Friday, March 12, 2010

Meet Author Jan Godown Annino

SHE SANG PROMISE, The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal leader is just out this month, published by National Geographic Children’s Books. Let's have a drum roll and a clash of cymbals because this is a book launch! (If you didn't get a chance to read my review yesterday, it follows this piece, so do keep reading!)

Meet the author, who should take a bow, Jan Godown Annino.

When Jan was 15, she read an article about Betty Mae Jumper, the first female elected leader of the unconquered Seminole Tribe of Florida. Now, years later, Jan’s book about this extraordinary woman introduces her to young readers,3rd and
4th graders.

In an email exchange, Jan talked about the life of this book before we were able to choose it from the library or bookstore shelf. Enjoy!

Joan: In the section of your book, “Why I wrote this story.” You begin, “One reason I wrote this story...” This makes me wonder about other reasons. Care to tell?

Jan: Yes! Beyond serendipity in a chance encounter with an important person whom I had seen in newspapers when I was a teen, but whom I didn’t consider further until we met, I like over-looked aspects of history. Of course, in any part of the universe, Betty Mae Jumper is an amazing person. Despite the fact that she had written her memoir twice, I could find no biography of her and felt young readers deserved a picture book about her.

Joan: SHE SANG PROMISE is an empowerment story for girls. Do you see this as a recurring theme in your work?

Jan: I’m interested in empowering all children. I hope Mrs. Jumper’s childhood outdoors, alligator experiences, interest in comic books, and other adventures prove magnetic to girl and boy readers.

Joan: What was the most difficult part of writing SHE SANG PROMISE?

Jan: Mrs. Jumper’s complex background, traditions and achievements meant that all couldn't be included and some distinct life moments and events would be excised from the manuscript. I felt a pang for each one. I’m grateful that I could lean on editor Jennifer Emmett for patient, honest, solid guidance and experience in that

Joan: And what was most satisfying?

Jan: I loved seeing her story, via the typed words I felt fortunate to write, shimmer alive in the artwork of Lisa Desimini, who spent some of her childhood in Florida, by the way. Having a ticket to perch around that creative process, well, it must be in the echelon of assisting on the set when a fabulous film comes together. Lisa is generous in sharing ideas, sketches, and everything. I have a Lisa shrine on a bookshelf.

Joan: Your book is thoroughly researched and delves deeply into the lives and culture of the Seminole Indians. Both the manuscript and illustrations were vetted with the staff of the Seminole museum, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, and more can be learned from their website: During your hours of research, you must have discovered many stories begging you to give them voice in children’s books. Will you?

Jan: Wow! Many thanks for that, Joan. My research for a worthy unknown biography topic has sent me delving into several lives. With the info I’ve collected to date, none measure up to Betty Mae Tiger Jumper. I’m currently writing about history in fictional formats. My biggest project is a chapter book set in the 1960s, inspired by a circumstance of my New Jersey home town in which my parents participated.

Joan: That’s something we can look forward to. Best of luck. We’ll follow you on

Thanks for sharing, Jan.
Or, as I learned from your book, Sho na’ bish.

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