Janni Lee Simner

About Janni Lee Simner

Janni Lee Simner is the author of the post-apocalyptic Bones of Faerie trilogy and the contemporary fantasy Thief Eyes, as well as four books for younger children, more than 30 short stories, and the script for the video game The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse. Check out her Writing Life Series for practical tools to hone your writing craft and unlock your creative power or join her email list for ongoing updates here.

Writing Survivors: A New Series

If you enjoyed the Writing for the Long Haul series, head over and check out Cynthia Leitich Smith’s new Survivors series, where well-established writers talk about career endurance as a writer for children and young adults.

When I started out, publishers seemed reluctant to take chances on new voices. And in the pre-Potter industry, there wasn’t the widespread idea that writing for young readers was a viable and attainable career path (or at least one with the potential to generate a livable income).

Consequently, fewer younger people were pursuing it.

As a GenXer, I also entered the field as a shockingly young writer by the standards of the day.

I knew only a couple of published authors (and only online) who were around my age. The overwhelming majority were at least fifteen years older.

Most were a full generation older.

Now, the pendulum has swung hard the other way.

Read more here.

Truth, Justice, and Oversharing

Are you planning to turn your television to a non-Inauguration station tomorrow to help lower the Inauguration’s ratings?

If so, you forgot to verify what you read before accepting it. Because unless you’re a member of a Nielsen family, what you watch likely won’t affect anyone but you.

This isn’t the only example I could use (it’s unlikely Paul Ryan has disconnected his phones, too, just for starters), and I’m not sharing it to shame those who happen not to know what a Nielsen family is. I’m sharing it because one of the big lessons of the past election season, it seems to me, was that no matter what our political leanings are, we have got got GOT to get back into the habit of questioning what we read, even if–especially if–it agrees with what we already suspect to be true.

We have to start asking, “Where did this information come from?” We have to start looking for known, reliable sources, and asking who THEIR sources are, and visiting reliable fact checking sites. We have to get back to reading and listening with a healthy dose of skepticism, to knowing when to look at something and say “REALLY? SERIOUSLY?” We need to re-learn the difference between fact and interpretation, between drawing our own conclusions and creating our own reality.

After tomorrow, telling what is and isn’t true will likely get a lot harder. If we believe–and share–blindly, we become part of the problem, helping to spread false information and so making it that much harder to find the facts in a sea of distorted truths and flat-out fictional inventions.

If we believe blindly, we deny ourselves the information we need to know where and how to act, and we become easy prey for any passing piece of propaganda that contains some kernel of what we believe or want to believe. We move from false outrage to false outrage, and along the way miss the real outrages that need our attention.

So turn your television to whatever station you want; it won’t really matter. In the years ahead, a lot of other things will.

The day before

The day before the peaceful transfer of power to those who seem to care little for peace, I headed out to a city park and walked in the bracing chill of a soft gray morning. I looked up at the cloud-muted mountains. Watched a long-legged egret make its careful way around a pond.

I gathered in energy and strength and calm for the days ahead.

I recommitted to art and to action and to figuring out how the two fit together.

I won’t say everything’s going to be all right, but the mountains and the egret and the pond are still here. We are still here. We’ll do what we can, fight what we must, succeed and fail, fall down and get up again. That in itself is a victory.

We are here.

“On my honor, I will try, to serve God and my country …”

Sometimes you research an outrage and discover that you, personally, aren’t outraged after all. (While still respecting those who are.)

When I heard the Girl Scouts were marching in the inauguration tomorrow, I was ready to call GSUSA headquarters and express my concern as a former Girl Scout and leader who gave 20 years to the organization and may yet give more.

Then I began wondering: was this a national-level action, or a troop level action? Because individual troops and individual girls make their own decisions. That’s an important part of how Girl Scouting works.

So I began looking around and asking questions, and someone finally pointed me to a statement that was just made by GSUSA. The girls who are marching come from the Washington, DC Girl Scout council, and do so voluntarily. To me, this says they chose to be there.

