Peters, Julie Anne 1952–
Peters, Julie Anne 1952–
PERSONAL: Born January 16, 1952, in Jamestown, NY. Partner of Sherri Leggett. Ethnicity: "White." Education: Colorado Women's College (now University of Denver), B.A., 1974; Metropolitan State College of Denver, B.S. (summa cum laude), 1985; University of Colorado—Denver, M.B.A., 1989. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, sports, arts, children's literacy, human rights and animal welfare advocacy.
ADDRESSES: Home—Lakewood, CO. Agent—Wendy Schmalz Agency, Box 831, Hudson, NY 12534. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Elementary schoolteacher, 1975; Tracom Corp., Denver, CO, secretary, research assistant, and computer programmer, 1975–84; Electronic Data Systems, Denver, computer systems designer, 1985–88; Jefferson County School District, Lakewood, CO, special needs educational assistant, 1990–94. Member of Project Angel Heart and Denver Women's Chorus.
AWARDS, HONORS: KC3 Reading Award, Greater Kansas City Association of School Librarians, 1995, for The Stinky Sneakers Contest; award for best book in language arts, K-6 novels category, Society of School Librarians International, 1997, for How Do You Spell GEEK?; Top Hand Award for Young Adult Fiction, Colorado Authors' League, 1998, for Revenge of the Snob Squad; Best Books for Young Adults citation and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers citation, American Library Association (ALA), both 2000, both for Define "Normal"; Lambda Literary Award finalist, 2003, New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age Seventy-fifth Anniversary Edition selection, and Stonewall Honor Book and Best Books for Young Adults citation, ALA, both 2004, all for Keeping You a Secret; National Book Award finalist in Young People's Literature, 2004, Lambda Literary Award finalist, 2005, New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, 2005, and Stonewall Honor Book and Best Books for Young Adults citation, ALA, both 2005, all for Luna; New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, and Best Books for Young Adults citation and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers citation, ALA, all 2006, all for Far From Xanadu.
The Stinky Sneakers Contest, illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.
Risky Friends, Willowisp Press (St. Petersburg, FL), 1993.
B.J.'s Billion-Dollar Bet, illustrated by Cynthia Fisher, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1994.
How Do You Spell GEEK?, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.
Revenge of the Snob Squad, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1998.
Romance of the Snob Squad, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1999.
Love Me, Love My Broccoli, Avon/HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Define "Normal", Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.
A Snitch in the Snob Squad, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
Keeping You a Secret, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2003.
Luna, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
Far from Xanadu, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2005.
Between Mom and Jo, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.
Grl2grl: Short Fictions, 2007.
Contributor to juvenile, young adult, and adult periodicals, including Young American, First Opportunity, Wee Wisdom, Hopscotch, Career Woman, Free Spirit, Purple Cow, Accent on Living, Children's Book Insider, and Good Housekeeping. Contributing editor, IEA News.
SIDELIGHTS: Julie Anne Peters is the author of a number of award-winning books for young adults and middle grade readers, including Define "Normal", Keeping You a Secret, and Luna, that address themes ranging from divorce to peer acceptance to homosexuality. Peters's use of humor to dissect such serious topics has earned her a loyal readership as well as laudatory reviews.
The author's early books, however, feature lighter themes and are geared to a younger audience. Peters' first book, The Stinky Sneakers Contest, is based on a combination of a real-life experience and a "grungy" shoe contest that was held out east. "Reading about the contest reminded me of my own childhood humiliation of perpetually smelly feet," Peters once remarked to CA. The plot moves far beyond the title and presents a tale of a friendship in jeopardy because of cheating. The story depicts familiar themes of winning, losing, and honesty, as Earl and Damian compete in the Feet-first shoe company's smelly sneakers contest. An Instructor reviewer commented, "This pleasant, easy-to-read chapter book about two African-American boys will stimulate reflection on what it takes to be a winner." Lynnea McBurney, a reviewer for School Library Journal, also stated: "On the whole, this is a nicely written, humorous story. It is short enough for those just getting into transitional readers, yet there is enough here for enjoyment and food for thought."
Peters' second book, Risky Friends, explores the issue of choosing friends while confronting the reality of single-parent households. Two best friends, Kacie and Vicky, are at risk of losing their friendship over Kacie's newfound companion, Skye, who wins Kacie's attention by buying her gifts. "As a kid, I always envied people with more money than me—thinking wealth solved the world's problems," Peters once explained to CA. "That misperception, along with the inevitable growing pains accompanying young adulthood, are the themes explored in Risky Friends." Sister Bernadette Marie Ondus stated in Kliatt: "The younger set, girls primarily, will enjoy this story since they will be able to identify closely with the characters."
