Author Archives: Janet Fox

About Janet Fox

author of award-winning books for children and young adults

The Truth About Happily-Ever-After

From Publisher’s Weekly about Megan Morrison’s GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL: “Those expecting a Disneyesque Rapunzel in Morrison’s debut, first in the Tyme series, will be pleasantly surprised by the novel’s emotional depth and inventiveness.”

If you’ve seen the play or movie version of Into The Woods, you’ve seen it. The romantic fairy tale tropes have been turned upside down. The prince is anything but charming (in fact, he’s a womanizing cad). Jack climbs the beanstalk and brings back havoc and death. Rapunzel’s witch just wants a little bit of love.grounded_cover (1)

When I was in my tween years I read fairy tales like a fiend. The Red and Blue Fairy Tale books are still on my shelf, side-by-side with Anderson’s. I have an old Grimm collection that is about to fall apart. What I remember is not the Disneyfied version of things: Prince Charming sweeping the poor orphaned-but-beautiful-under-that-ashy-coating maiden off her feet and into the castle. No. I remember dark, scary, terrible things. The witch being shoved into a raging fire. The dancing girl who cuts off her feet so she can stop dancing. The princess who can’t quite finish making her seventh brother’s shirt so he has to spend the rest of his days with a swan’s wing for an arm.

Yeah – scary, dark, and very real, that’s what I remember about fairy tales, not the tropes of sugary romance and happily-ever-after.

Plus, there’s something else about those original tales that has stuck with me. Most of the girls and young women are not bubble-headed bimbos. They are clever problem solvers and thinkers. They are precisely the right role models young girls need, especially to prepare us to face the real world – which is scary, dark, and sometimes terrible.

Which brings me back to Megan Morrison’s GROUNDED. Megan has crafted an original story in which the sweet fairy tale trope has been turned on its head, with a girl protagonist who solves the problem and doesn’t lean on her guy friend to solve it for her. I love it. It’s a reinvention of Grimm with all the right emphasis.

The truth about happily-ever-after is that it’s what we find in GROUNDED. Girls, especially, need stories like this. If a girl wants to wear a princess dress, let’s give her a sword to strap over it. Better yet, let’s give her a copy of GROUNDED so she knows she can chart her own course to happiness.

You’re going to love this new version of Rapunzel! Want to win your very own signed copy of Grounded, plus a cool bookmark? Please leave a comment here, or after of any of this week’s posts, for a chance to win!

You can also buy a copy of Grounded at the following locations:

Third Place Books

The Secret Garden Bookshop

Powell’s

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch

MOM SCHOOL! Interview with Ammi-Joan Paquette

To celebrate the launch of Rebecca Van Slyke’s MOM SCHOOL, we’re starting the week off with a bang. I snagged an interview with the stellar Ammi-Joan Paquette, Rebecca’s agent extraordinaire. Here we go:

Janet: Hi Joan! Since we’re celebrating Rebecca Van Slyke‘s MOM SCHOOL release, I’d like to start with how you met Rebecca.

Joan: Many of my clients come to me via referrals from one of my existing authors, or from other author friends. Rebecca actually came referred to me by three such authors: my clients Trent Reedy and Carol Brendler, and the fabulous Cynthia Leitich Smith, who knows a thing or two about talented writers. I’m so grateful to those who sent her my way!MOM SCHOOL cover

Janet: And MOM SCHOOL isn’t the first book of Rebecca’s you’ve sold, correct?

Joan: MOM SCHOOL was the first book of Rebecca’s which sold—in a two-book deal, actually; its companion title, DAD SCHOOL, is due out this time next year. Shortly after this, another of Rebecca’s picture books got a flurry of interest, and LEXIE THE WORD WRANGLER ended up selling at auction (another two-book deal!) to Nancy Paulsen Books. Another picture book, WHERE DO PANTS GO? is forthcoming from Sterling as well. Busy, busy lady!

Janet: The cover is darling, and Priscilla Burris is an ideal illustrator for the book, in my opinion. Did you have much input on the art side of the sale?

