Jessica McEachern pens ‘When I Grow Up’ and encourages kids to dream

Jessica McEachern (photo provided)

Who’s ready for a great new book? When I Grow Up, written by Jessica McEachern and with illustrations by Italian-born, award-winning artist Andrea Alemanno, emboldens young readers to imagine a multitude of career pathways. The book is a great STEM book for schools, showcasing amazing career choices for girls.

McEachern’s book follows the imaginings of young Zoey as she excitedly scrolls through the alphabet, using each letter to identify a career possibility. The U, in Zoey’s world, for example, reflects her vision of becoming an urban planner; the Q, a quantitative psychologist. To Zoey the possibilities are seemingly endless and free of gender biases — a world vision encouraged by Zoey’s mother.

“The book was written with the intent of promoting education and inclusion,” McEachern says. Her wish is to encourage readers to dream big as Zoey does, to set goals, and to take the necessary steps toward achieving goals. Zoey’s travel through the alphabet of career possibilities is enhanced further by Alemanno’s illustrations that, according to McEachern, “endorse self-confidence while embracing working together with others.”

McEachern, a native of North Carolina, is also the author of Societal Perceptions, and has worked in the field of human services for over 11 years. She has a passion for community organizing, activism and advocacy.

Why did you write this book?
When I Grow Up was written to inspire readers to imagine themselves as various careers. My goal was to write a book that is educational, imaginative and empowering. Parents can read the book to their children, teachers can read to students and children can read independently. The book can be utilized within community, home, and school settings. The intent is to motivate excitement towards learning about careers. The illustrations help bring the text to life. The book captures inclusion and diversity throughout the illustrations. When I Grow Up encourages children to dream.

What’s the story behind the title?
The title frames the overall concept of the book which is to explore careers from A to Z in terminology that children can understand. The M for example, represents marketing manager; the Q, a quantitative psychologist. The career choices within the book are deliberate.

What do you hope readers will glean from reading your book?
Readers will learn about careers and imagine themselves as each career. I hope readers will embrace education, diversity, inclusion, professionalism, work ethic and relationships. The book encourages readers to have confidence. While reading the book, readers are empowered to become visionaries. The book invigorates readers to succeed. When I Grow Up is a book that everyone can enjoy.

How long did it take you to write this book?
The manuscript was written on October 30, 2016. Initially, the book was intended to be a part of a series, however, I decided to utilize the alphabet and combine careers into one book. I still have a series to release as well as a continuation of When I Grow Up. When I Grow Up was published in 2017.

What was your regimen to complete this book?
The book began by exploring careers in alphabetical order. Narrowing down careers was a challenge because there are many career choices from A to Z. Utilizing the alphabet offered a creative way to incorporate learning about careers. I wanted the main character to be African American because African American children are not often featured on the cover of children’s books, nor are African American children frequently main characters within children’s books. The book presents an African American character in a positive way. The book authenticates that people of color are beautiful, educated, good parents, family oriented, professionals and role models. I wanted to make sure that the relationship between the Mother and child was captured optimistically so that readers can see positive images of African American Women and children. Though the main character and the mother are African American, the book is multicultural by including characters of various racial backgrounds throughout the illustrations from A to Z.

How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
My career choices included being a social worker, lawyer, principal, author, community organizer, business owner, and singer. Writing is a passion. As thoughts come to mind that I want to revisit in writing, I note them on anything available that I can write on or make a note within the note pad on my phone. Growing up, I wrote poetry, plays, songs and short stories. Writing allows me to deliver a message in a unique way.

What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
I strive to be my authentic self without conforming to misconceptions of who I should be. My educational background, work experience and life experiences separate me from others in the field as well as connects me with some in the field. I write to educate and inspire readers. My books convey a message through the text and illustrations.

For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
Success is trying and not being afraid to fail a few times before reaching a goal. Traits conducive to success include faith, character, drive, knowledge, being willing to learn, action, character, integrity, work ethic, honesty, professionalism, communication, being able to adapt to change and maintaining a healthy support system. I recommend mastering fundamental writing skills, developing relationships with editors, networking with publishers, reading various authors, learning from mistakes, being unafraid to make mistakes, and maintaining the drive to push forward. Master the ability to have your work edited, reviewed and critiqued without becoming offended. Recognize areas of strength and build upon the things that you do well. Be willing to receive constructive criticism, welcome differing opinions, and remain open to others views.

How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
I stay at the leading edge of my craft by reading books from various authors, researching, networking, ongoing educational opportunities, participating in training, trying things that I have not done before, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and pushing forward without giving up when the outcome may not be in my favor. I remain true to my authentic self. I recognize that my competition is staring at me in the mirror. I welcome feedback from others who have succeeded as well as failed.

Do you think that there are any widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
I think that there are misconceptions about authors and social workers. There is a notion that authors must write “tell-all” books, write a heartbreaking life story, write a sexually explicit story, be associated with celebrities, or have millions of followers on social media to be successful. Social Work is sometimes seen as female dominated profession consisting of unmarried women, single parents, older women, women with negative attitudes and women with low income. Social workers are viewed as employees with the department of social services. Social Work is helping profession inclusive of male and female professionals. Social Workers work in hospitals, health departments, veteran clinics, nursing homes, the department of juvenile justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Group Homes, Schools, and Community Agencies. Social Workers work with Domestic Violence, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Disabled Populations, Veterans, children, adolescents, adults, groups and communities. Social Workers are Counselors, Therapists, Advisors, Advocates, Peer Support Specialists, Consultants, Case Managers, Community Organizers, Supervisors, Managers, Directors, Liaisons, Business Owners, Authors, Lawyers, Judges and Educators.

