Children’s author and presenter combines passion for writing and love of animals


by Kat Mauser


SUMMARY: Ginjer L. Clarke (’94) loves to learn new things and translate that knowledge into fun, fact-filled children’s books. Clarke participated in a Q&A with English Department intern, Kat Mauser.

Ginjer L. Clarke (’94), a Theatre major and English minor, now spends her time writing nonfiction books for children. She uses the skills she learned during her time in the JMU English program — which she said was only two classes short of being a double major — to not only write and publish these books, but to also present them to audiences of children.


Q: What was your favorite English class you took at JMU?

A: “One of the most memorable ones was with Dr. Federico, and that was Women’s Studies — like Women’s Lit. [This class] was something that didn't exist at the school before she started that class.”

“I still have all of those books. I think [this class] was a way that I finally understood authors having other kinds of agendas and other kinds of interests, and it exposed me to a lot of different types of writing. And from there, I ended up picking a lot of other specialty classes in different kinds of literature. So my focus was, interestingly, not actually as much on writing. I know there was a writing track and a literature track, and I really did a lot of reading.”

Q: What drew you to become a children's author?

A: “I had three successive jobs out of college in the first five years, all of which the company ended up laying me off because they got bought or merged. I was an admin assistant for a bank, a marketing assistant for a health care firm, and then I worked as an editorial assistant at a children’s publisher. So I got really tired of other people taking away my job. I went freelance.”

“At that point, I had written a book while I was an employee at the children's publisher … I got a lot of experience with office life in those five years of how to use spreadsheets, and how to do mail merges, and how to deal with you know, all kinds of admin stuff. I also got a lot of editing, copy editing-level, experience and writing experience… I realized that that kind of writing really appealed to me as I was being an editor for other authors. And I had some fun stories I wanted to tell, so it was awesome. It took a few years — you have to constantly be submitting and revising. And it's very different from the self publishing world now.”

Q: Would you give any advice to a current JMU student considering the same, or a similar, career path to yours?

A: “My advice would be to — while you’re in school — try to get as much experience from different kinds of writing and different kinds of professors. There’s very few programs, even nationally, on [children's book] writing … It’s really not necessarily about the audience so much as the skill level in, you know, being able to write clearly and concisely. That’s one of the challenges I love the most, is that I have to take complicated science topics and break it down for a third-grader. I don't have to be an expert, I just have to understand and communicate.”

“The best thing to do is just take such a wide variety of different kinds of writing classes. Every professor is going to have different kinds of recommendations … you get something from everyone and it just truly is a practice kind of thing. You have to write a lot to get better.”

Q: What’s your favorite book you’ve written?

A: “Kids ask me that a lot, and I usually say it’s the first one because that’s the one that made me an author, but I actually just wrote my first nonanimal book.”

“[The books are] leveled and chapter books, and things like that. [They contain] very simple sentences with, and if there’s any kind of complex vocabulary or sentence structure, it’s explained to them in the course of that. This is the first one I ever wrote that was not about animals.”

Ginjer’s most recent book, A World of Dancers, is about “the wide world of dancers and the history and cultures associated with each beautiful art form,” according to her website.

“I have been dancing since I was like five years old … I was so excited about [writing this], because I got to write about ceremonies and the way people celebrate and all the cultures that use dance in so many different ways. A lot of it I hadn’t anticipated, which is the way cultures appropriated dances … it was a neat challenge to be able to try to not shy away from those issues.”

Q: Do you have any current projects you're working on, or any future aspirations for what you want to do?

A: “I had a book come out last week that’s about octopus intelligence, and there's one coming out this summer on turtles.”

“I write specifically at this grade level because it's a time when they study a lot of animal research … I have tried picture books, I've tried older chapter books, I've tried lots of different things, and I just keep landing back here because it's where I thrive. I guess my goal in the immediate future is to just keep finding more ideas … I never know what's coming next.”

For a complete list of Ginjer L. Clarke’s publications, visit her website: 

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Published: Monday, February 19, 2024

Last Updated: Friday, February 23, 2024

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