Abe’s Penny’s Sarah Penello met with New York-based creative Jacque Lynn Schiller, contributor to Abe’s Peanut issue 2.2. Sarah said what a joy it was and it’s clear from the interview Jacque’s an all-around inspiration.
How did you hear about Abe’s Peanut?
I heard about Abe’s Peanut on Daily Candy. I was already familiar with Abe’s Penny and their events at the little gallery-like boutique, End of Century, where I have a few jewelry pieces for sale. Once I became an Aunt, I really became interested in writing for kids. Since they’re in Texas and I’m here, I mail them scavenger hunts and silly newsletters about what we’ve been up to. I like being the “cool aunt” in New York City. At least I hope they see me that way!
Where did you come up with the idea for your story in Abe’s Peanut?
Last year I made a limited letterpress edition of my children’s story, Under Cover. The tale stemmed from the idea of a character inside a book literally coming to life. Novelty elements and paper mechanics are employed to introduce the tiny boy who is constantly trying to escape the page boundaries. I corresponded with Anna and it seemed like a fun challenge to come up with a kind of companion story for Abe’s. I loved the idea of playing with the constraints of the postcard and continuing the use of visual and written puns. It encourages kids to think on multiple levels at once.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
As a girl, I wrote out sketches with a neighbor that we then subjected other kids to. Friends never received store bought cards. I didn’t dream of writing books, per se, though I did enjoy reading. A lot. At UT Austin I majored in advertising and was accepted into their ‘Creative Sequence’. I know, most pretentious name ever. But it was fantastic for learning brainstorming techniques and pushing past an initial idea. So I moved to NYC and worked in the industry a few years before deciding it wasn’t for me. What else did I like . . . movies! So I transitioned to that, writing for indieWIRE, one of the original film sites. Little did I know that everyone would be a blogger one day! From there I went on to write a couple of screenplays (unsold, of course) before going full-time freelance to write for everything from design publications to humor and food related pieces. And of course manuscripts for kids. I’ve got drawers full of them!
How do you feel about the role of the internet in a writer’s life, and how that has completely changed the face of the publishing industry?
I used to be a total purist, a real bibliophile. But now e-publishing and blogging has opened up a whole world of opportunity to have your work seen, with little to no overhead. I had an experience over ten years ago with a novelty book. I had been collecting clever or just bizarre quotes from bathroom stalls for quite some time and made this collection. At the time, publishing any photography would have been far too expensive and the hired designer’s aesthetic didn’t align with mine. It wasn’t quite the dream of ‘being published’ that I had envisioned.
Today, the very same concept would be a tumblr blog and I could have total control over it, zero overhead and probably exponentially more people would see it, not to mention be able to contribute. I’m not planning a sequel, but it’s interesting to note the new possibilities for publishing. Writers today must absolutely be open to the idea of new media as art, though I’m not ready to throw in the towel on the printed word. I’m trying to match my stories to the medium which is an exciting development. That’s what I think is brilliant about a publication such as Abe’s [Penny and Peanut]. There’s that strong online presence and community, then an offline, physical artifact comes with it.
Can you tell me a little bit about Triggerhappy, your boutique jewelry line?
I first began taking jewelry classes about five years ago with the designer behind Leoworks. It was on a whim but there was something compelling about designing and producing tangible work. My first attempts were not so great but when it came to lost wax casting, it felt a bit more natural. I sculpt my designs out of wax, get a mold made, then melted recycled silver is poured in and like magic — a ring! There’s great discarded and broken jewelry all over the city to tinker with and reconstruct. I also find jewelry making is a nice complement to writing. They’re similar in that you have an idea or concept in mind, but you never know quite how it will turn out. You just follow the form or where a character leads. And whenever I get writer’s block, I can always go bang on some metal!
Can you tell me about Larks and Japes?
I attended the Brooklyn SkillShare a couple of years ago and was inspired to co-host my own with a friend. We both love to learn and entertain so it seemed like the perfect kind of event to plan. We’re working to evolve the idea into a sort of monthly supper club, featuring different themes and discoveries.
As such a multi-talented and eclectic individual, do you have any advice for young readers?
Thanks! My career path is dictated by whatever I’m interested in at a particular time. There’s always a creative element, but I like to think you don’t have to limit yourself. New York is great for anyone who is curious. If you feel drawn towards something, seek and find out more about it. Stay open-minded and maybe climb a tree once in a while. With a good book (or postcard) in tow.