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A video interview with

Janet Wong

Janet Wong's 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. Over the next two years, she took a writing class, submitted manuscripts, and piled up more than two dozen rejection letters. Through a combination of practice, persistence, and talent, Janet Wong quickly became a successful writer of poetry and picture books for young people. In 2003, Wong was invited to speak at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, read a short biography on Janet Wong, or see a selected list of her children's books. (This video is also available on YouTube and iTunes.)

Biography

Janet Wong was born in Los Angeles in 1962. She was the daughter of a Chinese father and a Korean mother. While growing up in California, she enjoyed watching TV with her dad, playing with her friends, catching lizards, and riding her skateboard. There were no early signs that Janet would become an author or a poet. In fact, she hated poetry in elementary school because of the way it was taught. And she wasn't much of a reader either — she found reading to be too quiet and lonely.

At the University of California in Los Angeles, Janet Wong studied history. She later earned a law degree from Yale and spent the next four years practicing law. While working as the Director of Labor Relations at Universal Studios, Wong realized that she was unhappy in her line of work. One day, as she was shopping in a children's book store, it struck her that what she really wanted to do was write books for children. After discussing it with her husband, Wong quit her job, started writing, and quickly piled up rejection letters. While taking a writing class, Wong realized that poetry, her least favorite genre in elementary school, might in fact become her most successful genre as a writer.

Janet Wong sold her first book of poems, Good Luck Gold, eighteen months after she quit her job as a lawyer. Her courageous career change later became the subject of a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show called "Remembering Your Spirit". Some of Wong's books, like Apple Pie Fourth of July, explore the tension between having immigrant roots and wanting to be accepted as an American. Other books playfully address topics with which Wong has less direct experience, such as yoga and dumpster diving. In addition to writing, Janet Wong visits classrooms and speaks at conferences.

Janet Wong lives with her husband and son in Princeton, New Jersey.

"Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!" — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943