Author Finds Inspiration in the Performing Arts

p15-jacksonFor Jennifer Thompson Jackson ’94, the process of writing books is “only one piece of [her] own artistic puzzle.”

“There’s no one right way to be a writer,” Jackson told more than 100 attendees at an Artswego Living Writers Series public event on Sept. 9. She returned to campus through the Oswego Alumni Association’s Alumni-In-Residence (AIR) program, with support from The Fund for Oswego.

Jackson, who authored the children’s book The Punkydoos Take the Stage (Disney Hyperion, 2014), never took a creative writing class during her time at Oswego. Instead, she found her path into the world of writing through performance and dance.

“Writing is only one medium through which to tell a story, and I consider myself a storyteller,” said Jackson, who was a dual theatre and English major at Oswego and now resides in Burbank, Calif.

Her love of storytelling began with theatre, where she developed original character-driven physical theatre pieces. This led to work as a choreographer for actors on stage and screen. She won an NAACP Award for her work with Cornerstone Theater Company and shared an LA Weekly Theater Award for Best Revival with The Actors’ Gang.

But her love of the written word was also part of her artistic journey, as she earned an M.A. in literature from California State University at Los Angeles, taught composition and worked on her writing career.

It was during a visit with her three young nieces that she found the inspiration for the Punkydoos, a story about a little girl who assembles a rock band. Jackson’s nieces demanded her creative attention, and turning everyday objects into musical instruments was a form of play. Jackson’s husband, a composer and songwriter, created a Punkydoos song to go along with Jackson’s resulting picture book, which was illustrated by Dan Andreasen and is intended for 3 to 7 year olds.

Writing the Punkydoos allowed Jackson to integrate her own love of music with the story.

“I loved finding the beats in the word choices, the musicality of each word,” she said.

Jackson, whose first book manuscript garnered an agent but was never pub­lished, gave advice to aspiring authors and fielded questions about her path to publication. Since the release of the Punkydoos, she told the audience, she has had difficulty focusing on writing. She and her husband welcomed a baby boy, who arrived prematurely and was still in the hospital when the book was released. He is now thriving.

Despite her “traumatic entry into motherhood,” Jackson knows she will write again.

“The words will be there when I’m ready,” she said. “If you thought I was coming here to inspire you, you’ve got it backwards. I’m here to be inspired by all of you, and to reconnect to the period in my life when I was an emerging writer.”

Jackson has a young adult novel concept in mind for her next project. For more information about the author, visit www.jenniferjacksonbooks.com.

—Eileen Crandall

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