I attended Words on the Street this Saturday in Lethbridge with my publisher, Dream Write Publishing. This was an annual event I enjoyed until COVID postponed it. So, this first in-person return to the book festival since 2019 was a joy. I reconnected with local authors and met new readers to my novels. To discuss my stories is always a fun conversation, as those who know my work, understand my ability to ‘flip’ ideas on their heads and give surprisingly twists and turns in my narratives.
As a reader I also took advantage of an independent bookstore’s weekend sale. The Purple Platypus in Castor, is jam packed with books and picking one or two is impossible. I left with a bag of books! More for my ever expanding TBR pile. (You know the problem all too well, I’m sure.)
Added to these were novels from three Lethbridge authors – Jenna Greene, Bianca Rowena, and Mandy Michelle.
So after I finish Fairy Tale by Stephen King I will have a difficult decision to make – which book do I choose first. Do any of these speak to you? Which one would you choose?
Congratulations are in order to Jenna Greene for winning the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. I asked Jenna some questions about her experience.
Which book won the award?
Reborn – a YA dystopian novel. (The first in a new series).
Can you tell us a little about the story and its characters?
This is a story about a girl named Lexil who is banished to slavery because of the marks on her skin. These marks state that she has lived previous lives and, as such, is to toil in service for those not fortunate enough to have multiple lives.
Why is this story important to you?
This story is important to me on many levels. One – it is a genuinely good story. I feel it is the best writing I’ve done so far. Two – I love the characters and the mythology. I kept the premise of the story simple, but the mythology is unique. Three – I wrote this book in a turbulent part of my life. This story will be forever connected to my mother, as I wrote the first half of it when she was sick and the second half of it after she passed away. And when you write a book about connection to past lives, and those who have lived before … there is no way to escape the fact that maybe those who love us never really leave.
When did you decide to submit this book for the award?
I’ve never submitted a book for an award before but, as mentioned, I feel very proud of this book and very connected too. It just felt okay, for once, to see if others thought it was worthy of recognition.
Where was the award ceremony held?
Traverse City, Michigan.
Can you tell us about the Moonbeam‘s Award – who can apply, who sponsors it etc.?
The Moonbeam Children’s Book Award has bronze, silver, and gold for various categories in Children’s Literature. My novel, Reborn, tied for gold in the YA science fiction and fantasy category. The awards are sponsored by the Jenkin’s Group.
How was your trip to the award ceremony?
Eventful, to say the least. I nearly didn’t make it, as traveling from Canada in winter isn’t exactly easy. Security scanners broke at the Calgary airport, delaying my traveling buddy and I in the line for two hours. We barely caught our flight to Chicago. Our connecting flight to Michigan couldn’t land because of snow, so we had to try again the next night. My luggage wasn’t lost, but it was inaccessible, so I spent 24 hours without it… and the list goes on. But travel adventures make good writing later!
Jenna Greene is the author of the acclaimed Young Adult Fantasy series, Imagine! She is a middle school teacher, dragon-boat coach, enthusiastic dancer, and semi-professional napper. She lives in Lethbridge, Alberta with her husband (Scott), daughter (Olivia), and dog (Thor, dog of thunder).
While I didn’t realize it at the time, the illness and subsequent death of my mother. There are many hints about connection to the afterlife in the novel.
How did you come up with the title?
It has a dual meaning. First of all, it describes a class of people in a dystopian society, but it also represents the journey of the main character, Lexil, as she overcomes challenges and becomes a new person.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That your personality is not static, nor is your life. You can change and grow at any time and stage of your life.
How much of the book is realistic?
The essence of each character is. Their emotions are no different than any other person, but they are in extraordinary circumstances.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think the character of Ceera, who is only five years old in the novel, represents myself when I was younger, as well as the innocence I see in all the children I work with. (I’m a teacher).
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
I always have a thousand projects in the works! I’m doing my best to finish the sequel to Reborn as fast as my fans desire. I am also collaborating with illustrators for some children’s picture books
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
That’s not fair! I have to pick a favourite? That’s like picking a favourite book. Nope! Not doing it!
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I love YA! Read it! Write it! And fantasy has a special place in my heart, of course. But I’m trying to dabble into new genres.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
Some parts are planned, usually the beginning and the ending. The rest is filling in the middle, which is more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants.
What is your best marketing tip?
Dive in! Be ready to stay active and try new things. Marketing starts long before the novel is released (or sometimes even written) and continues long after.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
I think it’s very useful. It just takes a lot of time.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Every part except editing!
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
Grade two. So… I must have been six or seven years old.
