Friday, April 25, 2014

How the Moon Regained Her Shape - A Review

Recently, I read a great little book that covers not one but two topics: bullying and the phases of the moon. The title is How the Moon Regained Her Shape , written by Janet Heller. Let me just tell you that this book is a great tool for teachers;  not only does it address the issue of bullying and how hurtful it is, but it also covers a science topic! The illustrations are beautifully done and capture the essence of Native American artistry. The story telling is rich yet simple enough for a young reader to understand the concepts and come away having learned something valuable. This is definitely a great book to have in a library or on a personal book shelf!

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 University of Chicago. She has published three poetry books: Exodus (WordTech Editions, 2014),Folk Concert: Changing Times (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012), and Traffic Stop(Finishing Line Press, 2011). TheUniversity of Missouri Press published her scholarly book, Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama (1990). Her children’s book about bullying, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006), has won four national awards. I hope that you all enjoy getting to know her as I did!

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.

Tiffany: Give a short synopsis of your book.


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.

Tiffany:  How do you come up with your story lines?


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.

Tiffany:   What advice would you give to aspiring writers?


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.

Tiffany:   If you were given one day to live, what would you do that day?


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.

Tiffany:   If you could meet one of your favorite authors, who would it be and why?


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.

Tiffany:  Most embarrassing childhood or adult moment?


Janet -Twelve years ago, I forgot to remove a tiny sewing scissors from my purse, and the security guards at Detroit Metropolitan Airport treated me like a criminal.  Ironically, they now permit people to carry very small scissors in purses. 

Tiffany:  If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger self?


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. 

Tiffany:   What’s next for you?


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:

 website is  
 blog is 


The website for How the Moon Regained Her Shape is


The website for Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama is



The website for Folk Concert:  Changing Times is


The website for Exodus is


Janet's Facebook page is ‎


Janet's profile on LinkedIn is


1 comment:

Janet Ruth Heller said...

Dear Tiffany Haisten,

Thank you very much for posting this review and interview. You are very generous with your time to other writers, and I appreciate your effort and interest in my work.

Best wishes for your own writing!

Janet Ruth Heller