Author Archives: Jan Gangsei

Love for the Kidlit Community

Writing can be a lonely sort of business. It’s just you, a computer (or pen and paper, ink and quill, hammer and rock… ), and the vast array of imaginary people who have taken up residence in your head. No co-workers to meet around the water cooler to discuss last night’s episode of The Bachlorette. No one in the next cubicle to commiserate with over coffee. It’s just…

You. And the story you’re trying to tell.

Which is why I’m so grateful for the kidlit community. It can be easy to forget sometimes (when you’re struggling through revision #1,567,321… or another rejection… or a tough critique) that you are not alone. I really loved this recent Facebook post that perfectly illustrates this point by Newbery Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo:

I usually rewrite a book a total of eight or nine times. Sometimes more. When I’m done, I take all of those drafts…

Posted by The Official Kate DiCamillo Page on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kate’s post was also a reminder of the other thing I love about the kidlit community–the incredible camaraderie and generosity found here. A simple Google search turns up countless sites where authors/agents/editors gladly share their expertise and advice. (I shudder to think how many rookie errors I would have made back in my querying days–besides requerying Mr. Awesome Agent with Awesome Book #2 immediately after he politely declined Awesome Book #1, oops… and sorry!–had it not been for the Blue Boards, SCBWI, Absolute Write, etc.) Not to mention, I’ve made some really amazing friends both on and offline, via this blog, on Twitter and through my agency. Incredible people who inspire and motivate me every day–even if we’re not working cubicle-to-cubicle. Even if we rarely see each other face to face.

Of course, there’s still nothing quite like meeting up with your peeps in real life–like a bunch of us did the other night outside DC (thanks to Mixed-Up Filer Amie Borst for organizing!). Much laughter was had, some delicious Italian food was consumed, stories were swapped… and I was reminded yet again: writing may be a solitary occupation, but none of us are really in it alone.

Author Headshot, from L to R: Wendy Shang, Natalie Dias Lorenzi, yours truly, Rose Cooper, Leah Henderson, Sue Douglass Fliess and Amie Borst.

Author Headshot, from L to R: Wendy Shang, Natalie Dias Lorenzi, yours truly, Rose Cooper, Leah Henderson, Sue Douglass Fliess and Amie Borst.

Jan Gangsei is the author of several Middle Grade series for Working Partners Ltd., publishing in the US, UK and Germany. Her YA debut, ZERO DAY, publishes with Disney-Hyperion on January 12, 2016.

Shhh… Writer at Work!

One of the best things about being a writer is getting to work at home, amirite? You know, we can work in our pajamas! No annoying commute! No office politics! Endless chocolate and coffee!

Okay, maybe not so much. Maybe it’s more like I’m working in pajamas because I’m on deadline and haven’t had a chance to touch that massive pile of laundry in my bedroom. And I’m obviously not commuting anywhere because I’m not dressed. And chocolate… well, thank heavens for leftover Halloween candy or I might starve. A Snickers bar is okay for breakfast, right? It’s got peanuts in it and I’m pretty sure those are healthy.

(Full disclaimer: I’m not really in my pajamas. I can’t function unless I shower and get dressed every morning. I am, however, pleading the fifth on the Snickers bar. And the laundry situation.)

That said, it’s true that working at home isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. And it’s not just because of that shiny thing called “the internet” that keeps distracting me. Or my laundry piles. Or the dishwasher that needs unloading. (I’m actually quite good at ignoring housework. It’s something of a specialty of mine.)

No, the thing that always derails me is this little distraction called… other people. Don’t get me wrong — I love my family. I love my friends. I love spending time with them.

I just don’t like it when they interrupt my work.

And even though I know they all mean well, it can be hard to get the point across that despite the fact I am home, sitting on my sofa with a laptop looking all relaxed and happy with chocolate in my teeth — I. Am. Working.

I mean, I know for a fact if I happened to be in a ditch operating a jackhammer, my kids wouldn’t come over to ask what was for dinner. Just like I’d never dream of walking into the operating room while my brother was performing surgery to see what we should get Mom for her birthday.

But hey — writer on sofa. Fair game.

Sometimes I dream about renting myself an office somewhere with an assistant to screen all my calls and fetch me stuff. But then, that thoroughly defeats my plan to work at home in my pajamas eating Snickers bars and ignoring the dishes.

Now, I know I’m not the only writer to suffer from other-people-distraction syndrome. At a retreat with some of my agency-mates last year this very topic came up, as well as some clever ways to deal with it — i.e. hanging a curtain in front of the desk to indicate Mom’s off limits (unless there’s blood, then well, go find Dad anyway); a figurine on the computer — if he’s facing out, okay to talk; in, keep it to yourself, unless, well, blood.

I myself haven’t come up with any good tricks — other than to inform my family when I’m working that I’m in my “cone of silence,” which I envision looking like an invisible version of one of these:

dog collar

(Actually, come to think of it, maybe I should put one of those on my head whenever I’m busy. At the very least, my family and friends would think I’d completely and finally lost it and would stay away long enough for me to get something done.)

So, how about you? Do you suffer from other-people-distraction syndrome? How do you deal with it? Tell me in the comments below! Right now, I’ve got to run… I’ve got a whole load of laundry to not do…

The Power of Words

So I was watching this video while working out at the gym the other day:

(Okay, I obviously wasn’t working out that hard, but hey, sometimes I just like to get on the elliptical and do some thinking between bursts of cardio…).

Anyway, watching all The Fault in Our Stars quotes stream by, I was reminded why I’ve always loved books so much. I mean, I’ve always been a sucker for a good story whatever the format, but books offer something more, something magical:


I know that seems sort of obvious. But all my fellow book lovers understand what I mean. There’s nothing quite like being immersed in a good book and coming across a turn of phrase so perfect it makes you stop in your tracks and catch your breath, just due to the sheer beauty of how the words come together. Sort of like taking a walk and being captivated by how the sunlight hits the leaves in the trees — a simple and fleeting reminder of how wonderful it is to think… To feel… To be alive and connected to the world.

When I was a tween and teen, I dog-eared countless books, marking words that spoke to me. Some quotes made it onto the covers of my notebooks or into the yearbooks of friends. Some just rattled around in my head, making me think. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been drawn to writing for this age group — words held such power for me back then, shaping me, helping me see things in new ways and understanding I wasn’t the only one who felt a certain way.

Of course, I still love words and continue to highlight phrases that speak to me — reading them over and over, rattling them around in my brain, making myself think. A couple of my recent favorites:

As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. — John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

It’s as if someone vacuumed up the horizon while we were looking the other way. — Jandy Nelson, The Sky is Everywhere 

(Huh, looking back at those I clearly have a thing for books that reference the sky in the title somehow…)

So how about you? What are some of your favorite quotes (or quotable authors or books)? What makes you stop, catch your breath, and read something again? Tell me in the comments below!