Interview with Debut Picture Book Author Jennifer Raudenbush…and a Giveaway!

Do you know what I love most about reading picture books to children? I love how they take you on a little journey for the few special minutes you share together. That journey can be light-hearted and humorous, ending in laughter and smiles, or it can be a bit deeper and more thought-provoking. On whatever journey that picture book leads the both of you (or group of you), you get to experience it together by talking and sharing how you feel. That is the MAGIC of a picture book.

Cover art, In the Palm of My Hand

I am so pleased to have Jennifer Raudenbush here with me today so we can talk about a very magical picture book she has written called In the Palm of My Hand. The words and illustrations (by Isabella Conti) are just gorgeous, and they meld together to create a mindful, meditative, and quite existential experience for the young reader. Set in nature, it explores the interconnectedness of all the things around us–small and large, simple and complex, inside us and outside us. She does this effortlessly, leaving you feeling as if you have just taken a peaceful walk outside, but are also empowered to play an integral part in the universe. 

Some of my favorite lines include:

“In the palm of my hand, 

I hold an acorn, small and round.

Within it grows a forest.”


“In the palm of my hand,

I hold a raindrop, cool and wet.

It has journeyed from the depths of the sea.”

I could keep going because every line is beautiful, but I won’t because Jennifer is here and I want to talk with her! 

Interior page spread, In the Palm of My Hand

Hilary Margitich: Jennifer, I am going to stop myself from quoting your entire book (because it is that quote-worthy) and welcome you to the Writers’ Rumpus blog. Thank you so much for joining me today! We are very happy to have you.

Jennifer Raudenbush: I love this blog, so it’s such an honor to be here! Thank you so much for having me and for your kind words about my debut.

HM: I’d love to hear how the idea for In the Palm of My Hand came to you in the first place. Can you share a little bit about that with us?

JR: I was amazed at how the humorous picture book Fear the Bunny by Richard T. Morris and illustrated by Priscilla Burris (Atheneum, Simon & Schuster, 2019) incorporated poetry, and I wanted to try something like it myself. I used the first four lines of William Blakes’ “Auguries of Innocence” as a springboard and imagined how to express the poet’s ideas and words for children. 

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

Author’s dog Mazy with copies of her book!

I walk with my Westie pup Mazy every day in and around the forest where I live. Nature inspires me, it refreshes me, it fills my soul. In the Palm of My Hand is a lyrical love letter to nature. I’ve seen how spending time outdoors transformed my own rambunctious child: improved his mood, calmed him, and brought him joy. My hope is this picture book will encourage children to head outside and soak up all the extraordinary benefits of nature. In the Palm of My Hand is also about the hidden possibilities in tiny things, including in children themselves, so it speaks to potential and self-esteem.

Hiking in Sedona, Arizona

HM: I know from following your work that you enjoy word play and writing poetry. It’s evident in the beautiful and lyrical way that you write. Do you have any sort of regimen around this that helps you come up with story ideas?

JR: Thank you for noticing! Yes, I’m a huge fan of the musicality of words and the beauty of language. My favorite part of picture book writing (or any writing!) is playing around at the line level and making my words sing. I think it’s fascinating how the sounds of words can create different moods, such as silly, spooky, melancholy, dreamy, etc., and I strive to make this same magic in my writing. 

I have a poetry “regimen” in that I try to start every day by reading some type of poetry, either lyrical picture books or “adult” poetry. While the house is still asleep, I sit at my desk, hot tea in hand, the sun rising through my window, and read. My favorite adult-centered poets are Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and Linda Pastan, while my favorite child-centered poets are Michelle Schaub, Joyce Sidman, and Dianne White. 

As far as coming up with ideas for books—I write middle grade novels and poetry (of course!) besides picture books—I LOVE brainstorming. There’s such fun and freedom in this process, and play—lots of play. I also keep separate idea notebooks for picture book and middle grade ideas. If an idea comes to me while walking my dog or out and about, I’ll use my phone to send myself an email. 

HM: Many kidlit writers feel intimidated at the thought of writing poetry. Did you ever feel this way? What advice would you give someone who wants to try it?