Peters once told CA: "My book, Define "Normal", grew out of my experiences working with special-needs children. These kids weren't necessarily learning disabled, or intellectually challenged. They had so many family problems, so much responsibility, that school was the bottom rung on their priority ladder. These kids struggled daily to survive; it was far from a normal childhood. I began to examine the concept of 'normal' and how we use it to label people—particularly teens. We react so negatively to kids who choose to express themselves a bit outrageously. They dress to shock, or to ornament their bodies. But this is absolutely normal behavior. Young people are trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in, and, conversely, how they will set themselves apart. This exploration of 'normal' evolved into two characters—Antonia and Jazz.
"In Define "Normal", the main character, Antonia Dillon, appears to be a perfectly normal teen—healthy, happy, trouble-free. She dresses conservatively, performs well in school, never questions authority. Yet underneath her controlled exterior she is experiencing tremendous family turmoil. Antonia has way too much responsibility for a fourteen-year-old girl. She has no time or energy to explore who she is. On the other end of the spectrum is Jasmine Luther. Jazz is all about self. She's this glorious expression of who she is. But Jazz is free to be herself because she has a solid family foundation. If she crashes and burns, she knows someone will be there to douse the flames. Antonia doesn't have this luxury. When Antonia is assigned to be a peer counsel for Jazz in school, there is a resounding clash of values."
In 2003, at her editor's urging, Peters published a lesbian love story for young adults titled Keeping You a Secret. In the work, high school senior Holland Jaeger enters into a relationship with transfer student Cece Goddard, an out and proud lesbian. "The love story is a joyful one, though marked by pain inflicted by the outside world," observed Lambda Book Report critic Nancy Boutilier. "Because Holland is such an analytical character, and one who begins the novel believing herself to be straight, the narrative of her self-discovery invites readers to appreciate the natural, gut-level way she falls for Cece." Peters told Kite Tales interviewer Lisa Lodholm Gilman, "I never felt writing was my calling until Keeping You a Secret was published. My e-mail inbox began to fill with hundreds and hundreds of letters. This book … evoked more passion and response from readers than all my previous books combined."
Peters earned a National Book Award nomination for her next work, Luna, deemed "groundbreaking, finely tuned realism about a transsexual teen" by a critic in Kirkus Reviews. The work concerns the complex but loving relationship between Regan and her older brother, Liam, who dons a dress and a wig each night to transform himself into Luna, the reflection of his inner self. As Liam grows bolder about appearing as Luna in public, Regan learns that her brother is considering sexual reassignment surgery. "Peters' sensitive treatment of the struggles of the transgendered and those who love them allows readers to see another aspect of the difficult adolescent journey toward identity," remarked Michele Winship in Kliatt.
Other books by Peters also feature characters in relationships with members of the same sex. In Far from Xanadu, a small-town girl falls for a newcomer with a shady past. When beefy, athletic Mike Szabo meets Xanadu, a former drug dealer, she falls instantly in love, even though Xanadu is straight. Mike's "hunger for Xanadu is achingly apparent," noted Horn Book critic Lauren Adams, who continued, "Xanadu knows what Mike wants and her responses are unpredictable, to both Mike and the reader." A teenager is caught in the middle when his biological mother and her partner separate in Between Mom and Jo. According to School Library Journal contributor Beth Gallego, "This coming-of-age novel powerfully portrays the universal pain of a family breakup."
Though she originally resisted becoming a "gay-lit" author, Peters now has no regrets. "It's important to get that literature out there," she told Malinda Lo on After-Ellen.com. "I did have fears about being categorized as a gay author … and I would be expected to do more and more of that kind of literature, but I find that I really want to. I look at what we have out there, and we have so many stories that aren't being told."
Peters more recently told CA: "Where do stories come from? Not only is it the question I'm asked most often, it's the one I ask myself. The nature of inspiration is a wondrous, unsolved mystery. A story might originate with a night visitor. Luna, a trans girl who appeared in the early morning hours, woke me from a deep sleep demanding that I write about her. It might be sparked by an overheard conversation. A group of teachers sitting around during parent-teacher conferences. One saying, 'Well, I made this special award for any fathers who come. Who gets it if both of Nick's mothers come?' Another teacher replying, 'I know. I was planning this family unit and now I have Nick in my class and I can't do it.' Why? I thought at the time. Why can't you do a family unit because one of your students has two moms? It bugged me. What kinds of families do we validate in school, and society? Single-parent families? Mixed-race families? What about blended families or foster families? Discrimination seeps into our culture in many subtle ways.
