National Writing Project

Author’s Corner: Frances Kennedy and The Just-Right, Perfect Present

Date: December 4, 2009

Summary: Teacher-consultant Frances Kennedy keeps family memories alive through her writing and poetry. Inspired by a trusted group of writers, Kennedy discusses the process behind her second children's book.


Frances Kennedy is a writer and retired teacher who worked with the Eastern Iowa Writing Project. She lives in Dubuque, Iowa, with her husband. A tale about family and poetry, The Just-Right, Perfect Present is her second children's book.

What was your inspiration to write The Just-Right, Perfect Present?
Like my first book, The Pickle Patch Bathtub, I wrote The Just-Right, Perfect Present to keep my mother and her stories alive. I didn't want the only memory of her to be her name in a little box, on the family tree, or the date of her birth and death in the old family bible.

What is your writing process—especially since you have to write and teach?
I am retired now so finding time to write is easier, but the process is much the same. I snatch bits and pieces of time out of my busy schedule. Once I have an idea for a story I let it percolate. Then I write a quick draft, sometimes with pencil and paper, and then I enter it in the computer. I don't recommend this, but I revise as I write. It works for me. I wrote The Pickle Patch Bathtub while I was still teaching, and The Just-Right Prefect Present after I retired.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book?
I discovered my love-of-poetry roots. Writing the author's note I uncovered those who shaped my literary tastes. It goes way, way back to my great-grandfather who challenged his grandchildren to recite a poem to celebrate his golden wedding anniversary.

Does teaching others about writing inspire or challenge you about your own writing?
I don't think I ever taught anyone to write. I believe I am a facilitator of the writing process. When I am around writers I want to write and tell my story, too. It's contagious.

Has your involvement with the writing project influenced your writing in any way?
In a trusted group of writers I grew courageous and confident. My writing was respected and heard.

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