Episode 99: Interview with Jean Matthew Hall and the Encouraging Picture Book Experience

In this episode we talk with Jean Matthew Hall about picture books, writing, and helping other authors. 

Our Guest: Jean Matthew Hall

Jean lives in LaGrange, Kentucky. Her first picture book God’s Blessings of Fall was released by Little Lamb Books in September 2019. Her second picture book is set to release in 2022.

When not enjoying time with family (eight gorgeous grandkids–want to see pictures?) and church Jean is immersed in children’s picture books—reading them, reviewing them, writing them!

Jean is a member of the SCBWI, Word Weavers International, Write2Ignite and the Kentucky Christian Writers.

Jeans website and blog  http://www.jeanmatthewhall.com .

Face Book at Jean Matthew Hall Author

Twitter at Jean_Hall

Pinterest Board for Writers at JeanMatthew_Hall.

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today, we have a special guest. Jean Matthew Hall is with us today to share with us about her ministry and the books that she has. Jean, thank you for joining us.

Jean:

Thank you.

Terrie:

Tell us a little bit about your first book that came out: God’s Blessings of Fall.

Jean:

Interesting story. It is a celebration of the beautiful things and the smells, the sounds, the taste of fall. The season that God gave us, it’s poetic. It’s not in rhyme, but it is lyrical language–beautiful to read aloud,

Terrie:

And you’re going to have another book come out soon–this next year, right? Or this year, this year.

Jean:

Supposed to, but COVID has really done a number on the children’s publishing business. So we’re all just waiting to see what’s going to happen next.

Terrie:

So are there plans to have all four seasons eventually out as books?

Jean:

Yes, there are.

Terrie:

Oh, good, good, good. Okay. And you also helped contribute to a great little devotional book for kids. Tell us about that one.

Jean:

It’s entitled All God’s Creatures: 60 Days of Devotions for Animal-Loving Kids. We, the authors of Little Lamb Publishers got together and each wrote four or five devotions about traits of the animals. For instance, here’s a dolphin. Dolphins are kind, joyful, willing to learn, and social. So we wrote devotions to help children relate to those traits and see how they can also be kind and helpful and joyful.

Terrie:

That’s wonderful. What a fun book. Okay. Jean, can you tell me a little bit about what is your heart when it comes to children’s books and ministering to children?

Jean:

I write to encourage whether I’m writing for adults or children. Whatever the venue, I write to encourage. And I love beautiful picture books that mingle beautiful art with beautiful words. And I write them to encourage both parents or grandparents and children to look to God, to see that He is our Creator, to see that He loves us, and each of us is special to Him. But my goal is to also help parents bond with their children because reading a picture book, or I should say, picture books are experiences. They’re deliberately designed for an adult and a young child to share. They’re not designed for young children to just flip through them. They’re deliberately made so that the child climbs up on grandma’s lap or grandpa’s lap. And they share that experience of learning about language and learning about whatever is in that book together. So that’s my goal–to create books that both the adult and the child can enjoy together.

Terrie:

That’s wonderful. I love that. And it really is. It’s such an experience as you look at the beautiful artwork and the, like you said, your lyrical writing. It doesn’t always have to rhyme, but picture books need the, you know, onomatopoeia and the fun imagery and the words that are vivid to help create that experience. And I love the Christian market and how so many wonderful Christian writers have such a heart to see children, like you say, encouraged, and to find God and to know how much He loves them. And I think it’s just such a wonderful calling.

Jean:

Thank you. I do too, whether it’s a magazine article or a picture book or a middle grade book–whatever I’m working on, the point is to not just to help children fall in love with reading and books, which is a noble thing in itself, but to also fall in love with that message, to find the message that God is critical and integral to our lives. Because honestly, as we look around us, so many other messages are fighting for our children’s minds. I want to be able to plant in their hearts and minds that they are important to God. And even maybe give them the idea of going to God’s word when they get older, to find out what God thinks about them.

Terrie:

Oh, that’s wonderful. And you also write for a blog and it’s really wonderful. I subscribe to it. Can you tell us about that?

Jean:

My blog is called Encouraging Words, and it’s actually written mostly to other writers, other children’s writers, trying to help them. I have this big thing for helping people find their passion, find their mission. When I critique other people’s picture books, for instance, I’m always trying to zero in on, what is your theme here? What is your message? Why are you writing this sweet story? So that is what I try to do on my blog. I’m also the director of an organization called Write2Ignite. And that’s what we seek to do. We encourage Christians who write for children to write better and better. And then we realize that those books will then encourage the children and the parents.

Terrie:

So you said also that you do critiques. I have several writers who listen to the blog. So do you coach or just do critiques or editing? What is your,

Jean:

I’m not a certified editor, but I am a member of several critique groups, and I critique for those people. People can contact me through the Write2Ignite website, and I will critique. Right now. I don’t charge a fee for critiquing. So I talk with the other writer first and see what they’re trying to do with this piece. But yeah, I do critique short manuscripts, you know, maybe 1500 words, maybe 2000 words or less.

Terrie:

That’s a real gift. I love that. So I will have the links to Jean’s website in the show notes, as well as the Write2Ignite website. Both are really wonderful and everyone should check them out and her books are available on all the basic bookstores that are online. So Jean, can you tell us, I always ask on my podcast, what was your favorite picture book as a child and what were some of your favorite ones to read to your children?

