Middle grade author Janae Marks’ debut novel, From the Desk of Zoe Washington, won the Tassy Walden: New Voices in Children’s Literature Award and was nominated for an Edgar Award. Bookpage calls her “one of the brightest new stars of contemporary middle grade” and we agree. Janae is our Day 11 honoree.
Janae Marks is the New York Times bestselling author of the Zoe Washington series, A Soft Place to Land, and A Split Second (out 10/1/24). She has an MFA in Writing for Children from The New School, and lives in Connecticut with her family.
Journey to publication
My journey to becoming published was long and windy. I wrote my first manuscript (a YA novel) while getting an MFA in Writing for Children from the New School. But when I queried it, I wasn’t able to land a literary agent or book deal. I wrote three more novels over eight years before finally signing with a literary agent. Then, that book (From the Desk of Zoe Washington) went to auction with multiple publishers and I signed with HarperCollins. All of my hard work and perseverance was worth it! Publishing continues to have its ups and downs but I’m grateful to have my dream career.
When I wrote my debut middle grade novel, From the Desk of Zoe Washington, I didn’t plan to write a sequel. I felt that I’d wrapped up the story in the epilogue. But once I started hearing from readers, in emails and snail mail, or during school visits, a common question I got was whether there would be a sequel. At first, I said no. But the more I got this question, and the more I thought about it, I realized there was more to Zoe’s and Marcus’s stories. So it’s because of my amazing readers that the sequel, On Air with Zoe Washington, exists!
Positive impact or benefit of being an Amplify Cohort member
Writing and publishing can be such a solitary experience. This has been especially true in the last few years since the start of the pandemic. I struggle to form real connections over social media, which gets so busy. So when I found out that the Brown Bookshelf and Highlights were partnering to offer Black creators a space to connect with one another, as well as learn from industry professionals, I jumped at the chance. The monthly Zooms were amazing, but our in-person retreat was even more special. I’ve loved getting to know the other members of our cohort, and sharing in our challenges and successes.
Learn more about Janae Marks on her website: janaemarks.com
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