Interview with Children's Author Jamie Donahoe '85
Q: How did you get on your current career path?
A: My turn as a children’s book author began in the most stereotypical way. My life was changing in lots of ways, and it was a good time to refocus. I wanted to write picture books for a long time and had kicked the idea around several times, but hadn’t made a concerted effort to actually try and make it a career.
In 2017, I was faced with three major changes: my husband’s retirement, a return to the United States from abroad, and the departure of my only child for college. I knew my life would be in a state of upheaval for a while. Given that I had no idea what I would be doing or where I would be living, I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue my commitment to the non-profit I had co-founded. Leaving Adventures in Preservation was the first step. I needed to be sure it would be in good hands, and I am pleased to report the organization is thriving. With that taken care of, in February 2018, I took a deep breath and dove into the world of kid lit.
Q: What Hamilton classes sparked your interest in or guided your occupation?
A: I will modestly say that I write well, and of course Hamilton will happily take credit for its role in that. I pretty much shunned the English Department while at Hamilton; my parents were both English lit majors, so I of course had no interest in that area! I love to read but dislike being told what to read. Nonetheless, and perhaps due more to genetics than anything else, I did become a lifelong reader and simply adore books.
Q: What projects are you currently working on?
A: My number one project is finding a literary agent. Daunting as the task of putting pen to paper––and fingers to keyboard––may be, the querying process is even more so because it means truly putting yourself out there. I’ve been stalling nicely on that one, but with another change looming––we are really, actually, and reluctantly moving back to the United States in December 2021––it will be time to buckle down and focus on moving my writing career forward.
In terms of writing projects, I have several picture books in good shape and some in rough draft. I like to start writing a story based on a single word prompt that sets my imagination heading in all kinds of directions. Two manuscripts I am currently working on came from “breakfast” and “graffiti.”
Q: What advice would you give to Hamilton students on the same career path?
A: I have discovered that the #kidlit community is incredibly supportive, so I would recommend plunging in and making all the connections you can by joining professional associations, critique groups, the writing community on Twitter and other social media. Hamilton alums are well represented in the field, and they may also be willing to provide advice. Then of course, you need to just write!
The groundwork for storytelling of any kind is gaining experiences that inform your writing, whatever they may be. So a final bit of advice is to get out there and experience life (COVID restrictions permitting, of course).