JR:  I started writing poetry when I was in my mid-twenties to get my feelings out during a difficult time. Honestly, it was therapy! The poems weren’t great from a technical standpoint, but it felt fantastic to express myself and be creative. My poetry was just for me; I didn’t worry about what anyone else thought. Over time, I wrote more poetry, shared it with others, and even wrote poems as gifts for people. 

My advice for people who are interested in writing poetry is to read lots of it and to approach writing it as play. Don’t judge yourself. Just do it! Have fun with the format, the condensed images, the sound of language. 

Jen’s poetry box where she kept her early poetry

HM: Jennifer, tell me about your path to writing for children. When did you first decide that you wanted to do this, and what has this journey been like for you?

JR: When I was in elementary through high school, I loved reading and writing and had wanted to become a writer. I was talked out of it. In college, I majored in English Literature but didn’t take creative writing. However, I still had the bug to write creatively and wrote my first picture book on a simple dummy I made of paper. My dream in my early twenties was for my artist younger sister to illustrate it. (Amy is actually now on a journey to become an author-illustrator!) Life happened with jobs and a child, and I tucked my dream away. Years later, when I was blessed with a son, I read to him often. All that picture book reading with Evan ignited my passion to write picture books again. 

In 2015, I joined a Pennsylvania East SCBWI virtual critique group. In less than one year it disbanded, but the following summer I met up in person with one of my critique partners at the Highlights Foundation workshop Picture Books and All That Jazz (led by Leslie Helakoskie and Darcy Pattison). We met some other amazing beginning picture book writers there and formed a mighty critique group, The Highlighters, which is still going strong. In fact, between us, we have three published picture books and two more publishing this year!

Jumping in headfirst, I soaked up as much writing craft as I could through classes, workshops, conferences, and craft books. I joined a second, in-person picture book critique group. And, I fell deeply in love with writing for children. I queried—too early, of course—and after many grueling years, gratefully became agented in November 2019. 

HM: Can you tell us what you’re working on next? And what do you dream of working on in the future?

JR: I have tons of submission-ready picture book manuscripts that I’d love to see out in the world! Right now, I have a middle grade mystery novel with codes and ciphers on submission, and I’m currently revising a contemporary middle grade. My dream for the future is to combine my passion for poetry with my passion for middle grade and write a verse novel.  

HM: Where our readers can follow you on social media?

JR: I would love to connect with your readers! All my social media handles, newsletter sign-up, and website are on my Linktree, HERE

HM: Jennifer, thank you so much for talking with me today. Your book and your writing is the real deal, and I love it. Will you come back and visit us again?

JR:  Oh, thank you, Hilary. Your compliment means so much to me. I’ve worn a lot of hats in my life, but “Author” is the one of the sweetest. Yes, I’d love to visit again with you and your readers! Thanks so much for having me ☺.

Jennifer is offering a signed copy of In the Palm of My Hand to one lucky reader. To enter, comment on this post! If you share on Facebook or Twitter, you get another entry. Giveaway closes in one week. US and Canada only.

Web size

Jennifer Raudenbush feels most alive when she’s creating stories, especially picture books, poetry, and middle grade novels. Jen lives with her husband and teenage son in eastern Pennsylvania, where its natural beauty provides endless inspiration. She has been published in Cricket children’s magazine, the 10.10 Poetry Anthology and Two Truths and a Fib Poetry Anthology. She is represented by Natascha Morris at The Tobias Literary Agency.

In the Palm of My Hand, illustrated by Isabella Conti, Running Press Kids (Hachette), is Jen’s first published picture book. Order it HERE

Connect with Jen through her Linktree, HERE


  1. I’d love to win a copy of this book! Jennifer, your writing is truly gorgeous. I love the idea of using a poem as a springboard for your own writing. I’ve done this several times and always been happy with the results. Sharing this beautiful book with children will be such a joy! I’m requesting it at both my library and local bookstore.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This book is brilliant! Nature always inspires me too, especially in spring when all is made new. I love the idea and can’t wait to read it. I shared this post on Facebook.

    Liked by 2 people

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