Meet Jayne Pillemer, Harrison resident and author of STILL MINE. “Each page of Pillemer’s debut tale of love and grief weaves a poignant thread” says Kirkus Reviews of the title released today, January 18, 2022. Read our interview below to find out more about Jayne, her book, upcoming events, and how to get your own copy!
Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I was born in Connecticut, but we moved to New Jersey, then to Ohio and back to New Jersey for my father’s work. I consider myself a Jersey girl—I lived there consistently from the age of 12 until I left for college, so it feels like the place where I still have the strongest childhood ties. I currently live in Harrison, and it’s really become home. I love being close to the water, and I’ve made wonderful friends here—it’s hard to imagine being anywhere else.
We are so happy you joined the Sound Shore Community! We love it here too and it’s really such a great place to raise kids. How many do you have and what are their ages?
I have three boys who keep me busy—and always laughing. Lachlan is 7, Cole is 5, and Grayson is 1! Gray is our little pandemic baby and has brought so much joy to us during a very strange time.
What is your professional background and how did you become an author?
My first job out of college was at HarperCollins Publishers as an Editorial Assistant in Children’s Books. I had always thought I would go into broadcast journalism and spent time in college interning for television news, but I soon discovered that a career in media was not for me. Books were an integral part of my childhood, and publishing felt like a natural thing for me to try. HarperCollins proved to be a wonderful fit—I loved the collaboration between author, illustrator, editor, designer and the relationships that developed by working as a team. At HarperCollins, I grew as an editor, learned about the publishing industry, and worked on everything from board books to YA! The breadth of experience and the mentorship I had there was the foundation for my transition to author.
It sounds like you have had a wonderful experience working for HarperCollins and it’s so cool that they are now the publisher of your new book! Tell us about STILL MINE!
STILL MINE is a gentle story about grief, with a focus on what gets to stay after a loss—and that’s love. Children are able to see how memories live on and how you can keep loving someone, even if they are not here anymore. While it is an emotional story, the take-away from the book is uplifting. Sheryl Murray gorgeously depicts different relationships: parent and child, young friends, grandparent and grandchild, and so the book feels very universal to all types of losses a child could experience.
What a beautiful book! Did you draw from personal experiences when writing it?
Oh, yes. This book is dedicated to my grandmother, and the memories I have of her are so present for me on a daily basis. I used to love sleeping over at her house—she would let me stay up late and drink hot chocolate on the couch while we watched The Game Show Network and reruns of I Love Lucy. Drinking hot chocolate becomes a special memory for two little boys in the book and a way for them to feel connected after a loss. Daily rituals with my kids have become so important to my family—our Good Morning Song, the bedtime back rub—my hope is that they will always find the same comfort and joy when they look back and remember these small moments of special love.
So sweet! Why write for this age, around 4-8 years old?
When my grandmother passed away, my oldest son was two. I searched for a book to read to him to help me explain what had happened. I remembered books that I had read as an older child that dealt with death so beautifully, like CHARLOTTE’S WEB and WALK TWO MOONS, but I couldn’t find anything for the picture book set that captured what I was looking to say. I wanted to pair the message of loss with something permanent—love. It was a beautiful challenge to try to find a simple and soft approach to a topic with such big feelings.
What is the main message being sent in your book?
Just because a person passes away, doesn’t mean you’ve lost them completely. Love endures. Memories endure. They are still yours to love, and they can live in your heart forever.
You have some events coming up- tell us about them!
I’m so grateful for the ways the towns of Harrison and Rye are coming out in support of this book! I will be at the Rye Free Reading Room on January 22 at 11 am. Arcade Booksellers will be there selling copies of STILL MINE, and I’ll be signing! The library staff will be providing a craft and sweet treat for children. (Registration is necessary via the Rye Free Reading Room Website). The Harrison Public Library is hosting me on January 25 at 4 pm for a reading and craft. On February 13, I’ll be headed up to Mystic, CT to do a signing and Meet and Greet at Bank Square Books. Mystic is such a fun day trip or overnight destination with kids, and I’m very excited to be spending some time further up the coast!
We can’t wait to attend your events and also read your book! How can we order?
STILL MINE is available anywhere books are sold! Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target and local independent stores will be carrying it!
What do you love most about writing?
My favorite thing in life is to be with my kids. That said, I’m also a person who craves quiet, which is hard to come by in a house full of energetic boys! Writing has become a little respite for me—hearing my own thoughts is restorative. Writing STILL MINE specifically was also like a bit of therapy—reflecting on the journey of grief and connecting with special memories and my grandma’s love was the way I was able to find peace.
What is the toughest part about being a writer?
It’s tough when you book a babysitter and feel the pressure to be productive because it’s your only window in the week to put pen to paper, and then you just can’t get into your zone. I try to just accept writer’s block as part of the process and release the frustration, because there really isn’t much you can do about it.
What are your go-to restaurants and shops in the Sound Shore?
My husband is Australian, and they have such good Thai food in Sydney, which he couldn’t find replicated, even in New York City. When we discovered Durian in Larchmont, we were so excited because it rivals his favorite local Thai spot Down Under. We also love Saltaire and Telly’s Taverna in Port Chester and Aurora in Rye. Getting to the mall is a bit of an endeavor these days, and I love the unique selection and convenience of local boutiques! Palmer & Purchase and Love Bella are my favorites.
What are your favorite things to do with your kids?
Reading! I hope that doesn’t sound contrived. Story time is truly my favorite time of day, snuggling with each boy and reading aloud. Lachlan and I are reading The Boxcar Children, which I loved when I was a second grader, and revisiting it is a little trip down memory lane. Cole has even got me hooked on Captain Underpants, which I thought would be a little too silly for my taste, but it’s very creative and funny! I equate books with love, comfort and relaxation, and it makes me happy to see my boys developing those same feelings around story time. We also like to bake, do arts and crafts, and I am yearning for summer and spending days at the pool and attending swim team meets. My kids want me to tell you that we love playing school, too!
You’re an amazing mom that devotes so much time to your kids! How do you spend “me time”?
I try to take an hour every morning and go for a run, a swim or take a yoga class. Exercise energizes me and getting out of the house to do it helps me come back home fresh for the kids. My husband and I also try to make time to unwind in front of the TV—we love everything from documentaries to drama to rom com.
How do you juggle motherhood and writing? Any tips for keeping it all together?
I used to feel intense “mom guilt”–like taking time away from my kids was selfish. But over time, I’ve realized I’m better for them when I carve out a little bit of mental and physical space. Writing helps me feel more sane and centered, and that makes me a happier, more attentive parent. Sometimes just a couple of hours a week to do something that helps me connect with who I am other than a mom is enough.
Taking time to yourself is such great advice! What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
My aunt once said of her kids’ childhoods, “It went so fast. I wish I savored it more.” The days feel short to me, the years feel even shorter. I really try to acknowledge what a special and fleeting time this is and enjoy it as much as I can.
We are so lucky to have such a talented author and wonderful mother in our Sound Shore Community. Follow Jayne on Instagram for more on her book, STILL MINE.
Interview by Kelly Postiglione | Photos by Anna Julien Photography