Don’t wait until it’s the right time. In life I don’t think there’s ever a perfect time to start something. There’s nothing wrong with planning but at some point, one has to decide if they’ll take the leap or not. Even if you can only write on the 3rd Tuesday of the month in the bathroom while your kids are screaming, do it. Life is too short. I encourage you to find your joy and write.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacqueline Douge.
Jacqueline Douge, MD, MPH, FAAP is a pediatrician, writer and speaker. She’s the founder of What is Black a digital media company that creates and produces diverse and inclusive family and children’s programming to entertain, uplift and affirm Black families, children and youth. Learning To Love All of Me is her first middle grade novel.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I remember being very young and loving Sesame Street as most young kids did, but as I got older and became a mom and pediatrician, I remembered how much Sesame Street taught me as a child and how great a tool it was and still is in educating kids and parents about health, reading, self-esteem, mental health, celebrating diversity and so much more. I also loved to see kids of color that looked like me on TV. Sesame Street was a pioneer in recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion in children’s media. Sesame Street Workshop that created Sesame Street also developed books, music and now has a podcast to reach its audience. The idea of creating diverse and inclusive children’s media whether written, visual or audio, appealed to me as another way to educate and entertain children and families.
I’m not only interested in science, I love being creative.Sesame Street Workshop helped me learn from an early age that I can help others not only through science but also through the use of media. So I write children’s books and am also a doctor.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
The most interesting things that have happened to me throughout the course of my career is the opportunity to meet and speak with so many other talented authors. In addition to being a writer, I created two podcasts, Talking About Books for Kids and What is Black?, to spotlight diverse authors and their stories. It is amazing to hear the inspiration behind the authors’ stories and learn about their writing journey. Not only does my audience learn, but I have a front row seat to a masterclass in writing.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
For me the biggest challenge that I faced in my journey to become an author was overcoming the thought that I couldn’t be a writer without an English, Creative writing or Master’s of Fine Arts degree. In my mind, to be a writer, I had to have these “credentials.” I hadn’t heard of other doctors that were also children’s authors. It took a long time for me to tell others that I wanted to be a writer because I thought other people would judge me and not take me seriously.
About 10 years ago, I wrote my first picture book. I was so excited about the book, but self doubt was still lurking and it eventually won and I lost my confidence. Instead of enjoying the accomplishment of publishing my first book, I created a story that other people wouldn’t like the book because it wasn’t published by a major publishing company, I didn’t have a writing degree and any other excuse that I could think about. But during the 10 years that passed, the voices of characters telling me their stories didn’t leave me. I finally realized that I loved to write stories. So to help me face my fears of not feeling like a “real writer,” I began to find ways to improve my writing skills through enrolling in writing workshops, joining writing critique groups and writing. I was then able to reframe my doubts. How could I say that I wasn’t a writer, if I had the skills to write?
I’m excited that I’ve published my first middle grade novel, Learning To Love All of Me, and am working on new stories that I can’t wait to share.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I first started writing was misspelling my oldest son’s name in the dedication of my first picture book. The lesson learned for me was grace. My son was just happy to see his name but he did remind me that I misspelled it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have been speaking about the impact of racism on children’s health and how to help parents talk to their children about race. I’m promoting my middle grade novel, Learning to Love All of Me. I’m also working on creating a children’s podcast series based on a story idea co-written by my colleague Dr. Ashaunta Anderson, and I have two picture book projects I’m working on. It’s important to me to create more diverse and inclusive books and media for children.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
To me the most interesting story shared in Learning to Love All of Me, is how Syndney learns to accept and love herself. She’s struggled with others asking her, “What are you?” because they don’t know if she’s white or Black. In the story, she deals with racism and with help of her best friends, family and mentor, finds her voice and confidence to help to make a difference. I love writing stories that depict kids of color as the heroes of their own stories.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
The main empowering lesson that I want readers to take away after reading the book is that it’s more important about how you feel about yourself than what others think about you.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Write the story you want to read. This is idea is taken from Toni Morrison’s quote, “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Growing up as a bi-racial Black girl, I didn’t read many stories with characters that looked like me so I wrote the book I wanted to read as a tween.
- Read, read, read. The art of being a writer starts with reading as many books as you can.
- Don’t wait until it’s the right time. In life I don’t think there’s ever a perfect time to start something. There’s nothing wrong with planning but at some point, one has to decide if they’ll take the leap or not. Even if you can only write on the 3rd Tuesday of the month in the bathroom while your kids are screaming, do it. Life is too short. I encourage you to find your joy and write.
- Write no matter what. There are so many times I wanted to give up after receiving a critique from an agent at a writer’s workshop or the rejection letter from an agent or publisher. The rejection was evidence to the self-doubting inner voice. If you love to write, then just keep writing. One day the world will catch up to your brilliance and if not, it’s their loss.
- Listen to the voices. Some of my best ideas come when I’m trying to take a nap. I place my head on the pillow and I hear whispers of ideas for stories or there’s a character in my head telling me about who they are. Listen then wake up and write it down so you don’t forget.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
The one habit that I rely on is ideation. I love thinking about new approaches, new stories and new ways to be creative. Falling in love again with writing has opened the opportunities about how I use story writing in the other media projects that I’m working on. Ideating brings me joy!
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I draw inspiration from reading interesting and engaging stories. I learn about sentence structure, pacing, character development and world building. I especially love cozy British mysteries set around tea and/or food and hope to one day write my own mystery.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to find ways to encourage more kindness and empathy.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers can follow me on Twitter @drdouge and Instagram @drjacquelinedouge
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!