"When I was younger, I cared too much about what other people thought. Especially in high school. But as I've gotten older, I think 'I like this, and I don't care. I accept me for who I am.' It should be that way."
Jenny Story is a novelist and animator.
Jenny was born in Yellowknife but lived the majority of her life in Vernon, B.C. She then moved to Vancouver to attend Vancouver Film School and became a 2D and 3D Animator. In addition to her work with animation, Jenny has always been an avid reader and writer, and wrote her first book ‘Dysnomia’ when she was only in high school.
Despite being diagnosed with Autism, Jenny has always remained focused on pursuing her dreams and is passionate about inspiring others to do the same.
What inspired you to write this first novel? What fuelled your ambition?
It was based on a weird dream I had once.
I was studying for my grade nine final for social studies, and while I was doing it I was sort of falling asleep on the floor. I decided to turn on the TV, and as I started going back and forth between being awake and asleep I saw this weird scene on the TV. Then I heard my mom calling me for dinner. I woke up, and realized the TV had been off the whole time.
It was all just a weird dream that I’d had.
Had you wanted to be an author before that?
In ways yes. I wondered if I should become a writer or animator, because I’ve always loved animation too.
What is it about both of those mediums that really draws you as a person?
I love creating worlds. I also love creating really cool characters to write about, and then making up stories that they can get themselves into.
At the beginning of your book, Princess Rose and your protagonist are hanging out and she says ‘well, when you’re having trouble with something, all you have to do is relax and have some fun.’ Is that what you do?
Yes. It’s supposed to be enjoyable. If you’re not having fun, there’s no point really. You just have to have fun, and do the stuff you want to do,… instead of the stuff you don’t want to do. The second way is just stressful.
What do you do to have fun?
Drawing, reading, or doing something that will get me inspired in my work. I might also watch one of my favourite movies. I love Nightmare before Christmas. I want to do a cool story like that one day that people love and want to read. I want to write a story that will inspire other people to write their own stories.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
When I was very, very little. I guess it was around when I was first introduced to animation movies. It’s just a drawing, but they made me feel like these characters were real. They created this whole world that felt real.
I especially loved watching the behind the scenes — where you got to see the animators flip the paper, and step by step you could see it come to life. I just thought it was all so amazing, and I wanted to do that.
You talked a lot about independence in the book. Is that something that is important to you?
Yes it is. It’s good to be able to do things for yourself, and not be told what you can and can’t do. Because there will always be people like that. Just follow your own destiny.
You shouldn’t ever let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.
How do you get into your character’s heads?
Instead of thinking about what I would do, I think ‘okay, this is Layla. What does she like or not like? What would she do in this situation?’ Because she’s not me. She’s her own person.
I’d like to ask you about four different experiences, and I’d like you to try and explain what these experiences are like for you. The first experience is fear.
What does fear feel like to you?
Unknown I guess. It starts in my heart and then travels to my stomach with the nervous butterflies. My heart pounds.
The next experience is an unexpected success.
What does that sort of success feel like for you?
I get a very good light feeling.It feels really nice. Like the sun on me. Like I’ve been touched by the sun.
The next experience is anger.
What does anger feel like for you?
It feels like someone is trying to crush my heart. Like they’re purposely trying to break it, and it hurts, and it’s painful. There’s needles in there too.
The next experience is love.
What does love feel like for you?
Gentle. A nice warm feeling. Like getting a hug from a friend or family member. Or a hug from your pet. It’s a tingly feeling. It also reminds me of hot chocolate.
What is your greatest strength as an artist? What’s something that you do very well?
What makes you feel empowered in the way you create art?
When I started learning in a classroom setting, we’d be asked to draw characters – maybe Sonic. I’d get to see what other people’s Sonics looked like, and I’d get inspired by theirs and inspired by my own. My only unique style would start to come up.
I also get very excited about drawing my own characters. I find all of it very inspiring.
Is there a personal challenge that you’re currently working through with your art? Maybe something you want to improve on?
Trying to be more realistic in background designs. I grow more cartoonish right now.
Are you happy, and what does happiness mean to you?
Yes I am happy, and happiness to me means being able to do whatever makes me feel good inside. I love to play video games, go for walks, hang out with my friends.
I think happiness is just doing those things that make you feel happy.
What does the child in you believe about the world?
Despite the bad stuff happening around the world, there’s goodness inside of people. You need to find it, be positive about it, and hang in there. Also, you should try to have fun as much as you can because you only get to live once. You should try to make the most of it.
Is that what you still believe?
How do you dream?
If I see something I like, I add it as a goal, and then I just keep thinking about how I can try and be positive and work hard at it to make it happen. Also, I don’t give up.
Do you write it down?
Yes. Writing stuff down is always good. You should always take notes. If you have something in your head you should always write it down because you might forget it the next day. I can be pretty bad at that sometimes. I try to get things down as soon as I think about them.
I buy a lot of journals.
How do you deal with doubt and where do you go for support?
I’ve definitely experienced doubt…. especially when I was younger. Now, I take a few breaths and remind myself not to give up. ‘Don’t be a cry baby. Just be a big person. You can do it,’ I say.
And if that doesn’t help, I go to my parents or my friends. I might also hang out with a pet.
I do anything I can to get out of my head and out of that thought.