I am not the stereotypes or generalizations associated with authors or social workers. I dispel misconceptions by being an example, knowing my worth, valuing myself, maintaining positive mannerism and presenting a positive image of womanhood. I recognize that authenticity is embracing imperfections and the very things that make me different yet original. I dispel misconceptions by loving my hair color, eye color, hair texture, complexion, heritage, genetics, facial features and natural body. I choose not to exploit myself or conform to negative images portrayed on television, within music, or on social media. I promote women who are educated, articulate, respectful, nurturing, professionals, mentors and role models. I advise women to continue ongoing education. I recommend women develop goals, identify steps that can be taken to reach those goals and work toward goal attainment. I inspire women to never give up and pursue their dreams. I encourage women to love themselves and to be themselves without compromising values, morals or character. I support women who respect themselves and live as an influential example for others. I motivate women to make their first impression a lasting impression.

How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
I outline long-term goals and separate them into short term goals. I give myself timeframes. I measure success by the steps I have taken towards goals. Some of my goals included graduating from college with a Bachelor’s Degree, graduating from college with a master’s degree, writing and publishing books, singing, owning a business, owning a home, getting married, having a family, and community organizing. Though things may not happen the way we plan or align with our timing, with persistence, we will obtain our goals at the right time. I am continually working towards goal achievement.

Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
Jane Addams, Nobel Peace Prize winner, leader, social worker, college graduate, and founder of the Hull House. Michelle Obama, lawyer, writer, Mother, wife, college graduate, advocate, role model, professional, and the first African American First lady of the United States of America (44th First Lady of the United States of America).

Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life and/or yourself.
The Giver by Lois Lowry, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston, The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving, and the Bible.

Why do you consider continued learning important?
Continued learning is important because the world, careers, and technology is constantly evolving. Continuing education is a way for professionals to stay knowledgeable within the field. Many careers require continuing education. Continued learning broadens understanding and builds upon the base of one’s educational foundation.

What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
I have a few affirmations that I live by which contribute to my success: 1) “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” 2) “You never fail until you stop trying.” 3) “All things are possible for the one who believes.” 4) “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

What software app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life and/or career?
Technology makes it possible to communicate around the world, share information, network, market, research, interact with various audiences, and remain up to date with current events. Technology is essential in my career, social life, and personal life. I utilize iTunes, iBook, Kindle, nook, MacBook, laptop, iPhone, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, PayPal, square credit card reader, Microsoft office, email, website, etc.

Please define your personal brand.
I consider myself a distinguished person. Being driven and taking the initiative are components of my personal brand. Instead of waiting for things to happen, I develop a plan, project potential outcomes, and act. Though my community, education, family, values, beliefs, and experiences make me who I am, the choices I make set me apart from others. I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in social work, Master of Art in teaching, and Master of Science in social work. I have worked a job since the age of fifteen. I was employed during my undergraduate and graduate years of college. I have worked a full time and part time job while pursuing short-term and long-term goals. I am an advocate. Within the field of social work, I am a voice for those who are afraid to speak up. I promote justice, unity, and equality. I am determined to achieve my goals no matter what it takes or how long it takes. I set goals and work towards achieving them. I am consistent. I go above and beyond when I am exhausted or feel like giving up. I stand firm in my beliefs. I know my worth. I am confident and courageous. I am recurrently evolving. I am not perfect, but I strive to live an honorable life that is exemplary to others. People are impressionable so I try to be mindful of my words and behaviors in hopes that my actions and lifestyle have a positive impact on others. I strive to leave an everlasting impression in all that I do. I desire to be a part of the positive change that I wish to see in the world. Those attributes described above and the skill set that I possess are my brand along with my website, social media pages and books.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would change more than one thing. I would transform some of the images of African American men, women, and children that are highlighted within the media and on television. I would change the approach utilized by minority communities when confronting disparities. I would like to see an increase in voting during all elections, an increase in high school graduation, an increase in college graduation, an increase in employment, a decrease in incarceration, extermination of violence, an increase in standardized test scores, a decrease in single-parent homes, termination of television shows portraying African Americans in demeaning images, and an increase in music that uplifts African American women. Social Media would be utilized to promote morals, community service, marriage, two-parent homes, unity, equity, diversity, inclusion, networking, professionalism, employment and education.

What does it take to be iconic? In your estimation, who has achieved that status?
There are so many notable icons who are not celebrities, entertainers, or well known. Icons are elegant individuals whose character speaks volume. Icons are individuals who possess leadership skills while also being able to follow. Icons are persons who respect themselves and others. Icons are influential. Icons are role models who possess values, morals, and character. Icons often leave a legacy.

Teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, police officers, judges, scientists, veterans and firemen are iconic. Women who do not exploit themselves for money or fame are icons. Couples who have been married once without infidelity, separation, or divorce are iconic. Individuals who have successful marriages and remain faithful to their spouse are iconic.

Well-known individuals who could be categorized as iconic are Jane Adams, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Folorunsho Alakija, Isabel Dos Santos, Harriet Tubman, Condoleezza Rice, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Diana Princess of Wales, Mother Theresa, Shirley Chisholm, Madam C. J. Walker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Baker, Angela Davis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B Wells, Sojourner Truth, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Martin Luther King Jr.

How to contact the Author and purchase When I Grow Up?
Order your copy today on Amazon or at

For more information:
Facebook: Author Jessica McEachern
Instagram: authorjessicamceachern
Twitter: jessmmceachern

Yvette Caslin
Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.

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