Q&A with Erica Silverman, author of the transgender-affirming picture book ‘Jack (Not Jackie)’

Erica Silverman is the author of Jack (Not Jackie), a sweet story about the changes facing one family. In this important picture book, Susan discovers that her little sister Jackie prefers to play with mud and be a Superbug, rather than play forest fairies and wear dresses. Jackie also asks to be called “Jack,” which Susan is first confused by. This is a timely story that carries a message of acceptance for everyone. Read below for insight into Erica’s writing process and the inspiration behind her story!

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I started making up stories before I could write and writing poems when I was about seven years old.  But it took me years to realize that authors were real people and that I could be one. It’s one reason I like doing school visits. Meeting a real live author would have been thrilling, even life-changing, for me.

2. How did you come up with the idea for Jack (Not Jackie)?

Actually, my editor suggested the idea. It resonated instantly.  I knew it was needed.  I wanted to write a story that would open hearts and minds.  

Early on, it emerged for me as a sibling story, a family story.  I spent a lot of time imagining my characters into life. I wrote many drafts. I got wonderfully helpful feedback from an editorial advisor from GLAAD.   I’m excited about the new publishing partnership between little bee books and GLAAD and so pleased that my book is part of this venture.

3. Which part of Jack (Not Jackie) was your favorite to write? Why?

It’s hard to pick one favorite part, but I would have to say the haircut scene was challenging and exciting to write because it’s the moment when Jack speaks his truth.  It’s a turning point for him and for his family.  I revised it quite a bit to get it right.

And then there’s the tent scene at the end, the resolution.  I knew where I wanted the story to go, but wasn’t sure how I would get there.  So I did some daydreaming and let Susan and Jack show me the way.  So much of writing is listening to my characters.

4. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Well, I’m a librarian and I enjoy working at the library. I also love to read; getting lost in a book is the best escape!  I live in a hilly neighborhood where my wife and I take long walks with our dog, play with everyone else’s dogs, and chat with our wonderful neighbors. In recent years, I’ve gotten into looking at birds and trying to figure out what they are. I’m not very good at bird identification yet, but I’m slowly getting better.

5. What was your favorite book to read as child?

Oh, so many!  When I was very little, I loved nursery rhymes, the Madeline books,  Angus the Dog, folk and fairy tales. I loved Thumbelina.   My favorite book when I got a bit older was Pride and Prejudice.  

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