Other girls, from countless councils around the country will be marching in the Women’s Marches in DC and around the country the next day.

Girl Scouting is, among other things, a place for girls to find their voice. I’m not personally thrilled some scouts have chosen to represent the organization by marching in the inauguration, but I’d be even more unhappy if anyone, either Friday’s marchers or Saturday’s, were told not to express their views. Girl Scouting is an organization, but Girl Scouts are individuals.

None of us are going to agree with those who hold similar views all the time. I respect that many people differently about the Scouts’ plans for this weekend. (And they’re Girl Scouts. They likely did plan, rather than having the troop leaders do all the planning for them.)

But when we see a new concern, I think it’s important to do some research and give it some thought, rather than simply responding to calls to action that come across our social media feeds. Whatever our political beliefs, we need to find out what’s actually happened in order to see what we actually think.

Through the darkest days of the year

“You can stand to see the Imperial flag reign across the galaxy?”
“It’s not a problem if you don’t look up.”
Rogue One

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (movie veersion)

“To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.”
— Akira Kurosawa

“No darkness lasts forever. And even there, there are stars.
— Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore

Always look up. Work towards happiness, but not only happiness, and not only for ourselves. Keep your eyes open as much as you can, and then keep them open a little more than that.

Act.

Thinking, processing, pondering, planning

“Nobody who says, ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night

“And then.
“The great connective, the thread that binds the patchwork fabric of stories. And then this happen. And then that. One thing after another, until the end of the story. And then it stops. And then everything stays the same forever and ever, because a story once told is unchanging, everlasting. Imprisoned in amber.
“As if like was like that …”
― Richard Grant, Rumors of Spring

“What exactly are you here for?”
“To see with eyes unclouded by hate.”
― Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke

“Well, what is it?” I cried. “What is his crime?”
“Cruelty,” whispered Snout.
I felt my stomach tighten. “Cruelty?” I asked, wondering if I had heard right.
“In the civilized galaxy, cruelty is the greatest of all crimes,” said Madame Pong. “Of course, life always involves some suffering, and there are times when painful things must be done for life to continue. But an intelligent being who takes pleasure in causing pain to others–well, such an individual is considered dangerously bent.”
“You must understand,” said Tar Gibbons, “that empathy is the heart of civilization.”
“Empathy?”
“The ability to understand what another feels,” said Snout. “It is the trait that lifts us above the animals.”
― Bruce Coville, Aliens Ate My Homework


Wednesday morning inspiration and comfort

“Into the woods,
It’s always when
You think at last
You’re through, and then
Into the woods you go again
To take another journey.”
―Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

“And for adults, the world of fantasy books returns to us the great words of power which, in order to be tamed, we have excised from our adult vocabularies. These words are the pornography of innocence, words which adults no longer use with other adults, and so we laugh at them and consign them to the nursery, fear masking as cynicism. These are the words that were forged in the earth, air, fire, and water of human existence, and the words are:
Love. Hate. Good. Evil. Courage. Honor. Truth.”
―Jane Yolen, Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood

“This is. And thou art. There is no safety. There is no end. The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore

“Now you’re on your own
Only me beside you
Still, you’re not alone
No one is alone
Truly
No one is alone …
You move just a finger,
Say the slightest word,
Something’s bound to linger
Be heard
No one acts alone.”
―Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

“There’s lots of kinds of chains. You can’t see most of them, the ones that bind folks together. But people build them, link by link. Sometimes the links are weak, snap like this one did. That’s another funny thing, now that I think of it. Sometimes when you mend a chain, the place where you fix it is strongest of all.”
― Bruce Coville, Into the Land of the Unicorns

“This is our world. Aye, there’s more than enough of darkness in it. But over everything there’s all this joy, Kit. There’s all this lovely, lovely light.”
― David Almond, Kit’s Wilderness