Jen Arena is lucky to have been surrounded by great children’s books her whole life. As a teenager, she worked at a children’s-only independent bookstore in Pennsylvania, and after graduating from college, she made her way to New York City, where she found a job in children's book publishing, working as an editor for Putnam, Golden Books, and Random House. She’s now a full-time author and freelance editor and has written many books for kids, including Besos for Baby, 100 Snowmen, Lady Liberty’s Holiday, Marta Big and Small, and Sleep Tight Snow White. Jen lives in Tampa, Florida.
I was a children's book editor before I ever took myself seriously as a writer, so my biggest role model is Ursula Nordstrom, an absolute legend in the children's book industry. She worked as an editor at Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) for several decades and transformed children's literature by publishing some of the greatest kids books of all time, including Where the Wild Things Are, Harriet the Spy, Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Goodnight Moon. She also was a writer of children's books, as well.
I really can't wait for Big Green Garage, coming soon from Chronicle Books. It's my first interactive book and so will have flaps and pull-tabs and things like that. I'm always so impressed by the ingenuity of the folks at Chronicle! I'm also super excited about Salsa Lullaby, a bilingual bedtime book, illustrated by the phenomenal Erika Meza, and published by Knopf.
I realized I wanted to be in publishing first and got a job as an editorial assistant way back when at Grosset & Dunlap. One of my early assignments was to write a board book adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk. I had never thought of myself as a writer, but my boss liked my way with words and gave me more assignments like that. I enjoyed that work just as much as the editing assignments that I was getting! Throughout my editorial career, I was always taking on writing projects on the side, but it was only once I left New York and the full-time editorial job that I was able to concentrate more on my writing.
I would love to live in the world of Sleep Tight, Snow White, where so many of my childhood favorite characters live side-by-side. There's Little Bo Peep and Jack and Jill, Hansel and Gretel and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Even the Wicked Queen is getting ready for bed, but she doesn't seem so wicked cuddling up with her dragon and teddy bear (or maybe it's a bunny--I can't tell). For each fairy tale character, illustrator Lorena Alvarez created such a beautifully dreamy setting that I wish I could tuck myself into the pages of this book.