Kitson Jazynka is a very successful writer who has published dozens of articles for adults and children in which she shows her love of animals and of horses in particular. She slowed down long enough to give us a glimpse into the life of a primarily non-fiction writer for magazines.
- Do you have a favorite place to write?
My favorite place to write is with a pad of paper and a pen on an antique chaise lounge we have in our living room. We got that piece of furniture years ago on a trip to Haiti and later had it upholstered in a beautiful yellow, blue and red fabric. It’s really comfy. That’s where I wrote the poem that later became the text to my picture book, “Carrot in My Pocket.”
- What do you love most about writing?
Something that my son’s third-grade teacher talked a lot about last year: making pictures with words. I love using sensory descriptions to recapture a moment or create it.
- What is the hardest and easiest part of the writing process for you?
One of the easiest parts for me is doing interviews for non-fiction pieces. I think I make people feel comfortable. As a result, my interviews are often just conversations and people open up. Then I have lots of great details to work with when writing. Like, when a wildlife rehabber pretty much taught me over the phone how to teach a baby harbor seal how to eat a fish, for a rescue story I was working on for Nat Geo Kids.
The hardest part of writing would be getting through the stage of drafting where I still don’t like what I’ve written. I have to keep plugging away and editing until I like it. Juggling freelance work while being a stay-at-home mom is hard, too.
- What five words best sum up your personality?
Hard question. I think someone close to me would say warm, creative, hard-working, persistent, question-asker.
- Other than writing, what else do you love to do?
I have two boys, age 9 and 6, and we have lots of fun – they do lots of sports and we like to hike with our dogs in Rock Creek Park. I volunteer a lot in their classrooms. My husband planned a great trip out west for us this summer – we visited Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Tucson. And I am so lucky to say I have a horse. I love to ride and linger at the barn as often and as much as I can.
- Describe your perfect day.
A perfect day would involve completed deadlines, an email inbox full of praise from my editors, happy children, horses, dogs and free time with my family. And maybe a movie and dinner with just my husband!
- Do you have a writing schedule?
The boys’ school schedule tends to dictate my writing schedule. We walk to school in the mornings and usually I’m home working by 9:15. I try to squeeze in spin classes, tennis, time at the barn and a scramble to the grocery store here and there so we don’t starve. With anywhere from five to 16 non-fiction story deadlines each month, plus whatever book projects I’m working on, I spend a lot of time setting up interviews and project managing. A lot of times I’m interviewing children so I have to do interviews after school hours, which is a challenge with my own rambunctious boys running around. Then I have to clear the deck for writing time. If I really need to focus, I shut off email and the Internet which constantly tempt me.
- What are your past, current, and/or next projects?
I write regularly for children’s magazines including American Girl, National Geographic Kids and Young Rider. For American Girl, I just finished writing a story about a girl who tamed a wild mustang. I have a few KidsPost (Washington Post) stories to finish in the next few weeks. I write a monthly feature in Dog Fancy for (and about) kids doing cool things with dogs. I also write for national magazines including Horse Illustrated, Dressage Today and a handful of Dog Fancy titles. This year, I wrote a non-fiction book about Martin Luther King, Jr. which will be part of a biography “reader” series published by National Geographic. I’m currently collaborating with a photographer to write two horse-related picture books for Sterling Publishing. I’m also working on a boy-loves-horse-related chapter book. In 2011, I was hired by the foundation that created the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Foundation to write a book (for grown-ups) about the creation of the memorial. I spent many hours with the memorial’s creators and even toured the memorial with the King family before it opened. It was such an honor to be part of that process.
- Where can we reach you?
I also write a blog (www.thesweetfeed.com) with a friend, about horses. My bio is here and a list of published stories, though 2011 and 2012 are quite incomplete – working on finding some time to update it.