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Rising Stars: Meet Jodie Finney

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jodie Finney.

Hi Jodie, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
In 2007, I became a mother, and my whole world changed. It was magical and complicated; it was exhausting and life-giving. I started to cry at commercials, and I started writing things down, or else poof… it was gone! I was in my late 20s and had a doctorate in Physical Therapy from Washington University. I had been a division one athlete at Northwestern University, but my role as a mother set me on my path as a writer.

I had been a closet writer since I was a teenager, writing in my journals at night. However, as I started having more and more children, I have four girls; I realized I wanted to write to them; I wanted to write for them, so I started a journal for each of them. I pour it all out on the page, and just like I had as a teenager, writing became a way to express myself. It is therapeutic, stress-relieving, and it is fun. I write for so many reasons. I write because I am afraid I will forget. I write to give the girls an insight into their mother and who I am. I write to tell them I love them.

It wasn’t till my oldest daughter would sit for longer than two seconds during storytime that I start to fall in love with picture books. The picture book genre is remarkable. In 700 words, a reader experiences an entire story arch with emotion, struggles, lessons, and feelings. It is tough to do and so fantastic when done well. So, I dove in. I love a challenge, and I love to create. I continue to learn and work on my craft and have grown enormously since my first story.

In my quest to find representation for my picture book manuscripts, I decided I needed more of a social media presence. I needed to get out there and tell the world about myself and my work. So what do writers do? They start a blog. I have my website and blog, The Finney 411. The website and blog are a chance to connect with people and offer “mom” tidbits. It is a mixed bag of topics. Everything from writing about my journey with my Mom who has Alzheimer’s, venting about parenting, and the struggles of caring for elderly parents to recipes and interviews. Most of all, I want to be authentic and honest because being a mom is not easy.

We all have our stuff, the good and the bad. We live in a society where we are continuously judged via social media or at cocktail parties and soccer games. I wanted to create a space or at least a respite for my reader to love themselves, laugh at themselves, help themselves, and find joy in the littlest of things. Because in the end, we are all just trying our very best, to be our very best, to raise our children the very best we can. It’s not easy; it is a journey. Ultimately to realize that it’s ok to be perfectly imperfect.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Could you imagine a road to success without struggles? If so, sign me up. I have had many different struggles, but I have also gone down many different career paths. Becoming a physical therapist and a children’s books writer are very different roads to take. Staying current with my dream to become a traditionally published children’s book writer, I would say my most significant hurdle to overcome is that I have Dyslexia. Reading, writing, and learning have always been a struggle since I was five years old.

I am an idea person. I create the stories and content in my head. However, when it comes to grammar, spelling, and editing, I reach out for help. I have grown and learned immensely over the last few years, but I still need support. I have a dear friend that edits all my blog post. I use Grammarly to do more straightforward edits for my Instagram post, emails, and manuscripts. I also belong to a fantastic critique group for my manuscripts. But even with this village of editing help, I still make mistakes, and that’s ok – nobody is perfect.

Dyslexia I can control; I know my weakness and can reach out for help. However, the publishing world is a complete and utter subjective beast. It is tremendously hard to break into traditional publishing, especially the children’s market. It is a highly subjective industry and saturated with people wanting to be the next Jane O’Connor. For the most part, you need to have representation by a writing agency to be considered by major publishing houses. However, many agents are not accepting new clients. Once you send your work out for submission, your wait time on responses could be as long as six months to a year, and rejection letters almost always follow.

Additionally, you must have a manuscript that is impeccable and on-trend. Currently, in the industry, authors of color, LGBTQ+, and own voice authors are in high demand, which is fantastic, and the market needs to have a better and broader representation of humanity. It just means that my voice, ideas, and stories need to be new, fresh, and remarkable, all while landing on the desk of that one person out of thousands that connect with my message. Threading the needle in this industry is difficult, and when you get that offer in any form, there is cause for a huge celebration.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
Well, I love a good challenge, and I continue to create stories and write. During the pandemic, I started writing more about my journey with my Mother. As a result, I have begun connecting with people on a whole other level, and it is fantastic. I have found great joy and support knowing my blog posts are helping other families navigate the Alzheimer’s journey. It is a scary, horrible, and destructive disease that has a 0% survival rate. Then, of course, I wrote a children’s book about my experiences that is now out on submission. It is about a loving relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter and their journey with dementia.

Overall, I believe my openness as a mother, daughter, and wife draws my readers to my blog. I am real, honest, and comfortable in my abilities and voice. I am not trying to make money off products or become the next influencer, you will either like what I have to say, or you won’t, and that’s ok. With age, I have realized that life gets in the way sometimes; I can’t do it all. I am not perfect. I think that attitude comes through in my writing and is very healing and validating to my readers. This world is messy, and I am here to play in the mud with you.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Patients, perseverance, and persistence are mandatory skills and attribute to survive in the publishing industry. I also believe having a good sense of self is essential. I am a physical therapist by trade; I work with the human body rehabbing individuals back to health. Writing was just a hobby that has morphed into more. And throughout this writing journey, I have learned more about myself and what I want, need, and care about. That ability to self-evaluate yourself and stay true to who you are and what matters to you is critical to one’s success.

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Image Credits
Relic Photography

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