With your help, our most recent Holiday Book Drive allowed us to put 1692 books in the hands of local youth. During the drive, we also had the opportunity and pleasure to work alongside author J.P. Miller, who is also a native of Asheville and went to school in the Reynolds district where we support a Community School at Reynolds Middle School.
Recently, we sat down to ask J. P. a few questions about her work and the values she brings to each book. Here are a few excerpts:
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your community?
Hey, thank you so much for having me. I’m J. P. Miller or Janice Miller as I’m known there in Asheville. I have to laugh because I have so many names. My family call me Paulette; and if they’re really close, like immediate family I’m Polly. But most folks know me as Janice.
I was born and raised in Asheville. I lived in South Asheville in the Shiloh community. My church was in the Southside area of Asheville – Worldwide Baptist Tabernacle where Dr. Wesley Grant, Sr., who now has a building named after him, was my pastor growing up. So my roots are very very deep in Asheville. My heart is very deep in Asheville. That will always be home for me no matter where I live.
Community and service are two big themes we see in your work. Can you tell us a little bit about where this foundation comes from in your own life?
I’m the daughter of both a minister and a nurse. All of my life we have been a family of service. Whether spiritually or medically, we worked to help those around us. When I grew up I joined the military and became involved with the Air Force’s youth programs. It has always been ingrained in me to not only perform service, but to also help guide young people as they make life decisions and how service to others fits with that.
Why is it important to you to share these values with children that read your books?
A lot of people that I choose to write about are really so the reader can look introspectively at the things they are good at and get them thinking, “Could I be a person that starts a radio station?” or “Could I be a person that writes about things that matter?” I love that my books can get them thinking about how they can contribute to their community.
One of the main messages that I want the reader to take away is that African Americans have contributed a lot to making America the great country that it is. I don’t think enough recognition is given to this. Normally when it is, it is the same individuals being discussed over and over again. I like to incorporate little-known people and events in African American history . I think that’s the main thing that I want the reader to walk away with, a greater knowledge of these people and events.
We were thrilled to be able to raise awareness about your books during our recent Holiday Book Drive but you were so wonderful to contribute to the cause as well. Tell us why a drive like this is so important to you.
I have not participated in a book drive like this before so I was really excited to see it in action. Erika reached out to me to see if I was interested.The more I learned about it, I knew that I definitely wanted to be a part of it by donating books. First of all, because Asheville is my home. I grew up here! I want the kids of my own hometown to see the things that I write about. You know, it’s not like I’m this big celebrity or anything but I just want to show the kids from my home community that they can write a book or sing a song and make a mark in this world.
Do you have any last things you’d like to share with folks?
I’m just excited about this part of my life and writing for the educational market. This line of books is what we call “work for hire”. The publisher will come to me and say “we’re looking for a story about this, is this something you are interested in?” I’ve taken on these projects and they’ve actually grown legs. The “Leaders Like Us” series is growing and will soon start to showcase some other underrepresented communities – look for something soon from the LGBTQ community and also Asian American stories. I’m just glad to have been a part of it. I’m also excited that I got an agent this year. Her name is Sera Rivers with Martin Literary Management. We’re getting ready to sell one of my traditional stories, so prayers and positive thoughts for that!
Learn More, And Volunteer!
- Learn more about Jp.’s work on her website: authorjpmiller2020.com
- Project Lighten Up is looking for some reading buddies to work with youth in Jp's childhood neighborhood of Shiloh. Learn more and sign up here.
- Explore other volunteer opportunities in celebration of our Centennial Year through 100 Acts of Service
We found these photos from 2019 when J.P. along with fellow members of the Reynolds Class of 78’ participated in a United Way MLK Day of Service Project at CarePartners Adult Day. This group was extremely memorable as far as community groups go for past service days.