Author and Huntington resident Jackie Azúa Kramer finds joy in her life through writing picture books, and encouraging children to tell stories of their own.
Born in Manhattan, and raised in Queens, Kramer spent her childhood immersed in the city’s pulse. She grew up drawn to all stories, not just those found in books. “I credit my love of movies and plays in helping me write picture books,” Kramer said. Now, those experiences shape her writing today “I see the story first: setting, characters, and action roll across my mind’s eye before I write one word.”
Kramer went on to study acting and voice at New York University before earning her MA in counseling in education from Queens College. Her work with children as an actor, singer, and school counselor brought her attention to their concerns, secrets, and hopes. Writing gave Kramer a place to explore all that. “I felt I had something to say,” Kramer said. “I hoped children could see themselves” in what she wrote.
Many of Kramer’s stories are sparked by the world around her. “I’ll be living my life, and some little or big something that I see or hear calls to me,” Kramer said. She also keeps a notebook filled with titles, ideas, and inspirations. They are “seeds to future stories,” Kramer said. “I refer to that list often.”
There is limited space in a picture book, as the text usually falls between 300-600 words. “Picture books are a form of visual storytelling, usually read to a child who cannot yet read for themselves,” said Kramer. Every word has to count, to support the illustrations to come. Kramer’s words do just that. “My text, when complete, has a rhythm and cadence,” she said. “There’s a lot of Latina spunk and heart —wrapped in lyricism, fantasy, and whimsy—that come out in my writing.”
Once her words are written, an illustrator steps in to create the story’s visuals. “If I could illustrate my own stories, I’d be in heaven,” Kramer said, on wishing she had the artistic ability to do so. However, she feels that working with her books’ illustrators is one of the best parts of her work. “I’ve been so fortunate with my publishers, who’ve made it a point to make me a part of the process,” she said. In some cases, Kramer was able to suggest illustrators for her books. She also gets to see sketches, for her input, before the illustrator begins the image’s final art.
Kramer says her most fulfilling moments come from meeting children and teachers on school visits. “You can’t help but feel good when the kids share that they too want to write, or read more, as a result of your book,” Kramer said. She praises the passionate teachers and librarians who encourage a love of words. “Their kidlit passion is contagious,” she said.
Kramer’s most recent release, That’s for Babies, launched in June. Her previously published works include The Green Umbrella (2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year) and If You Want to Fall Asleep. Kramer has five new titles lined up to be published between 2020 and 2021.
When not writing, you can find Kramer reading, watching old movies, and trekking the globe.
Kramer’s Fall Events:
- September 21 & 22, 10-5pm
- Brooklyn Book Festival, Brooklyn
- October 5th, 11-12pm
- Bank Street Bookstore, W 107th St., Manhattan
- October 12th, 11-4pm
- Warwick Book Festival, Warwick, NY
- November 2nd, 9-3pm
- 5th Annual nErDcampLI, Elwood
- November 10th, 2-4pm
- Picture Book Palooza, Huntington Public Library
Upcoming Huntington Events
Monday, Long Island Writers’ Guild: Join other writers at Book Revue for its monthly writing workshop. With a pen, paper, and imagination, you will be all set to participate in this informal two-hour session. The workshop is free and open to all. The workshop begins at 7 PM; all levels and genres welcome. Contact Book Revue with any questions.
August 18, Amateur Writers of Long Island: Join writers of all genres and abilities in the back room of Panera in Huntington Village from 1-6 PM to give and receive feedback.
August 20, Readings Under the Tent: Meet local authors Michael Bobelian, Amy Giles, and Jeannie Moon at Melville’s Arboretum Prk. Hear the authors read from their work, sign books, and participate in Q & A sessions. The event is free, and begins at 6 PM. Book Revue is offering a 10 percent discount on works by Giles and Moon.
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