Author Interview with Jodie Jackson

Welcome to the latest Books on the 7:47 author interview with the wonderful Jodie Jackson! Jodie has written two non-fiction books – one for adults (You Are What you Read) and one for children (Little Ruffle and the World Beyond) around the same theme – solutions journalism. Now, if you’re wondering what that is, you’re in the right place…

Jodie kindly spoke to me about her passion for solutions news and how her wonderful children’s book Little Ruffle came to life.

/ Hi Jodie! Let’s start with what your books are all about: how would you describe solutions journalism to anyone who doesn’t know about it?

It’s often easier to start by defining what it is not; solutions journalism is not light-hearted, uplifting, entertaining feel-good stories. Instead, it is:

Rigorous journalism that reports critically on tangible progress being made in order for us to understand how issues are being dealt with.

Critically, this type of journalism still helps us understand the problem, it just recognises that the problem isn’t always the end of the story. We are also learning about how these problems are being resolved. We learn what people are doing in response to them and understand what solutions are being put in place. Then we ask if they’re working.

Finally, this type of journalism isn’t for the purpose of making us feel better; it’s for the purpose of making us know better, by giving us the fuller picture of the world.  

/ How did you become passionate about this?

I got to the point where I couldn’t watch the news anymore because it made me feel so depressed about the state of the world and so disappointed about the people in it. And when I stopped watching the news, people labelled me as weak, naive, shallow, ignorant and extreme.

This reaction that others had towards me made me feel that I was broken in some way; that there was something in me that wasn’t brave enough or strong enough to see the world in all of its terrible existence. But rest assured; I have investigated this thoroughly over the last twelve years and it is not me, and it is not you, who are broken. It is the news industry that is broken. It is the picture of the world that we are given by the news that is broken.

The “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality is insufficient in informing and empowering us; we need solutions too! This is not to shield ourselves from the world’s problems, but to allow ourselves to see what’s possible in their presence.

/ Has the pandemic affected your outlook this year?

It has been a hard year in many ways but there is also a lot to be thankful for. I have made a conscious effort to search for solutions and share with others the innovative, creative, courageous and compassionate responses that are taking place – and it has reaffirmed that even in the most difficult circumstances, progress can still take place. 

/ From idea to publication, how long did Little Ruffle take?

I wrote the book in April and it was published in October. This was a much quicker process than I had with my previous book – mainly because I self-published and because I worked with a fantastic illustrator, Sarah-Leigh Willis – both of these helped with a quick development.

I was incredibly driven to get Little Ruffle out as quickly as possible as I felt that children, especially now, would benefit from its message to help alleviate some of their anxieties and provide hope for their future. 

/ Do you remember the moment you had the idea for your book?

Yes. I have been campaigning for solutions news for the last ten years but when Covid-19 happened, I realised how totally exposed my three-year-old was to the news – and how the narrative lacked any kind of solutions focus.

I wanted to be able to equip my daughter with the tools she will need from an early age to successfully navigate the news – not only by being a problem finder but by becoming a solution seeker too!

/ What were your key considerations when writing for a young audience?

How to make a big idea as simple as possible. But what I found amazing is that it didn’t simplify the idea or dilute it in any way – if anything, it made it more potent and powerful.

The main consideration after I had written the book was to see how they could practically apply the lessons they learn through the book to their life. This is when I developed Little Ruffle’s Resources to help children actively learn how to become empowered explorers, hopeful heroes and solution seekers.  

/ Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Do one thing every day. I did not intend to be a writer – I had no idea where to begin! But I did at least one thing every day (sometimes more) and my efforts compounded themselves into a book!

/ Who are your favourite authors?

For adults, Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell. For children, Julia Donaldson and Rachel Bright

/ Lastly, what book’s on your bedside table right now?

I am currently reading Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty.

I hope you’ve been inspired as much as I have by solutions journalism and Jodie’s passion for this fascinating topic. Find out more and get the latest updates through Jodie’s website and Twitter.

Discover all my author interviews here too.

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