Exclusive Interview with the Author of The Good Egg
by Traci Swain
The main message of The Good Egg is that while it’s great to take care of others, you have to take care of yourself too.
But did you pick up on a more subtle message that Jory John infused into the story? Hint: it’s about travel!
Read this interview with multi-award-winning and New York Times–bestselling author Jory John to learn more about his creative process, what inspired him to become an author, and more.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
Gosh, I don’t know if I can pinpoint the exact moment, but I’ve been writing all my life, at least the parts of my life that I can remember. Even when I was little, it was something I did for fun on nights and weekends.
For a long time, I just did it for me, simply because I had an idea that I wanted to put down on paper. I remember in middle school, I’d write lots of short stories and comics, and I also started collaborating with friends on some sort of endless adventure comic/story. Just seeing a brand-new world come to life was so magical to me.
Eventually, in high school and college, I started self-publishing some humor zines, and that led to some of my early humor books, which eventually led to my life in children’s books (which I’ll also address in your next question, about working with kids).
I’ve also had a ton of wonderful collaborators over the years, and there’s nothing more gratifying than finding a great new person to work with, somebody who brings something out of you, and vice versa. That’s a great way to stay inspired: find somebody who you like to work with and make stuff with them!
You’ve worked with kids for many years. What role did that play in your writing process?
A ton! I’ve worked with kids in a bunch of capacities, as a programs director at an educational nonprofit, a tutor, and a camp counselor at a performing arts camp.
I think this has been hugely important to my writing career for children, because I think I have a pretty good idea of the stuff that kids enjoy reading, what makes them laugh, and what’s fun for adults to read out loud and perform. That’s definitely something I try to keep in mind when I’m writing picture books (among many other considerations): Is it going to be fun for somebody to perform the book when they read it?
But yeah, I think that my experience making kids laugh in person has contributed to an ability to make kids laugh in my writing. I also tend to write like I talk, so when you’re reading my stuff, just know that that’s how I actually speak.
When I worked at 826 Valencia—a nonprofit writing and educational center in San Francisco—not only would we have daily reading time, and daily homework time, but it was also a publishing center. So I worked with countless children on original stories that they’d write and illustrate, and then we’d use the in-house book binder to send kids home with their finished work. It was amazing!
In fact, there’s a daily field trip at 826 Valencia that I would coordinate, where every single weekday morning, a different classroom would arrive, and, with the help of a few adults, the students would collectively write a story that was illustrated by a professional illustrator, and then it was compiled, printed, and bound in the same room, all in the span of two hours!
I don’t work there anymore, but this is my recommendation: check out 826 National when you get the chance. They do amazing work and have writing centers all over the country, including San Francisco, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Ann Arbor.
What was the inspiration behind The Good Egg?
I think all of us have had those moments where you’re feeling fragile and overextended, but you still want to do your absolute best to help all the people in your life, as well as expertly handle all of your obligations and deadlines and requests and chores and to-do lists and bills and daily ups and downs.
The Good Egg started with the idea of somebody taking care of everybody except for themselves…and it developed from there. From the feedback I’ve gotten, it seems like many people can relate.
What message are you hoping that your readers get from reading The Good Egg?
I suppose one of the central messages is that it’s lovely to give a lot of time and energy and care to others…but please remember to take care of yourself too.
I also like to think there’s a more subtle message about travel—specifically, the egg’s solo journey—and how it can open your eyes to some of life’s greater truths, wisdom, and moments of clarity. And I’ve heard from lots of people who have many other takeaways from this book, along with the other books I make with my great collaborator, Pete Oswald, and I love hearing those messages too.
What is some memorable feedback you received from teachers and/or students about your books?
Another great question! There’s been so much wonderful feedback and communication from teachers and students and parents and various other readers over the years, and it’s all swirling in a cloud above my head, so let me try to remember some specifics for this answer.
I mentioned a couple of these examples in another recent interview, but I’ve had kids attend readings dressed as various characters from my books. I distinctly remember a Bad Seed showing up, fully dressed in sunflower-seed garb.
I remember a kid writing a song about my character Floyd Peterson from a book I did with Bob Shea called Quit Calling Me a Monster! The musician in question was about five years old, and he just shouted “Floyd Peterson!” over and over again, while jamming on his electric guitar.
And I get letters from both kids and adults fairly often, telling me stories about how a book affected them personally, and it’s so gratifying to know that whether it’s the humor or the heart or the message of the books, they are serving as something helpful to people I’ve never met.
Do you know a student, teacher, or reader who would enjoy this interview with Jory John? Please share with them on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #ScholasticBookClubs.
Want to get to know the illustrator of The Good Egg, Pete Oswald? Check out our exclusive interview with him here.
Jory John, a New York Times–bestselling author of books for both children and adults, is a two-time E. B. White Read-Aloud Honor recipient. He is the author of the Goodnight Already! picture book series and The Bad Seed. Other notable titles include Penguin Problems, All My Friends Are Still Dead, and the middle grade Terrible Two series. Before he started writing books, Jory worked as the programs director at 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and educational center in San Francisco’s Mission District, founded by Dave Eggers, for more than six years. In addition to the books listed above, Jory has written for the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Believer, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and BuzzFeed, among many other publications. He lives in Oregon.