Are there any specific thoughts that you’ve had the hardest time overcoming?
Being liked by people, because of the bullying. Sometimes I question if people like me. I don’t like not being liked by others. If I feel that I way, I try to remind myself that I am important, and that I’m a kind and good person.
There are lots of people who like me, and if some don’t… that’s their problem.
How have you let go of some of those thoughts?
When I was younger, I cared too much about what other people thought. Especially in high school. But as I’ve gotten older, I think “I like this, and I don’t care. I accept me for who I am.”
It should just be that way.
Who are some artists that you’d personally consider great?
Glen Keane from Disney is very good. He does it so rushed. It feels rough. He doesn’t worry about being perfect.
And Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas who did Bambi. I love their Bambi artwork.
Also, Tim Burton.
If you were to imagine what these people’s lives are like, what are some of the things you imagine they might do that makes them great?
Being with the ones they love. Doing what they like to do too. Working hard. And trying to find new ways to improve themselves artistically.
What does hard work look to you? If someone were to walk in on you working hard, what would they see?
It would be walking in on me drawing or writing, and doing it for hours and hours. What I do after that is ask for advice. After that, I pick it up and go again.
So you show other people your work as you’re working on it?
Yes. It’s important to do that in my opinion.
What does flow feel like to you?
It feels like I’m in my own world. There’s nothing I can’t do. When I start working, I get into the flow. It also happens when I’m day dreaming.
If you were to write a letter to a younger self what would you say to them?
I’d ask them to be strong. Stop thinking about what a lot of people think. It will get better in time. Don’t give up on your dreams, because you’ll go far if you believe in yourself. Keep up your positive attitude and keep going.
Do you believe in fate or destiny?
I do. When you meet certain people and have certain interactions with them, or even when you have a certain dream… I think all of those things happen for a reason.
Are there any points in your life that have connected in a surprising way?
My mom and I were doing an interview. I got accepted to Vancouver Film School for animation, which was an unexpected success, so we were doing a fundraiser dance for it.
One of the ladies whose husband worked at Bardel Entertainment heard us. She was really inspired by our story [speaking about her and her mom, Janet Walmsley] and got her husband, the head owner of Bardel, and the production head of Nickelodeon to come talk to us in Kelowna. I got to talk and hang out with them, and even show them some of my art work.
This year we went to California, because my mom got accepted for the Indi award series, and we went to the Nickelodeon studios, because in Kelowna he told us that if we ever went to California we could come talk to him, and he’d give us a personal tour.
So we went to the Nickelodeon studio and it was very busy, but Dean still took us on that tour, and out of his own time.
I was very honoured by that. It was so nice of him to do.
If you had the opportunity to reach out to other authors and animators, maybe ones with autism, what would you say to them?
I guess, take some good classes to learn. If you have somebody that you like, watch how they do what they’re doing. Try to be brave, and tell yourself: “okay you an do this.” Take some deep breaths.
Do you remember a day when you were brave in that way? A day when you really made the decision to share who you were?
I guess when I started going to Vancouver Film School. There was a meeting we all had to go to where they introduced us to our little classroom section. A bunch of my classmates sat in their own sections and tables, and I sat down with them. I tried my best to listen to them, and even start some conversations with them myself.
Who are you? What is your identity?
I am Jenny Story. She’s a kind person, sweet, and honest. She tries to be as sweet and nice as she can, but she’s very shy and can get scared sometimes. She also gets nervous… but she’s very bubbly inside. She like to create her own worlds, and draw and play video games. She always tries her best.
What are some of your favourite books? Maybe some that have had a big impact on you in your life?
One for me would be ‘Watership Down.’ I’ve loved that one since I was a little girl.
I also love The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series.
Also, The Series of Unfortunate Events. I used to read those a lot when I was younger.
What do you like about these stories?
I love the characters and finding out what’s in their worlds. What do they have to go through and face at the climax? And what happens once they accomplish the problem they were faced with? I love finding that out.
Connect with Jenny
Dsynomia was published by Influence publishing. Learn more here.
In addition to Amazon, you can purchase the below books on Red Toque, Barnes and Noble, Blackbond Books and Chapters.
If you’d like an autographed copy, let us know in the comments below.
About Dysnomia by Jenny Story
A young woman named Layla sets out to prove herself. Strong-willed and courageous, she is determined to show that she can do anything a boy can do. Along her journey she finds herself face to face with danger, adventure and mysterious forces. A devious character named Nilerm traps Layla and her friends and they are driven off the edge of a cliff into a mysterious new world underground. They realize that they must do all they can in finding the courage to confront danger, if they are going to find their way back home.
Janet Walmsley, Jenny’s mom, shares her experience raising her daughter in her book: The Autistic Author and Animator – A mother’s view of a daughter’s triumph
Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, Janet worked for many years in the field of marketing.
Today, she is a professional actor and singer, who has appeared in theatre, film, TV shows and commercials. Janet is also the mother of a son, Christopher, and a daughter, Jenny. When Jenny was diagnosed with Autism, Janet made it her mission to support her daughter every step of the way. She worked tirelessly alongside medical professionals and immersed herself in constant research in order to provide every opportunity and avenue for her daughter to live a normal life.
She has made several media appearances sharing her story as the parent of a child with Autism, and has decided to write a book about Jenny’s journey to provide inspiration and hope to other families.
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