|| Jane Stemp
Married Name: Jane Stemp Wickenden
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Authors Among Us - Children's Writers Who Are or Who Have Been Librarians
Featured Titles by British author
| Secret Songs
London : Hodder, 1997. ISBN: 0340681608
London : Hodder, 1995 ISBN 0340634774 (UK)
New York : Dial, 1996 ISBN 0803719949 (USA)
(Note: Amazon.com lists this title as "out of stock" but
is still accepting orders. Some titles
|What influenced you to become a librarian?
Partly my bookishness - though I appreciate that
that is not the best reason to become a librarian - and partly my disability
which meant that I did not care for physical exertion. I was a 3-months
premature baby and as a result have lived
In addition I had encephalitis at age 5; either this or the drug given me to cure it left me with some hearing damage; hence the hard-of-hearing central character in Secret Songs (she is harder of hearing than I am - but also taller & prettier!)
Do you have a library/information science degree?
I have a Postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship from what was then the (independent) College of Librarianship Wales and is now the Department of Information and Librarianship Studies at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. I am a graduate in English Language and Literature from Somerville College, Oxford, with an emphasis on medieval studies.
What kinds of library positions have you held and where?
Special and academic library posts in London and Oxford, where I have mixed "back-room" and reader services work, though force of circumstances (i.e. limited availability of posts in the academic environment) pushed me chiefly into cataloguing. For three years I was a cataloguer on the Oxford University Early Printed Books Project.
How long were you, or have you been, a librarian? Since the spring of 1985.
Are you currently working as a librarian?
I married and moved to Somerset in 1999 after 12 years in Oxford. Since January 2000 I have been working for 9 hours per week in the local public library, and for 5 months in the summer of 2000 I had an advisory contract with the Archives department of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office in Taunton.
Do you plan to continue in the profession?
I am just about to take up a new position as cataloguer to the historic collection of the Institute of Naval Medicine, Alverstoke, near Gosport in Hampshire, which is a branch of the Admiralty Library.
I had planned to take up part-time work only once married, and concentrate on writing; however, 2 weeks after we moved house, my husband was laid off, and it became more urgent that I contribute to the joint earnings.
Which came first in your life, your work or career as a librarian, or writing for children?
I was writing before I was a librarian (though not before I intended to become a librarian). However I did not set out to write for children.
Did your library work have anything to do with becoming a children's writer?
I am not quite sure. I do, however, feel that some discrimination against me (on account of my disability) in one of my posts, affected the intensity with which my first published book was written.
Did your library work directly influence your work as an author?
Working with students has certainly helped me with writing teenage characters.
Did librarianship increase your knowledge of children's literature and influence the kinds of things you chose to write?
Not particularly, though I remember with fondness the excellent children's literature collection at the College of Librarianship Wales.
Did incidents from your library work ever
make it into your books?
Not yet, though another novelist friend borrowed an experience of mine for her third book. Although I have not set a scene in the library yet, my first book, which has a futuristic setting, sets great importance on being able to find the truth through accurate knowledge and storage of information, including, to a certain extent, fiction.
What are the greatest benefits of being a librarian to you as a writer?
Knowing where to find the information I want, i.e. insider knowledge of research sources. I am moving towards writing historical fiction, where this will become paramount.
Are there any drawbacks to being a librarian and also a writer?
Not having enough time in the day. Before I was married I also had more of the evenings to myself! However librarianship is a job where, generally, you cannot bring the office home, which is an advantage (by contrast I find that my days lack structure when I work part-time only, so I find it more difficult to write instead of less).
If you write while working as as librarian
(or did), how do you manage the time-juggling act?
See above. I have to admit that in my second-ever job I was on occasion left in the office all afternoon with nothing to do, and that writing could occasionally fill that time! When I am working full-time I invariably write after 9 or sometimes 10 pm, except at weekends when I may start earlier and stop later. If on a few days' break on my own I write anywhere, any time.
Have you found any conflicts or job-related
difficulties in being both a writer and a librarian?
On the whole it has been appreciated. I have three or four dedicated readers from one particular year's intake at one of the Oxford colleges who have kept in touch to tell me how much they like the books - always good for the ego. Another employer was kind enough to let me use the office printer when my own broke down, providing that I supplied the paper.
Do you feel that librarianship has specific benefits to you as a writer?
See above, mostly. I feel that my personality probably influenced me towards both authorship and librarianship rather than one influencing the other.
Work in progress:
I have third and fourth titles in progress, The Edge of the Wind & The Haunted Shore; however there are no contracts at present.
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Last Updated October 31, 2003