Jean:

My story’s a little different. I’m 73 years old, and way back when–my parents were wonderful people, godly people, but they, and many other parents of their generation really did not understand the importance of children reading, reading, reading, reading. And I truly did not grow to understand the value in that until I was studying to be a teacher. So my favorite book as a child, we did have, and I can’t remember the title now, but it was a set of Bible books–Bible stories. There were like 20 books in this set. I devoured those. I read them over and over again and admired the beautiful painting-like illustrations that were in those. But I actually really fell in love with reading, not until high school. And I remember the first book that when I went into the high school library, I just looked, you know, was looking on the shelves, and I pulled off a historical fiction called The Fishermen and “Hmm, that looks okay.” And I read that book and fell in love with it, with the character, with the, just the, the historical aspect of it. And it made me fall in love. And then I wanted to read more and more and more and more. So that’s kind of a bit of a different story.

Jean:

But after I married and had children, I did have certain books, two books, really that I read to them over and over again. And I don’t know if they were their favorites or my favorites, but anyway, one of them. They’re both. I don’t think they’re either one is in print right now, but one was called The Wee Moose, a sweet picture book about a little mouse on a farm who is searching for a friend who’s like him, you know, a mouse. And in the process, he makes a lot of other friends while he’s searching for the wee mouse. And I still have that book, and, my goodness, it’s held together by several layers of tape

Terrie:

Oh, cute.

Jean:

The other one that I read to my children a lot was called Leo the Lop. And again, it was about a rabbit who was different from all the other bunnies, and he looked different. And of course he was searching for his place. And, as he searched and, you know, thought about all the things he couldn’t do, he learned to accept himself and love himself just the way he was. I love the story and my kids always listened enthusiastically.

Terrie:

Well, those sound great. I wonder if we can find them in the library even today or in a used bookstore, because those sound really cute.

Jean:

They are. And of course, picture books have changed a great deal over the last 50 years. The picture books of 30, 40, 50 years ago are much wordier. They would have maybe 3000 or so words. Today picture books are much tighter. Fiction picture books–the goal is to really have about 500 words. Nonfiction books, which I have recently really started digging into nonfiction picture books, are longer. They can be up to maybe 1200 words. So learning to write really tight is one of the things I’ve learned from writing picture books.

Terrie:

Yeah. I always say every word has to fight to be in the book. It has to be there for a purpose. So how can we best help support you in the ministry that God has given you?

Jean:

Pray. First of all, I do have a newsletter and you can sign up for it on my website. It goes out monthly. I always have a section in there about how you can pray for me in a section on what I am doing at this time as a writer. You know, we tend to think that the writers that have many books out there are the successful ones, and that’s not always true. Yes, they are a success, and they have worked very hard to earn their place in the publishing world. But you know, God has a different idea of success for each of us. And so I hope to share in my newsletter, you know, what God is teaching me at that time about success as a writer and about the skills that are need in writing. So that is a very big one–praying and signing up for my newsletter would be wonderful. Also, if you write for children, the organization that I direct Write2Ignite, and that’s spelled W R I T E and then a digit, a number 2, and then the word ignite. If you go there and support that organization, you know, we have a lot of valuable resources there and a very active blog that is directed to writers. So those two ways, and of course you can buy my book, you know.

Terrie:

We’re not opposed to that. Right.

Jean:

Shameless self-promotion.

Terrie:

Yes, I love it. Yeah.

Jean:

I also speak at schools that are anywhere near me, you know, within driving distance. Actually Monday, I’m going to a school about three hours away and spend the day with them talking to children, to students themselves about different aspects of writing. And I love that because I was a teacher for more than 20 years. I loved being in the classroom.

Terrie:

Me too. That’s what I do. I’m a teacher too. That’s wonderful. Well, that’s great. And I love your enthusiasm, and I love the Write2Ignite website. I spend a lot of time there. It’s really great. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, and I love your message. I love what you’re doing, and I just pray that God continues to open doors for you and to bless your ministry.

Jean:

Thank you very much. Thank you, Terrie. I appreciate this opportunity.

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark, a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to get in touch with Jean, you can reach her at her website at jeanmatthewhall.com and the link will be in the show notes. And also you can find great information and courses and information about books on her website, Write2Ignite. And that will also be in the links in the show notes. If you would like to get in touch with me, you can reach me at TerrieHellardBrown.com. Both of us have a newsletter that goes out trying to really minister to people. And so we would love for you to join our mailing lists, and you can sign up for those on our websites. If you have enjoyed this podcast, please take time to leave a review or to download it. Either action or both of them will help this podcast be seen by more people and will spread the word and help them to know that it’s here. We really appreciate your listening. We appreciate your encouragement, and we love it. When you respond to the podcast with a comment, I answer every comment. I answer every email. So we look forward to hearing from you.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

6 thoughts on “Episode 99: Interview with Jean Matthew Hall and the Encouraging Picture Book Experience”

  1. Barbara Lankford

    Hi Terrie, I’m so excited you chose Jean Matthew Hall. She and her late husband were my mentors in my teen years. I babysat for them and we spent a lot of time together. They moved from MI. then I did and we lost track of each other. We got back together here on Facebook shortly after her husband passed. It was so good to hear her voice on here. Thank you so much. May God pour blessings upon you.

    1. Terrie Hellard Brown

      Wow! I’m so glad you reconnected. She truly seems to have a mentoring heart. I appreciate her desire to help writers find their voice.

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