"Fifteen years later that overheard conversation still irked me. The anger finally spilled over into a book, Between Mom and Jo. I think emotional involvement is what brings my characters to life.
When I began writing sixteen years ago, my first fiction attempts were short stories. Through them I taught myself the fundamentals of character development, plotting, pacing, dialogue, narrative, story and character arc. My first published work was in magazines for children and young adults. I've always loved reading short stories, and writing them is a blast. Returning to short form after novel writing is a refresher course in mastering the basics.
"I do hope young lesbian readers will see themselves in this work; will recognize the profound effect their stories have had on me. I hope, too, that people who don't know us will see us more clearly, the challenges we face, and perhaps find a thread of their own humanity."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 1993, Jim Jeske, review of The Stinky Sneakers Contest, p. 1068; September 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Revenge of the Snob Squad, p. 232; April 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Romance of the Snob Squad, p. 1414; May 15, 2000, Pat Austin, review of How Do You Spell Geek?, p. 1765; May 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of A Snitch in the Snob Squad, p. 1753; July, 2004, Cindy Welch, review of Luna, p. 1834; September 1, 2005, Michael Cart, review of Far from Xanadu, p. 112; March 1, 2006, Krista Hutley, review of Between Mom and Jo, p. 83.
Denver Post, June 24, 2003, Eric Hubler, "Editor Prods Peters to Reinvent Herself as 'Gay-lit' Author."
Horn Book, September-October, 1994, Nancy Vasilakis, review of B.J.'s Billion-Dollar Bet, p. 583; July-August, 2004, Lauren Adams, review of Luna, p. 459; May-June, 2005, Lauren Adams, review of Far from Xanadu, p. 332; May-June, 2006, Timothy Capehart, review of Between Mom and Jo, p. 325.
Instructor, February, 1993, review of The Stinky Sneakers Contest, p. 5.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1992, review of The Stinky Sneakers Contest, p. 1576; April 15, 2003, review of Keeping You a Secret, p. 610; April 1, 2004, review of Luna, p. 335; April 15, 2005, review of Far from Xanadu, p. 479; April 1, 2006, review of Between Mom and Jo, p. 354.
Kite Tales, August, 2004, Lisa Lodholm Gilman, "Interview with Julie Peters, Author."
Kliatt, November, 1993, Sister Bernadette Marie Ondus, review of Risky Friends, p. 10; May, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Keeping You a Secret, p. 12; May, 2004, Michele Winship, review of Luna, p. 12; May, 2006, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Between Mom and Jo, p. 13.
Lambda Book Report, August-September, 2003, Nancy Boutilier, "IMRU?," review of Keeping You a Secret, p. 32; October, 2004, Lynn Evarts, "Trans by the Light of the Moon," review of Luna, p. 13.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1996, review of How Do You Spell Geek?, p. 67; April 9, 2001, "They're Back," review of A Snitch in the Snob Squad, p. 76; April 21, 2003, review of Keeping You a Secret, p. 63; May 17, 2004, review of Luna, p. 52; June 5, 2006, review of Between Mom and Jo, p. 64.
School Library Journal, March, 1993, Lynnea McBurney, review of The Stinky Sneakers Contest, p. 184; April, 2001, Janet Hilbun, review of A Snitch in the Snob Squad, p. 148; May, 2003, Robert Gray, review of Keeping You a Secret, p. 158; May, 2004, Betty S. Evans, review of Luna, p. 156; June, 2005, Miranda Doyle, review of Far from Xanadu, p. 167; April, 2006, Beth Gallego, review of Between Mom and Jo, p. 146.
AfterEllen.com, http://afterellen.com/ (April 21, 2005), Malinda Lo, "Interview with Julie Anne Peters."
Cynthia Leitich Smith Web site, http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (December 3, 2006), Cynthia Leitich Smith, "The Story behind the Story: Julie Anne Peters on Luna"; Cynthia Leitich Smith, "Author Interview: Julie Anne Peters on Far From Xanadu."
Julie Anne Peters Home Page, http://julieannepeters.com (November 10, 2006).
Writing-World Web site, http://www.writing-world.com/ (December 3, 2006), Peggy Tibbetts, "Her Humor Hits Home: An Interview with Julie Anne Peters."