A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH? NEW SERIES BY ACCLAIMED YOUNG ADULT FANTASY AUTHOR LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA: Influenced by the illness and subsequent death of her mother, young adult author Jenna Greene pens the first in a new series, Reborn. In this coming of age fantasy, Lexil discovers through the marks on her skin that she is a Reborn–someone who has lived before. Because of this, and the intricate mythology of her world, she is sold at auction and forced to become a slave, abruptly throwing her life and everything she’s known into a chaotic spiral. At a time when Lexil is already struggling with the adversities of being a teenager, still reeling from the loss of parents, the effects of being portrayed as different take their toll. Lexil is out to understand and discover even more about who she is, and who she will become. Intermixed with a unique and complex mythology, drawing from her own life experiences, and her ability to write truly authentic characters, Mrs. Greene tugs at our hearts when Lexil must save a young child, form a new ally with a charming boy named Finn, but most importantly, fight to survive. Jenna is known for her talent of creating characters the audience can relate to whether they are young adults or adults, and this time, Lexil is no different. Her compelling writing style continues to captivate readers, asking tough questions and revealing the answers all while creating tension, true emotions, and imaginative world-building. With five published novels to date, including her outstanding Imagine series, Jenna has a passion for writing that shines. Recently, in a spotlight feature in Pandora’s Box Gazette, Jenna stated: “I don’t know how young I was when I identified as a writer. It was probably when I first started school and a teacher told my parents I had talent. Since then, I’ve always known writing was something I would pursue. There are stories in my head that I have the desire and ability to tell
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Usually it energizes me. I get excited when I read something I’ve written that is well done, or when a character takes me on a journey I wasn’t expecting.
What is your writing Kryptonite? My busy life. I’m a middle school teacher, coach, volunteer, and mother of a one year old.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I thought about it before I became married. Butrenchuk isn’t a great pen name. Once I got married and changed my name to Greene, I thought “That’s a good one!”
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I’ve become acquainted with several Lethbridge and Calgary writers. G.W. Renshaw has given me tips on book signings and introduced me to my publicist, Mickey Mikkelson. While I don’t know Adam Dreece as well, but have spoken to him and find him very nice, he’s my motivation to become successful as an indie author.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? I have a YA fantasy series, which will eventually have a companion picture book. Each book has a distinct connection to the previous and forthcoming. However, I also have a YA contemporary that is a stand-alone. (It may have a companion book someday though…)
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? On a publicist. Creative Edge has opened a lot of doors for me. Also, ordering business cards, booklets, and banners through Vistaprint. They have great products that don’t cost writers and arm and a leg and a thigh.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Every time I stood up to a bully with just my tone and the word “No.”
Listening to stories on my mom’s lap, or my grandma’s, or my sister’s.
Watching She-Ra in a big, brown chair, shouting “For the honor of Greyskull!” and transforming into a powerful woman.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? Most of the indie authors I’ve met. As for a favorite book, I think my favorites are appreciated. However, THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE, by Avi, should be read more often, and it deserves its own movie.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I want to say NYX, the Greek goddess of the night, but I don’t think anyone would believe me. Let’s go with chipmunk. They’re small, cute, but have a bit of spunk.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Plenty. A few picture books that I’m seeking publishers and/or illustrators for. One YA novel that I’m looking for the right market for. Half-finished books aren’t too common for me, but barely-started projects are.
What does literary success look like to you? When someone laughs, cries, or screams from reading one of my books. Oh, and a million dollars in sales.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? I don’t do a lot of research, except in my head. The joy of fantasy is that I get to make a lot of stuff up. But I have to formulate it in my mind, write it down to keep continuity, and brainstorm ideas with my best friend, Rachel, to make sure things are clear.
How many hours a day/week do you write? It varies. During the school year, only 1-2. During summer vacation (teaching rules!) it quadruples.
How do you select the names of your characters? Sometimes it is based off people I know. Other times the names are from literature.
What was your hardest scene to write?Any time a character dies or loses someone they love.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? I think the style of YA chose me, more than I chose it. I like YA literature, and feel there are fewer boundaries with what you can do.
How long have you been writing? Since grade 1.
What inspires you? Adventures.
How do you find or make time to write? I write in short doses. Maybe thirty minutes at a time.
What projects are you working on at the present? I am editing the third book in my YA fantasy series. (Imagine, Reality, Heritage). I’m also working on a short story – not my forte, but I’m experimenting – for an anthology.
What do your plans for future projects include? Dabble with picture book manuscripts. Perhaps a humorous autobiography about teaching.