of the “facts” and how we as writers can communicate Truth-with-a-capital-T.
  • What it truly means to put our hearts on the page and why as writers this is our most important work.
  • The decision to “go pro,” and how to find a balance between projects that propel your career and those that speak to your heart.
  • Failure, why it’s a good thing, and how to give yourself permission to fail.
  • How to know when a manuscript is finished (hint: it’s never finished).
  • Cultivating a daily writing practice and how to do it on your own terms.

Plus, Jane Yolen’s #1 piece of advice for writers.

Resource Recap

Where can you find Jane Yolen on the web? Visit  her website, JaneYolen.com, as well as her Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads pages.

We talked a bout a TON of books on the interview, and she’s written over 360 of them so it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s a list of selections, both of upcoming books, and a few others that we discussed in the interview.

Recent or Upcoming Releases:

Centaur Rising (Holt)
National Geographic Animal Stories (National Geographic Kids)
The Last Changeling (Viking)
A Plague of Unicorns (Zonderkidz)
The Bloody Tide: Poems of Politics and Power (HolyCow! Press)


Classics and Personal Favorites:

Owl Moon
The Devil’s Arithmetic
Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?


Link to Episode 15

(Right-click to download.)

If you liked this episode…

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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome.


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