Striegel, Jana 1955-(Jana Striegel-Wilson)
STRIEGEL, Jana 1955-(Jana Striegel-Wilson)
PERSONAL: Born November 15, 1955, in Oklahoma City, OK; daughter of J. R. and Ollie Virginia Striegel; married Mark Wilson (an entrepreneur), September 28, 1985; children: Tanner. Education: University of New Mexico, bachelor's degree (dance, theater arts, and education; with distinction), 1982; earned teaching certificate. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, biking, using the gym, studying piano, reading, gardening, and enjoying theater.
ADDRESSES: Home—Albuquerque, NM. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Holiday House, 425 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017; George M. Nicholson, Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc., 65 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10012. E-mail—[email protected].
CAREER: Dance instructor; dancer for New Mexico Ballet Company, Ballet del Monte Sol, American Southwest Ballet Company, and Six Flags over Mid-America, St. Louis, MO; choreographer and producer/director, Albuquerque and New Mexico Junior Miss scholarship program, 1973-82; owner/artistic director, Jana's Academy of Music and Dance, 1982-90; writer, 1990—.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Author's Guild, Southwest Writers.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best Book Honor, language arts—grades seven to twelve novel category, Society of School Librarians International, 2002, for Homeroom Exercise.
Homeroom Exercise, Holiday House (New York, NY), 2002.
Also contributor to periodicals, including New York Times and Albuquerque Journal, sometimes under the name Jana Striegel-Wilson.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Audition, middle-grade fiction.
SIDELIGHTS: Dancing had always been an important part of Jana Striegel's life and it became the subject matter of her second career, writing books for children. As she explained to CA, "Writing came to me at a later stage of my life. Although I was an avid reader, I can't say that when I was a child I knew writing was what I had to do. What I've always been is a dancer. From my first recital as a yellow-feathered canary to today, I am a dancer. Now retired from professional dance, my writing has become an extension of that life." In 2002, Striegel made her debut as a novelist with Homeroom Exercise, a story about a young dancer for middle-grade readers.
Striegel likens writing novels to choreographing dances, which she did extensively as the owner of a dance studio and participant in ballet and musical theater productions for over a decade. At her dance studio, she also developed a reading readiness class for preschool children in which she used movement and music to prepare young students for academic learning. "Choreography had always been one of my favorite parts of the dance world," she confided to CA. "Creating dances was a way for me to tell stories with bodies, lights, and music; when I started writing, I slipped comfortably into putting stories into words on paper." Working with so many dance students of different ages gave Striegel raw material for characters as well. "My characters emerged as a composite of the young people I have taught: from children of supportive families secure in who they are, to children of dysfunctional families looking to the studio as a place to be safe, happy, and respected."
The main character of Homeroom Exercise, Regan is a talented dancer with a supportive family. She plans to pursue dancing as a career and hopes that being selected to host her school's closed-circuit television dance show, called Homeroom Exercise, will give her a leg up, figuratively speaking. Suddenly, however, Regan's joints swell and she is feverish, symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that can cripple. On her personal Web site, Striegel told of the inspiration for this character: "I met a dancer during her senior year of high school who had been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was eleven years old." Although Striegel knew about the adult form of this disease, she was not aware that children could fall prey to it. "As I studied the juvenile form of arthritis," she continued, "I learned it was not that uncommon and read of the courage of young people who deal with this illness. The idea of the strong determined young dancer dealing with a debilitating disease came together and the character of Regan was born."
In the course of the novel, Regan deals emotionally and physically with her illness and relationships with her friends. Several reviewers of Homeroom Exercise commented on its medical subject matter, including a New York Times Book Review critic, who called Striegel's portrayal of the disease "good medical information." Despite the novel's potentially maudlin topic, Booklist contributor Kay Weisman remarked that its subplots "lighten the tone" sufficiently. The outlook for Regan, while not overly optimistic, is at least hopeful and reflects the position that Striegel has had to take in her own life. "Pursuing goals is a theme you will find in my writing," Striegel shared with CA: "I am a cancer survivor, diagnosed in 1994, and continue to be a chronic cancer patient but refuse to give up my dreams. In that time, I have started a family and begun my publishing career. I believe the study of dance equipped me to deal with these challenges." She concluded, "I hope that readers find my books entertaining as well as a place of comfort and encouragement. I strive to share the joy, beauty, and magic of dance, which has graced my life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of Homeroom Exercise, p. 1137.
Children's Literature, March 31, 2003, Linnea Hendrickson, review of Homeroom Exercise.
Midwest Book Review, June 8, 2002, review of Homeroom Exercise.
New York Times Book Review, April 21, 2002, review of Homeroom Exercise, p. 24.
School Library Journal, June, 2002, Shilo Halfen, review of Homeroom Exercise, p. 146.
Jana Striegel Web site,http://janastriegel.com/ (April 2, 2003).