Creating Her Voice
By Tammy Sheppard
When you meet JeanAnn Taylor, your first impression is that of a small, quiet, neatly dressed lady. What you don’t realize until you get to know her is that under the reserved demeanor is a lady full of energy and enthusiasm for creating . . . with thread, fabric, yarn, paint, and words. And it doesn’t stop there. JeanAnn is also a passionate dance competitor, who after being in a terrible car crash, came back the next year to place in the 2020 World’s Country Dance Championship.
Her first book, The Little Girl Who Loves to Twirl reflects her love of dance. Her newest book, Mermaid Magic ~ An Enchanting Story of Secrets and Adventure was released in February. I sat down with JeanAnn to learn more about her.
What was your inspiration for Mermaid Magic?
I relate to mermaids. My daughter says it’s because I’m a Scorpio and water is my element. I don’t know if that is the actual reason, but I do have a strong desire to be near water. I guess that’s why I love rainy days. When I was a little girl, I secretly pretended to be a mermaid whenever I went swimming. Once, as a teenager, I swam alone out into the Gulf of Mexico—way, way out. I vividly remember the blissful connection between me and the water. When I finally turned around and realized how far I had swum, I nearly panicked. I started swimming back and somehow made it to shore without being eaten by a shark. It was the year the movie Jaws came out. I never did that again.
Why did you decide to do your own illustrations for Mermaid Magic?
I talked to several professional artists. One artist sent art samples of mermaids who looked devilish. Another said she didn’t like authors to dictate what she could draw. I quickly realized that with my clear vision, I had to illustrate my book myself. And it wasn’t easy. I didn’t know how to draw! I really struggled with faces—still do. But I’m thankful I made this decision. Watercolor painting has become another way to express myself.
When did you start writing?
As a child, I didn’t always feel comfortable expressing my truth. So, I became pretty quiet and afraid of my feelings. This resulted in insecurity and a lot of emotional hiding. I really didn’t have a voice until I began writing for magazines. That was when I found a way to speak and be heard. Even though I have a quiet audible voice, I feel like I can be loud with my articles and books.
Who influenced you as a child?
My grandmother. She was my best friend. I have many, many precious memories of her. She died in 2015 at the age of 110. She always told me, “You aren’t old until you turn a hundred.”
You also like to sew?
I love to sew. I make nearly everything I wear, and I’ve made over 100 quilts and wall hangings. I also love to crochet and embroider. I guess it’s all about being creative and staying busy—I like to have projects lined up.
Tell me about dancing.
I adore ballet, but I don’t have the body for it. When I discovered ballroom dancing, a new world opened for me. Now, I’m a competitive country dancer. I call it, “ballroom in boots” because it’s very similar to ballroom dancing, but there is a lot of twirling in country . . . which I love! The competitions encourage me to get better—something to work toward.
Do you get nervous when you compete?
I get terrified and wonder, Why am I doing this to myself? Then the music comes on and I start dancing and I have a blast. Eleanor Roosevelt said you should do something scary every day. I figure a dance competition qualifies for a month of scary.
What are your goals for the future?
I plan to continue writing and illustrating. I feel like being published is a gift from God—especially at this point in my life. It gives me purpose. And I’ll continue to sew. I recently inherited my mother’s 1957 Singer sewing machine and it sews like a dream! I’m just very driven to create . . . I never sit still! And dance. I will always, always dance.
What do you want people to remember about you?
I would hope to be remembered as someone who lived with grace and gratitude; that I was kind, honest, and creative; and that I loved God, my family, and America.