Q&A with Terri Libenson, author of “The Pajama Diaries” and “Positively Izzy”

In anticipation of her upcoming event with Heights Libraries on Wednesday, May 9, local author Terri Libenson spoke with us about her writing process, favorite authors, and upcoming book, Positively Izzy.

How would you describe your new book, Positively Izzy

Positively Izzy is a spin-off of Invisible Emmie. Both books are set in the same school and town, but this one stars two new characters: Brianna, Emmie’s best friend, and Izzy, a new character I’ve introduced. These girls have different personalities, kind of like Emmie and Katie. Bri is smart and bookish, while Izzy is a dreamer who loves play acting. Like Invisible EmmiePositively Izzy also takes place over the course of a day, but this time it focuses on the school talent show.

What inspires you to write for middle-grade readers? 

I never knew I could write for middle graders, but it really seems to come naturally. I think there’s just a big part of me that is kidlike. Plus I can remember how I felt at that age, which helps.

Were you initially drawn more to writing or illustrating? Do you ever find it challenging to work with multiple mediums? 

I grew up thinking I would become an artist. I loved drawing. But over time, I grew to love writing just as much, if not more so. Cartooning and writing graphic novels combines my love for both. It’s always challenging, but it’s my favorite way to express myself.

Tell us a bit about The Pajama Diaries. What inspired you to start the series, and how did you go about creating such relatable characters? 

I tend to write what I know, so I came up with the concept when I was a young, multitasking working mom (now I’m an old multitasking working mom). I wanted to create a character that modern parents who were juggling these crazy lives could really relate to. That’s how the comic strip was born. I absolutely love doing it, and letting the characters age in real time keeps the material fresh.

Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators and storytellers? 

Be patient and persistent. It took me ten years on and off to get syndicated. Also, practice (check out all these “p” words!). Take art lessons, writing lessons, learn how to self-edit. I worked as a humorous greeting card writer for a long time, and that helped me develop all those skills. It has helped me so much as both an author and cartoonist. And most of all, read! It helps to stay informed and spark inspiration.

Do you have a favorite time or place to write? What helps you tap into your creative side? 

I tend to work best around mid-morning to mid-afternoon. I definitely need coffee to fuel me first thing. I like writing in my office – maybe I’m just so used to it. It’s usually quiet…and close to the fridge.

Who are some of your favorite authors and illustrators?

I’m all over the place. No particular favorite author or illustrator (too many), but I can tell you what book genres I love: graphic novels (for kids and adults), non-fiction, and historical fiction.

What are you reading right now? 

I’m reading a great book my editor sent me, called Why Comics? by Hillary Chute.


To see Terri read from and discuss Positively Izzy, join us Wednesday May 9 at 7pm at Heights Libraries’ Coventry Village Branch. This event takes place as part of Heights Libraries’ Cedar-Coventry Author Series in partnership with Mac’s Backs Books on Coventry. Free and open to all ages.

One comment on “Q&A with Terri Libenson, author of “The Pajama Diaries” and “Positively Izzy”

  1. I LOVE this strip! I have a confession–as a late-blooming singer-songerwriter, I have utilized the services of two different (but both excellent) graphic designers for my four CD covers, lyric pages etc. And OH how I can see myself in the horrible, picky, clients that she so amusingly describes! Both were invariably politest I can imagine what they were saying to their nearest and dearest, like Jill to her spouse!

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