Joan: Nope, this was all the terrific team at Doubleday. I absolutely adore Priscilla Burris, and couldn’t imagine anyone better to bring these wonderful characters to life!

Janet: This is such a great concept – as a kid, I imagined my mom knew everything. Of course she would have gone to school! What’s your favorite of the charming images Rebecca conjures up for “mom study”?

Joan: You really expect me to pick just one? Impossible! I am in love with every bit of this book, from start to finish. 🙂

Janet: There’s a rumor that Rebecca’s secret dream is to become a penguin tamer. Do you have a secret dream that you’d, ahem, like to share?

Joan: I don’t know that I have any dream quite so jazzy as Rebecca’s, but if my secret future could involve an unlimited supply of buttery pastry, chocolate, and never-ending books, I’m not sure I could want for anything else.

And neither could we, especially when those books include something as delightful as MOM SCHOOL!

Find MOM SCHOOL at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound

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Filed under Agents, Book Launch, Picture books

The Emotional Response

I’ve been trying to find my way through an early draft of a new piece and have been reminded why going deep into character is so difficult, and so necessary.

The third lecture of my first day at Vermont College of Fine Arts was given by Louise Hawes. She described what she called a novel’s “desire line” – the engine that drives the story, the longing for something. The desire line exactly balances the story arc in reverse, because readers want the protagonist’s desire to be satisfied at the end of the story.

Asking “what” your character wants is the first important question any writer should ask. Asking “why” they want it is one way to get to their deepest desire.Children Playing

Louise gave us all an exercise: she asked us to dig deep and speak to the kid we were at an age when we were most vulnerable. Speak to the child inside, and find her desire. Then she gave us ten minutes to write a letter to that child asking why she wanted what she did, and what it meant, and reassuring that child that she was not alone.

At first, you could have heard a pin drop in the room, a full room – I’m guessing a hundred people. Then sniffs. Then some of us (yes, I’ll confess, I was one) were openly weeping. Why? Because we were tapping the core of our own oldest dreams and desires. We were acknowledging longing and loss.

This acknowledgment for our characters (and, as we write, for ourselves) is painful but essential.

If we know our character’s deepest desires, at a time when he or she was at their most vulnerable, we tap into universal longings. And by bringing universal longings to life on the page, our readers can connect.

Effectively, we tell readers, I hear you. I get you. You are not alone.

That’s why I write. I want to express the universal longings and desires that bind us together as human, as vulnerable, as unique and yet as all the same. Boy, it’s hard.

But it’s also so important.

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Filed under Advice, Writing and Life

Dreams to Inspire

All week you’ve been hearing about Laurie Ann Thompson’s gorgeous and inspiring debut Emmanuel’s Dream. Laurie has captured a true story that will resonate with young readers through its message of hope and determination in the face of adversity. Today, we’re bringing you some other inspiring thoughts – books and quotes that nurture our souls and our writing in much the same way as Emmanuel’s Dream is sure to nurture readers.

Read on, and then, go become a Dreamer!

Susan Vaught says this quote has been on her wall for a year and inspires her every day, and is true for Emmanuel: “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”

after_ever_afterMylisa Larsen says, “I really love Jordan Sonnenblick’s After Ever After. It’s about an eighth grade boy who had leukemia when he was younger and still has residual effects and disabilities caused by the chemotherapy…it’s inspiring…and it’s hilarious…When a book works for both a 47-year-old mom and an 11-year-old boy, that’s a keeper.”

Donna Janell Bowman responded with her favorite: “Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy, by Bill Wise, illustrated by Adam Gustavson. A childhood illness left Hoy (1862-1961,) deaf, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the pioneers of Major League Baseball. He is credited wiSilent Starth creating the hand signals that are still used today in baseball. I had done some research on William Hoy before this book came out, and found his story so remarkable. Imagine playing early baseball, when all calls were verbal, yet finding a way to fit in, invent a solution, and grow into a record-setting ball player. Wow!”

