Publishers' Preview: Middle-Grade Novels: Five Questions for Janae Marks

This interview originally appeared in the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Middle-Grade Novels, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Talented baker Zoe writes From the Desk of Zoe Washington to the long-incarcerated father whose letters have been kept from her...until now.

1. So where do I go for the best cupcakes in Boston?

Check out Lulu’s Sweet Shoppe in the North End, or Georgetown Cupcake on Newbury Street.

2. Do you write letters? Letter-letters, I mean.

I was an avid letter writer as a kid, and it usually revolved around camp. My best friend from summer camp was my pen pal. As I got older, I got out of the habit, preferring to email or instant-message my friends. Now, with social media and texting, it doesn’t seem as necessary, but I miss it!

3. How did you negotiate between school friends and home friends?

This wasn’t too hard since most of my school friends were also my home friends. But I do remember being ­nervous when I’d invite friends from the ­different facets of my life (home, school, camp, etc.) to my birthday ­parties. I desperately wanted everyone to get along. But it always worked out! The thing to remember is that your friends have you in common, so there are bound to be areas of shared interest.

4. More than 2.5 million American children have a parent in prison. What can we do to help those kids?

There are so many wonderful local and national organizations supporting children with incarcerated parents. Some help kids visit their parents in prison, for example. I encourage anyone interested in helping to research organizations in their area.

It’s also important not to make assumptions about these children. Not every child has the same kind of relationship with their incarcerated parent, or any relationship at all. Some kids worry about being judged for their parent’s crime, or think people will assume they will become a criminal, too, because of their convicted parent. Since wrongful convictions are also a reality, we can’t even assume that all of these parents are guilty. Above all, treat these kids with kindness and compassion.

5. Pro-tip for keeping a secret from your parents?

The only foolproof way to keep a secret safe is not to tell anyone!

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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