Janet S. Wong
Los Angeles, CA, US
Medina, WA, US
Janet Wong was born in Los Angeles, CA, the daughter of a Chinese-immigrant father and a Korean-immigrant mother. She grew up in Los Angeles and in San Anselmo, 20 miles northwest of San Francisco.
Before becoming a writer, Janet explored a few other fields. During her junior year in college, Janet studied art history in France at the Universit© de Bordeaux. When she returned from France, Janet founded the UCLA Immigrant Children's Art Project, a program focused on teaching refugee children to express themselves through art. After graduating from UCLA, Janet attended Yale Law School and went on to practice corporate and labor law for GTE and Universal Studios Hollywood. But after a few years she chose to write for young people instead. “There are many lawyers who are doing good work,” Janet says, “but I felt I was becoming a mean person. I didn't enjoy my work, and I wanted to do something more important with my life. I couldn't think of anything more important than working with kids. I had done a little bit of substitute teaching while I was in law school, and being a teacher is the hardest work I have done. I knew I wouldn't survive as a teacher. One day, while browsing in a tiny children's bookstore, I decided I wanted to try to write books for children.”
Success as a children's author did not come easily for Janet; she received over 20 rejection letters for her early picture book manuscripts, and felt “like a failure” after a year of writing. “I almost decided to return to the law, but then I remembered what my husband had said, the night before I quit my law job: 'Why don't you write for a year — and it doesn't matter if you get published. If you love it, keep on doing it.'” Janet did love writing, and she decided to take writing classes at UCLA, where she studied with the accomplished children's poet Myra Cohn Livingston. Myra urged Janet to “read, read, read, at least a dozen books a week.” With Myra's help, Janet's first collection of poetry, Good Luck Gold, was published in 1994.
Janet is the author of five collections of poetry and six picture books. Two new books will be published this fall: Minn and Jake (Foster/FSG) and Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions (McElderry/S&S). Her poems have been reprinted in many textbooks and anthologies, as well as in some more unusual venues. “Albert J. Bell” from A Suitcase of Seaweed was selected to appear on 5,000 subway and bus posters as part of the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority's “Poetry in Motion” program, and poems from Behind the Wheel have been featured on a car-talk radio show.
Janet's awards include the International Reading Association's “Celebrate Literacy Award,” presented by the Foothill Reading Council for exemplary service in the promotion of literacy, and honors from the Claremont Graduate School and Penn State University. She also has been appointed to the Commission on Literature of the National Council of Teachers of English. Articles by and about Janet have appeared in Scholastic's Instructor magazine, Creative Classroom, Booklinks, and O magazine; Janet and her work have been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other television programs.