Maria Gianferrari says, “When I think of Laurie Thompson’s Emmanuel’s Dream, the first book that comes to mind is A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, by Jen Bryant, with illustrations by Melissa Sweet, an inspiring tale about artist Horace Pippin. Horace is a young boy who loves to draw, but aftdownloader his father leaves, he must work to help support his family, just as Emmanuel helps to support his family…Horace enlists as a soldier in WWI, and his right arm is irrevocably injured…[yet] he finds a way to paint by supporting his injured arm with his good one…Both Horace and Emmanuel have indomitable spirits, and resourceful natures…being disabled does not mean being un-able.”

Penny Parker Klosterman added this: “One of the books that really inspired me this year is Grandfather Gandhi (Arun Ghandi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk). This is a story of how Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun, wondered how he could be a Gandhi when he felt anger instead of peace. I love this line that proved a turning point for Arun. ‘Arun, we can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us.’ “71i8tQLQl0L

And I’ll end with one of my own favorite inspirations, Sherman Alexie’s novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Despite being bullied for his disabilities and his outsider status as Native American in an all-white school, Junior “attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself.” Junior dreams big, just like Emmanuel.

Don’t forget to comment here to be included in our giveaway of a copy of Emmanuel’s Dream!

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Dreams Come True, Launch

With Joy and Trepidation

This is not my first debut.

Oxymoron? Not in publishing, where shifting genres allows an author to “debut” again (in my case from historical YA to fantasy middle grade). Plus I have the added delight of being a “debut” EMU, of joining this talented team of authors and being guided by my amazing new agent Erin Murphy.

That’s the joy part.

The trepidation comes from the realization that no matter how many novels I might have under my belt, releasing another into the world is fodder for the worst kind of self-doubt.

There are the standard questions: What if they hate it? What if I didn’t get it right? What if they ignore it entirely? And probably the most frightening: What if they think, She should’ve stuck to YA.

I’ve seen my share of successes – my first novel is still in print – and failures – my second is out of print. I’ve been to reader fests where young girls ask for my autograph, and I’ve sat at bookstore tables alone while crowds drift by, occasionally stopping to ask for directions to the loo.

Being an author is not for the faint-of-heart. Whether one is a debut-debut author or a semi-debut author, snaggle-toothed and hungry self-doubt, that enemy of art and artists everywhere, is waiting to pounce. What is an author to do besides crawl into the Cave of Quit?

David Bayles and Ted Orland in ART & FEAR say, You can only plunge ahead, even when that carries with it the bittersweet realization that you have already done your very best work. They’re right. Art can be great or it can be mediocre, but when you are an artist you have no choice but to make it, and keep on making it, and keep on keeping on, even while doubt stalks.

I have no choice but to venture in new directions with my art, plunging ahead, perhaps blindly and foolishly, but writing because I love it. (Joy!) Maybe this book will soar, or maybe sink, but I had to write this book. (Trepidation!) I have the pleasure of writing every single day. (Joy!) But for how much longer? (Trepidation!)

Bayles and Orland also say that the “operating manual for not quitting” is Make friends with others who make art. I’m here among the best of friends (Double Joy!) and I refuse to crawl into the cave.

Janet Fox’s debut middle grade novel, tentatively titled CHATELAINE, is set in a rundown Scottish castle during WWII. It features ghosts, spies, a steampunk witch, an immortal wizard, new-found friends, a creepy castle, an enigma machine, teachers-who-are-not-what-they-seem (aren’t they all?), missing children, the Scottish Highlands…It’s a race against the clock for one girl, her two younger siblings, and her new best friend to get to the bottom of host of mysteries. CHATELAINE (Viking) is slated for a winter 2016 release. Janet is also the author of three YA novels, all from Penguin: FAITHFUL (2010), FORGIVEN (2011) and SIRENS (2012). Here’s a short teaser for CHATELAINE:

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Filed under Anxiety, Colleagues, Introduction