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Author's Corner

Author Janet S. Wong

Since the time I was supposed to have learned all about fractions and decimals, I have known I would not be a mathematician. I knew, too, I never would be a neurosurgeon, which my father once wanted me to be. But I never thought I would be a poet, either. As far as I can remember - and at least since fourth grade - I remember hating poetry. I can't say, honestly, that I read much of it, but I did not like what I read - especially when I had to read it aloud! So why do I write poetry now?

One Saturday in September 1991 I attended a workshop on writing for children. When Myra Cohn Livingston, one of the speakers, began to talk about poetry, I started to doodle and daydream, since I knew I was not interested in poetry, of all things. But then she recited the title poem from her book There Was A Place and Other Poems (McElderry Books, 1988), and the next thing I knew, I was blinking back tears. What a powerful piece of writing!

Since then I have taken Myra Cohn Livingston's poetry classes four times. I have read thousands of poems, and written hundreds. I do not like many of the poems I read, and I don not like most of the poems I write. But when I stumble upon - or write - a poem I love, what a great day! The poems I love to read are like "There Was A Place": short, simple poems about family and everyday life. I like poems that are not afraid to talk about painful things. I like poems that make you laugh, or cry; poems that grab yo9u and make you read them again; poems that make you think.

Poetry is, in a way, like shouting. Since you can't yell at the top of you lungs for a very long time, you have to decide what you really need to say, and say it quickly. In a way, too, I suppose, poetry is like math. An idea for a poem is a problem that needs to be solved - and for me, the fun is in finding an answer.

Janet S. Wong was born in Los Angeles, the child of a Chinese immigrant father and a Korean immigrant mother. She graduated from UCLA summa cum laude with a B.A. in history and then obtained a J.D. from Yale Law School. After practicing law for a few years, she decided to devote her time to writing instead. Ms. Wong lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.

Her first book, Good Luck Gold and Other Poems, is a collection of forty-two poems that reflect her experience growing up as a multicultural Asian-American child. Her second book, A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems, is a collection of poems and prose pieces divided into 3 sections: Korean poems, Chinese poems and American poems.

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