Photo of Jessica

If you missed our fantastic live Q&A with GRANDMA author Jessica Shepherd for Dementia Awareness Week, here it is! The first five questions tweeted were treated to some wise and wonderful words from Jessica. Read on…

Q1 @JMRuther4d:
Do you start with the beginning or end of a book first? Or just a theme and do bits in a random order? X

Jessica: It works completely differently every time! With GRANDMA it was definitely the concept that came first! The idea of child and relative adapting together to maintain a warm and happy relationship – valuable to both. Then I did some 'free writing' from Oscar’s perspective, drew out a storyboard template; some frames had just words, some just pictures... Then it all ended up swapping around. Lots changes on the journey! It works completely differently every time. My storyboards are FAR from a work of art, in fact, they are usually totally ridiculous and when I look back I can't even make out what I drew!

Q2 @pbooksblogger:
What made you write GRANDMA? It's so refreshing to see these topics coming through.

Jessica: I cared for PWD [people with dementia] while studying Illustration, and I wanted to do something positive, to contribute to supporting families challenged by this difficult situation. I didn't see very many children visit the care home, but when they did, the positive mark left on the residents was totally heart-warming. And it continued even after the child had gone home. People wanted to talk with me about how lovely it was and about happy memories of their own children. It was so powerful and I wanted to see it more, but understood the possible fears parents might have. So what could I do to help relieve that as much as I could?! GRANDMA was my answer. I hope it's helping :)

PictureBooksBlogger: What a GREAT way to contribute and raise awareness.

Q3 @sarahyewman:
Writing or illustrating, which do you prefer and why?

Jessica: Oh, great question! Also a difficult one. I think they work hand in hand. Writing comes more naturally, and I can be quite impatient with myself, so illustrating a book and trying to keep characters consistent can be challenging and frustrating at times. But I think pictures are SO important as they can be read by ANYONE. It's definitely worth working hard to overcome those internal obstacles!

Q4 @MagicLampArts:
Are you involved with #DAW2015?
What can we all focus on?

Jessica: Fantastic question. I'm not sure I can give a general answer... If every individual makes a determination to learn a little more about dementia and to have an awareness of the varying needs of all people we cross paths with in daily life, that would be the most powerful movement in society. This is Dementia Awareness Week [May], but dementia is a part of life every day to individuals, families and friends everywhere. How can we use our professions and skills we already possess to support those LWD? Can we be more open to discussion and make sure we don't contribute to stigmatisation? Can we make an effort to have more compassion, wisdom and courage every day? I think a small change in the outlook of each person will contribute to something pretty wonderful. I suppose it's important to not feel you have to wait until you have more time to do something huge. Do something small... but do it right now! :D (I can't give the answer to what that small thing should be; whatever feels right for each person's life.)

Q5 @AmyGigawatt:
Hi Jess! GRANDMA is dedicated to ‘Tungi’
– please could you tell us more about this important person?

Jessica: It’d be an absolute pleasure. GRANDMA wouldn’t be half the book it is without Tungi and her wonderful family. Tungi was an overwhelmingly inspiring lady, living with Alzheimer’s, who I was fortunate to spend a lot of time, building a relationship, while I was writing GRANDMA and beyond. She had the kindest heart, which shone through in her cuddles and continues to shine through her family. Her children and grandchildren supported the completion of the book, making sure those going through similar challenges would get as much support from it as possible. :)

Child’s Play: Thank you so much to @JesSSShepherd for sharing so much and for all the questions! Extremely informative and lots to think about.

Jessica: Thank you for all the fab questions!

Follow us @ChildsPlayBooks @JesSSShepherd

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