I also was allowed to interview the author Janet Heller. I hope that you all enjoy getting to know her as I did! Janet Ruth Heller is president of the Michigan College English Association. She has a Ph.D. in English from the
Tiffany: What is the title of your book and what message does it convey to readers?
Janet - My book is How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale). My fiction picture book emphasizes that bullies’ insults are often false, so children should not believe them. Also, How the Moon Regained Her Shape encourages a child to tell friends and family members about bullying so that they can help him or her. The story shows that a child can recover from bullying and regain happiness and self-esteem.
Janet -The sun insults the moon, and the moon feels so badly hurt that she shrinks and leaves the sky. The moon turns to her comet friend and her many friends on earth to comfort her. Her friends include rabbits and Native Americans. Then she regains her full shape, happiness, and self-esteem, and she returns to her orbit. An educational appendix gives advice about bullying, scientific information about the moon, and ideas for related activities for children.
Tiffany: Why did you write this particular story?
Janet -I was bullied when I was a new student in elementary school, and I did not know how to handle the situation. The abuse continued for years. I wrote How the Moon Regained Her Shape to help other children so that they would not have to suffer as much. I also wrote my story to help parents and other family members to assist children to recover from bullying.
Tiffany: Are there any characters in your book that are modeled from people in your daily life?
Janet -Yes. The moon in my story is based on me, and the bully sun is based on the girl who taunted me every day during recess for four years. Round Arms, who helps the moon, is based on a friend who helped me to recover after I was bullied as an adult.
Janet -Some of my stories have autobiographical elements, but I often change the plot to give the main character assistance that I did not get as a child or as an adult. I also base my stories, poems, and dramas on tales that friends or relatives have told me about their own lives.
Tiffany: When was the point you realized that being an author was no longer a dream but a reality?
Janet -I began to publish poetry, essays, and literary criticism in nationally circulated journals in the mid-1970s. During this period, I also began to attend and give readings and other presentations at conferences for writers and scholars.
Janet -I advise people to avoid self-publishing because than you have to market and distribute your books by yourself, which is very time-consuming. I recommend that authors join a critique group of serious writers and/or illustrators to get feedback on their work. Take classes about writing/illustrating and current literature at your local college or university. Also, if you write for children, join the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. It has listserves and conferences and publications that will give you information and help you network with other creative people. Purchase the Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market book. It lists some agents and many publishers for books for children. There are also websites like AgentQuery that help you find an agent. Then send your revised manuscripts out to agents and relevant publishers. It takes time, but a good final product is worth the investment.
Tiffany: What warning(s) would you give them?
Janet -Good writers get constructive criticism on their drafts and then revise over and over before getting manuscripts published. This process is hard work, it requires being open-minded about criticism, and it takes a long time. However, many inexperienced writers reject any suggestions for revision and expect success to come very fast, which rarely happens.
Tiffany: What do you enjoy the most about the writing process?
Janet -I enjoy sharing my work with audiences of all ages. I love reading my books and giving creative writing workshops for schools, bookstores, libraries, and conferences.
Tiffany: How did you go about getting your book published?
Janet -I wrote How the Moon Regained Her Shape in 1993. I kept sending it out to publishers and getting rejection notes. I also brought my manuscript to writing workshops and conferences to get feedback. Finally, Arbordale Publishing accepted my story for publication in 2004 and published it with revisions two years later.
Janet -I would take a walk in a beautiful forest with my husband, and I would play games with my great-nephews. I would also see a good drama with friends and discuss our reactions. I would write poems, dramas, essays and stories about my experiences.
Janet -I would like to meet Marianne Evans (pseudonym George Eliot), the British novelist of the late 1800s. She wrote about a wide range of characters and ideas, and I would love to have a long conversation with her. She was an early feminist, and I respect her writing and her bravery very much.
Tiffany: Who inspires you?
Janet -My mother has faced growing older with courage and dignity. I also respect Alicia Suskin Ostriker, an American poet and literary critic in her seventies who has the same attitude toward aging. In fact, Ostriker published a collection of poetry entitled The Book of Seventy to celebrate her reaching that milestone. The children in the classes that I visit to do creative writing workshops also inspire me with their creativity and enthusiasm for life.
Janet -Twelve years ago, I forgot to remove a tiny sewing scissors from my purse, and the security guards at
treated me like a
criminal. Ironically, they now permit
people to carry very small scissors in purses.
Janet -I would like to tell the young Janet Ruth Heller that she could relax more and try more new experiences. I would also explain to her that bullies usually don’t tell the truth and that she needed to find someone to help her with abuse. Peer culture misjudges people who don’t conform, so young nonconformist Janet could take her peers less seriously.
Janet -I’m currently working on a memoir, a poetry book about nature, and a story about sexual harassment.
If you are interested in learning more about Janet's work you can find her at the following links:
blog is http://www.redroom.com/author/janet-ruth-heller/blog
The website for How the Moon Regained Her Shape is www.arbordalepublishing.com/Moon.php
The website for Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama is http://press.umsystem.edu/otherbooks/heller.htm
The website for Traffic Stop is http://www.finishinglinepress.com/product_info.php?cPath=2&products_id=437
The website for Folk Concert: Changing Times is
The website for Exodus is http://www.wordtechweb.com/heller.html
Janet's Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/janetruth.heller
Janet's profile on LinkedIn is www.linkedin.com/pub/janet-heller/37/a2a/395