I’m hoping that this book will inspire a new generation of writers to tap into their own everyday experiences and family stories! (this book was dedicated to Carol Jago, who invited me to the conference where I sat and listened to teachers who convinced me I needed to write it) – Janet Wong, on my Facebook writing and publishing page.

I was looking for an additional author of contemporary realistic fiction to add to a study module for my university children’s literature class, so I asked around to a group of authors and experts. One name came through with resounding recommendations: Janet Wong. After experiencing her book You Have to Write, I can see why so many people love Janet’s work.

It’s a class assignment. But you have nothing to write about. All the other kids seem to have something to tell because they start in right away. What can you do? Stop and think. No one else can tell your stories — about your family, your dog or cat. No one else can tell how it was when your library book got soaked in the rain.

But what if you don’t like what you write? There are all sorts of ways to change it, to make it better. Keep on playing with your words, putting them together in different ways. You want whatever you write to be good. It will get better and better as you work on it.

This is an encouraging book, sympathetically illustrated by Teresa Flavin’s charming pictures, for all young readers who worry when they’re told to write something.

The work has great potential to aid young learners and address some common struggles. It can help them find their own voices.

Janet’s voice was developed through a fascinating and highly unlikely path: Her career switch was so dramatic that she was featured on a segment of The Oprah Winfrey Show. When Wong left her job as Director of Labor Relations at Universal Studios in Hollywood, she dreamed of becoming a children’s book author. Janet tells her story in this video.

According to School Library Journal:

Through free-verse poetry, Wong targets a group of youngsters looking for good topics for a writing assignment. “You want it to be good, to make us cry or bust up laughing when the room is quiet.” They are encouraged to look around, and not to beJanet discouraged by the worldliness or experiences of others. “Wait. Did you forget who you are? Who else can say what you have seen? Who else can tell your stories-.” A photo albumlike page shows a variety of pets, holidays, hobbies, vacations, and family outings that could be possible topics. “Reach inside. Write about the dark times. -Write about the bright times. -Take your mind for a walk back to this morning, back to yesterday-.” Examples are given of parents fighting, a wet library book growing mildew, childhood fears of storms, and taking out the trash. For “Weave them together- half of Draft 1, a word from Draft 4, a whole line from number 5. Try. Because you have to write, and you want it to be good,” the illustration shows each child laying out stretches of many drafts on the floor. The simple realistic gouache paintings are rather ordinary but appropriate for the “writing from life” philosophy that is espoused.

“You Have to Write is a must for every teacher who teaches writing, wrote Petra Siprian. “It is perfect for generating ideas. Students will identify with the struggle of what to write.”

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