books / poetry / public libraries / reading / writing

Highly Textured Writer: Jacqueline Woodson

high•ly tex•tured writ•er:  A person whose work is to write books, poems, or stories and has curly or kinky hair.

Welcome Jacqueline Woodson to Librarian Dreams.

1.What is your signature hairstyle and how do you achieve it?
My hair goes through phases — I grow it long then cut it when it becomes too much hair to handle. The last time I cut it off was when both my son and daughter had long hair and that meant dealing with three heads of hair a day!  My daughter now does her own hair and my son is now very attached to a short mohawk so I’m growing my hair again.  Mainly, my goal is to do as little to my hair as I possibly can.  I’ll two-strand twist it then wear the twist for a while, wash my hair, take the twist out then wear it messy for a while.  An ideal day involves getting up, throwing some conditioner on my hair, running my fingers through it and heading upstairs to write.


2. Which books could give insight on you as a person? Why? 
At the top of the list would be Marie Howe’s What the Living Do, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower – of course.  I’d also have to add Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her and Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak! & Breath, Eyes, Memory.  Each time I open one of these books, I find lots of Jacqueline Woodson in them — Diaz takes me right back to the people of my childhood in his writing and Danticat gets the essence of the way I explored the world as a child. Morrison’s books are filled with people from my southern past and Howe’s poems and Butler’s fictions speak to who I am (or in some cases, would like to be) today.

what the living dobluest

3. Have libraries had any impact on your writing?
I rewrote Last Summer With Maizon at the library of CUNY Law School — I would go there because I had friends going there and they snuck me into the computer room and the library — at that time, I didn’t have a computer of my own.  

I spend HOURS and HOURS at the library at Grand Army Plaza — back in the day, I would go there to research but now I can do a lot of my research from my computer.  Now I just go there because I love it — Love the librarians, love the space, love the art and running into writer friends there.  I even love looking at the building from the entrance to Prospect Park.  Like the Washington Irving Branch, I feel like Grand Army Plaza is mine.  I also feel that way about Enoch Pratt — I have so many early, fabulous connections to it.  I walk into it and feel like I’ve come home.

4. Are there any other queer Black women writers doing what you do, or are you a lone wolf like Octavia Butler was for awhile in science fiction?
You know – I don’t know who the new voices are.  I remember the first book I read with a queer character was Ruby by Rosa Guy. I was SO excited (until the end of course).  But I thought there’s a whole black queer literary world out there and I’m going to find it. In children’s books, not so much. I don’t mind being one of the early writers to explore issues like sexuality, race relations, interracial relationships, economic class across race lines, etc.  But it’s supposed to be a gateway, not a finish line. I don’t really know who’s queer and who’s not these days. In the era of Living Out Loud, I don’t know a lot of African American young people (and/or AA queer people) who are writing and getting published at mainstream houses. Are people self-publishing?  Just putting their stuff online? Am I missing something?  I’ve asked again and again for serious young Black writers to contact me when they’ve finished their books so I can help them get to the next place.  I’ve gotten very few responses. (  A lot of the young voices seem not to be that interested in this genre…I don’t know.  I mean, I don’t get out that much. I’m hoping to get a literary salon going in 2014.  I’m hoping to do some serious work in reaching the voices that are becoming even more missing than they already were. I remain hopeful.


Want to know more about Jacqueline Woodson? You can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.


13 thoughts on “Highly Textured Writer: Jacqueline Woodson

  1. oh my goodness I LOVE Jaqueline Woodson. Thank you for featuring this amazing writer & woman on your site!! I’ve only read one of her chapter books, “After Tupac and D Foster,” plus a couple of her picture books, and all I can say is that I WISH they had been more widely available/promoted when I was a kid/teen. Instead I read a lot of princess stuff…”Ella Enchanted” wasn’t bad, but still – you get my point.

  2. I enjoyed this insight in to Woodson! I hope those young, new writers are able to find her and I really hope she does a literary salon!

  3. I returned to my roots as a high school teacher this year and discovered that Woodson released another book. Along with the librarian, I quickly recommended the book to students. I am grateful for the range of Woodson’s writing. Excellent author and a teacher’s living, breathing literary hero.

  4. Pingback: Do the Write Thing | Highly Textured Librarian

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