Episode 288: Find Your Community — Interview with Janae Marks

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds! Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Janae Marks!

Janae is an award-winning children’s book author living in Connecticut. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The New School, and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Her debut is the middle grade novel,  From the Desk of Zoe Washington, which we’ll be discussing today.

Janae also happens to be one of my dearest writing besties. She’s known me since before DIY MFA was even a twinkle in my eye, like back when it was still just a “crazy idea” I was kicking around on my personal blog. She and I were also in the same thesis critique group so she has seen my writing in all its many forms: from the good, to the bad, to the… what the heck were you thinking, Gabriela?

One of my favorite things—one of the things that brings true joy to my heart—is when I get to introduce my favorite people to the word nerd community. I’ve known Janae for a long time; I know how much of her heart and soul she’s poured into this book and I am so excited for the world to discover Zoe Washington and this sweet, heart-felt middle grade novel.

Without further ado, welcome Janae! It’s so great to have you here.

In this episode Janae and I discuss:

  • How Serial and Making a Murderer inspired From the Desk of Zoe Washington
  • Aging a character down from YA to Middle Grade
  • Weaving serious, real-world issues into a middle grade story
  • Balancing parenting and writing
  • Using Camp #NaNoWriMo to write a novel
  • Different types of writing friends and communities
  • Finding a community-focused writing conference

Plus, her #1 tip for writers.

About Janae Marks

Janae Marks is an award-winning children’s book author living in Connecticut. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The New School, and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She is the author of the middle grade novel FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON, which will be published on January 14, 2020 from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins. It will also be available in the UK and Italy. She is represented by Alex Slater at Trident Media Group. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram or her website

From the Desk of Zoe Washington 

Dear Marcus…

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write next. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed. 

Could Marcus really be innocent? The truth is somewhere out there, and Zoe is determined to uncover it. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from her mom and stepdad. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship, and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. It’s been Zoe’s dream to become a star baker, and she can’t afford to mess anything up. Her best friend and neighbor Trevor would’ve been her confidante through all this, but Zoe’s not speaking to him anymore. She’ll have to figure this out alone.

With bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies. This captivating novel by debut author Janae Marks follows one courageous girl as she questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right, even in the face of great opposition.

If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 288

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