Janet Ann Collins – Signs of Trouble

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My newest book, Signs of Trouble, is about kids who get separated from their Special Education class on a field trip and use what they’ve learned about safety rules and recognizing signs to get back with the class. It contains some activities at the back to help kids develop basic reading skills, understand others who have learning disabilities, and exercise their own creativity.

Tell us something about yourself.

When I was a kid I had severe, chronic asthma and was sent to a convalescent home when I was 11 years old. While there, met many children with disabilities. As a result I have been involved with children who have special needs for most of my life and they tend to pop into most of the fiction I write even when I don’t plan for them to be there. My husband was a Sign Language interpreter, but that’s not the kind of signs in my book.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve gone on trips similar to the one in the book with preschoolers and Special Education classes. No one ever got separated from the group, but teachers must always be aware of that possibility.

How did you choose the title?

Since the trip was to help the class practice recognizing signs and the main characters got into trouble it was a natural use of a familiar phrase. Even cliches can be useful at times.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I learned to read and frequently made up stories as a kid. My mother used to say I had too much imagination, but I don’t think that’s possible for anyone to have.

I majored in English in college and I carefully wrote every assignment in my first English class according to the Thesis Sentence Outline that had been drilled into us in high school as required to pass the college entrance exams.

One day the professor asked what I wanted to do after graduation. When I told him I wanted to be a writer he replied, “You’ll never make it. You have no creativity.”

Foolishly I believed him and gave up the dream of getting published, although I never stopped writing.

One day about 25 years later I remembered his words and realized I had been trying to write as uncreatively as possible in his class. I wrote a children’s story, submitted it to a couple of possible periodicals, and it was accepted right away.

Then came many rejections but, with the help of conferences, books, and magazines, I learned about the writing profession. Since then I’ve written for newspapers, my work has appeared in many other periodicals, and I’ve had several books published.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Usually I look up possibilities in baby name books and consider the meanings and ethnicity of names when choosing them. In this case I picked some that were simple and familiar so kids in early grades would find them easy to read.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I read about five or six Middle Grade and Young Adult books a week and about one adult novel and one nonfiction book a month. I like books for kids because I can usually read them in an hour or two so I don’t have to put them down in the middle of an exciting event and they aren’t likely to have depressing endings.

I have dozens of favorite authors ranging from those who wrote classics (most of which would never get published today) to those who are currently writing. I especially enjoy books by authors I’ve met in person, such as at writers conferences, because that adds another level of enjoyment to the reading. It’s sort of like watching a play when you know some of the actors personally; you get carried away into the show while still appreciating how well your friends are doing.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Read a lot in the genre you want to write and learn all you can about the writing business from books and conferences. Keep on writing, get your work critiqued by other people not in your immediate family, and never give up. Remember, rejections prove you’re really a writer.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Signs of Trouble is available at Amazon and other online bookstores and can be ordered at most local bookstores.

My website is www.janetanncollins.com and I blog about words, books, and kids at http://onwordsblog.blogspot.com.