Jennifer Weiner is widely known to adult readers for her bestselling women-centric novels (Good in Bed; Who Do You Love), her columns for the New York Times Op-Ed pages and Sunday Review, and her humorous Twitter feed. But it was her role as mom to daughters Lucy and Phoebe (now eight and 12) that spurred her to embark on her latest writing gig as a children’s book author.
Weiner explains that her middle-grade debut, The Littlest Bigfoot (S&S/Aladdin, Sept.), “started about three years ago as a story that I was telling my then five-year-old. I was thinking about it a lot and embroidering on it. And my daughter was obsessed with a TV show called Finding Bigfoot at the time. She would tell me about all kinds of Bigfoot facts. I even workshopped drafts in her kindergarten class. I would read to them, and I saw when the kids would get fidgety.”
When Weiner finally committed the story to written form, she also drew inspiration from the works of Roald Dahl. “I love the world-building and authenticity in those books,” she says. “The children behave like children, and some of the adults are truly awful. I wanted to tell an entertaining, fast-paced story and build a world that was very real and very new to kids. And I wanted it to be about two girls who feel very out of place.”
Weiner is pleased to have at last written something that her daughters can read. Up till now, “They ask, ‘When can we read your books?’ and I say, ‘Never!’” she jokes. “They ask, ‘What does ‘good in bed’ mean,’ and I say, ‘Nothing!’”
Though her children’s book is a change in course for her, it’s not the only one. Weiner is also putting the finishing touches on her first-ever nonfiction book for adults, It’s All Material (Atria, Oct.), a collection of essays on modern womanhood. “This has been a great year for me,” she says. “The children’s book is new, the nonfiction is new. Everything’s been new, exciting, and fun.”
Looking ahead, Weiner says she’s ready to “pick up the Bigfoot thread again,” and begin work on the next two books in her planned trilogy, due in fall 2017 and fall 2018. And she has a pretty good head start. “I crammed every single thing I could think of into this first book,” she says. “My editor then told me how long children’s books typically are. So I have hundreds of pages I had to cut from the first book. It was a happy accident.”
Weiner has a busy schedule today. She’ll take part in the “Crafting Adventure Tales for Kids” panel on the Uptown Stage, 11–11:30 a.m., and will sign ARCs of The Littlest Bigfoot in the S&S booth (2016, 2017), 1–2 p.m.
This article appeared in the May 12, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.