Creativity Salon: an Interview with Author and Publisher Janet Wong
Were you a reader as a child, and if so, what kind of books did you enjoy?
I’m embarrassed to say it, but I was not a reader as a child. I wrote about this briefly in my “Meet the Author” book Before It Wriggles Away. Recently someone pressed me to give a title that I read more than once as a young child, and I replied with The Story of Bubbles the Whale. I loved it because I had been to Marineland and had seen Bubbles with my own eyes. I had even been splashed by Bubbles!
Do you speak more than one language, and if so, has that been helpful?
I wish I spoke the languages of my heritage (Korean and Chinese), but I don’t. I wrote about that in Good Luck Gold & MORE, with the poem “Speak Up” and the prose piece that accompanies it (the “story behind the story”). I’ve noticed lately, though, that I know many more words in Korean than I thought I knew. Come here, hurry; sit here, eat; do you have a stomach ache? What’s the matter? I know the words that a mother would say over and over to a child. And I also know the bad words that my mom would mutter in frustration (though I don’t know exactly how bad they are).
What nouns would you use to describe yourself?
I am a foodie, an eater. And a wonderer. I am constantly doing online searches to answer random questions that pop into my mind. One of my recurring questions is: What is this particular food good for? I love knowing that I’m helping my eyes when I eat goji berries.
What makes you laugh?
Everything. I laugh all throughout the day at the smallest, silliest, most insignificant things. I can even just look at my dog chewing and laugh.
What is hardest about the creative work you do?
Being able to judge whether a piece of writing is ready to share–and worrying that I’ve just rejected a better version. Whether a poem is “good” or “great” is such a subjective thing.
Are you working on a new project?
Always! Recently Sylvia Vardell and I started offering workshops to poets who want to create their own books. We think that the world needs a whole lot more poetry books, and we’re eager to inspire people to create them. You can learn more about that here
Poets from Anthologies 201 participated in our Things We Do book project (featuring brand-new poets alongside a “Who’s Who” list of poets that included you, Pat Mora; thank you for your generosity). 100% of the profits from that book will be donated to the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund The next Anthologies 201 cohort will contribute to Things We Eat–a book that my stomach supports fully!
Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former lawyer. She has written more than 35 books for children on a wide variety of subjects, including chess (Alex and the Wednesday Chess Club) and yoga (TWIST: Yoga Poems). She is the 2021 winner of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children Award, a lifetime achievement award that is one of the highest honors a children’s poet can receive. Learn more about her work at JanetWong.com and PomeloBooks.com.