Jennifer Connor-Smith is a freelance science writer and clinical psychologist based in Portland, Oregon.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
What’s your favorite line from a book?
“At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes—an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.” Carl Sagan—The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
Randall Munroe, Ed Yong, Ursula LeGuin
Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
I love absorbing information about how the world works, whether that involves finding out what happens if two black holes collide or learning that some parts of our brains react to hurt feelings and physical pain in the same way. My friends and family can’t possibly be expected to listen to everything I want to say about all of the interesting things I’ve learned. Writing is my chance to share the wonders of the word with a larger audience (and protect the people I love from having to hear one fact too many).
Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
First, read everything—graphic novels, newspapers, picture books you’ve “outgrown,” non-fiction books you’ve not yet grown into, science fiction, realistic fiction, magazines, and the backs of cereal boxes. Read things you love and things you don’t like so much, then think about what made the difference. There are many different ways to write and topics to write about. Figure out what speaks to you and take a crack at it.
Second, be patient with yourself when the wonderful idea in your head doesn’t seem nearly as wonderful when you finally get something written. This happens to everyone! Good writing involves about 15% wrestling an ugly first draft into existence and 85% rewriting and editing. Everything I’ve ever written is truly awful until at least the third draft.