Jennifer Heller Frank is a children’s book author and a mother of three. Before the pandemic, she worked as a family coordinator at Boston Children’s Hospital. She quit her job, about a month before the world changed forever, to pursue her dream of being a full time author.
Her first book, The Worm Family Has Its Picture Taken, illustrated by David Esra-Stein, was published in the summer of 2021. Since her book came out, it was chosen for the Junior Library Guild Selection and was voted Best Book and Editor pick on Amazon. Since its publication, The Worm Family Has Its Picture Taken has sold over 10,000 copies.
Besides quitting her job to follow her dream, she continues to be an amazing mother to her three daughters, Emma, Abby, and Olivia.
Q: What has been your favorite job?
A: I liked them all for different reasons. I liked my job at the YWCA because I got a 1 million dollar grant to help people go back to work, and that was such a huge accomplishment. I was so happy that I was able to do something positive and make a positive difference. I loved my job at the domestic violence shelter because I really felt like I was helping people make a true change in their life that was going to keep them safe and make their babies grow up in a safe environment. And I loved my job at Wegmans because we had emergency meetings about donuts! I got to go in and try 20 different kinds of donuts at different temperatures and that was so much fun. I loved my job at [Boston] children’s hospital because I was really helping bring a voice to the families and I felt like I was making a difference. I love being a children’s book author because I love going and talking to the kids and hearing the things that they say. I know that literacy is one of the most important markers for keeping people out of jail. I want to be a part of that. But my favorite job is still being a mother. What I have really loved about all the jobs I have had is that they have all been different and that I have continued to learn something every single job I have had.
Q: What was your inspiration to start writing?
A: My kids. And telling them stories and remembering how much I loved hearing stories as a kid. My mom told me stories every night as a child before I went to bed and that has always stuck with me and was something I always wanted to do for my own children. And I did! I was sitting around the kitchen table when my oldest daughter was a baby and my sister encouraged me to write down the stories I was telling her and I should try to get it published, and I thought you know what? Maybe I will.
Q: Was the publishing process different from what you thought?
A: It was different. Because you have no control. When they buy your words, you have no control over the pictures. And that was very hard, at first, for me because I really had a vision of what I saw when I told the story in my own mind. And to be honest, the book doesn’t look like my vision. It has now come to be my vision and I love it and I think David was brilliant and he added a lot of wonderful things to the story just by bringing those characters to life. And it took so long. Two and a half years! Crazy long! And I thought I was going to get a lot more help with marketing, and things like that because I had a caldecott winner and Anne Shwartz as my editor who was starting her own imprint, but I didn’t.
Q: What have the rejections taught you?
A: Well it’s interesting. I got something like 50 rejections on “The Worm Family Has Its Picture Taken”. It taught me that this whole industry is extraordinarily subjective. And it’s really about finding just one human who happens to like your style and what you are saying. Because there’s plenty of books out there that I think are stinky, but there’s tons that I love. And you and I might read the same book and not feel the same way about it. And so I just think it’s an extremely subjective industry. I don’t take it personally.