Joanne Fedler Media Spotlight: Jess Zlotnick
‘The purpose of freedom is to free someone else.’
I started mentoring writers ten years ago to save myself from starvation as an author in a climate of declining advances and book sales.
But something happened in the teaching that saved me from another form of hunger – attachment to ego. The more I taught writers to find their voices, the more meaningful my life felt.
I began to understand that my journey as a successful author had simply been the way for me to pave a path for others. The purpose of my ‘success’ was to help others be successful, to paraphrase Toni Morrison.
I told my writers, ‘If you finish your books, I will do whatever it takes to help you get published.’ I intended to lean on all my international contacts with agents and publishers. But what nagged at me was that I couldn’t guarantee they would find an interested publisher.
In the middle of 2017, while mentoring 18 writers who had committed to their writing for years, it suddenly struck me – the only way I could ensure certainty of outcome for them was to become a publisher myself.
And so I did. Joanne Fedler Media was born to honour my writers, to bring their work into the world in the event that they are unable to secure a traditional publisher (if that is their first choice).
In the coming years, many of the writers I have mentored will be ready to publish.
Joanne Fedler Media will be there – either as Plan A or Plan B to ensure their success. We will publish memoir, inspiring fiction, poetry and self-help books – many of the genres in which first-time authors struggle to find traditional publishers. All our books will embody our values of using our words to inspire, nourish and grow the spirit.
Little Wings Books is our children’s books imprint in partnership with Karen McDermott, an experienced and heart-centred book publisher in Perth who has mentored me through the publication of our first few books.
I will use my platform as an internationally bestselling author to launch these new voices.
But authors need readers, which is where YOU come in.
I so hope you will become part of our community and support our authors by buying and reviewing their books so they can share their message with a wider audience. Thank you in advance for being part of our mission to light the world with books that make a difference by first-time authors traditional publishers sometimes overlook.
In upcoming newsletters, we will shine a light on one of our emergent or emerging authors. This month, our spotlight is on debut author Jess Zlotnick.
A children’s book for adults as well as little people.
What kind of sad are you?
It’s the sort of question that brings to mind John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a treasury of invented words for uncommon sadnesses.
And it’s the question at the heart of What Mouse Knew, an exquisitely illustrated children’s book by debut author and artist Jess Zlotnick.
Rat is sad and doesn’t know why, so his friend Mouse sends him on a journey of self-discovery. He returns knowing that he is ‘lonely-sad.’ And right then, his friendship with Mouse becomes a refuge.
The book began as a high school art project when Jess was just 16. She made and bound the book on black paper and executed it with simple white line drawings.
I fell in love with this story and its sparse, delicate illustrations.
But here’s the snag: Jess is my daughter, and as such, I had to exercise extreme vigilance that I wasn’t just being a Jewish mother.
I showed it to a friend, an award winning children’s book author. She encouraged me to try find a publisher and gave me the name of an editor at Penguin. ‘Send it to her,’ she said. So I did.
The editor loved it enough to take it to an acquisitions meeting. But she wanted to bring another illustrator on board to replace the line drawings.
‘But the illustrations are what make the book,’ Jess huffed. ‘I don’t want to compromise my artistic integrity.’
‘Integrity, Shmetegrity,’ I advised. ‘This is Penguin.’
In the end, Penguin passed on it.
I didn’t get the feeling Jess was sorry.
But I have always wanted to see this little book in the world.
I was just waiting for the right moment.
Today, Jess turns 21. And today, my gift to her (it’s a surprise and it’s been hell, I tell you, keeping it a secret for six months) is to launch What Mouse Knew: a little story of friendship as the first children’s book published by Joanne Fedler Media. I know it is also a gift to readers everywhere.
Five years ago, Jess wrote this for Penguin about the story behind the book:
I’m not a stranger to loneliness.
I’m sure everyone’s felt alone at some point in their lives.
This started as an art assignment for school: to create a children’s book which worked on an artistic as well as a narrative level.
Once I started, I felt as if I didn’t control the story, but that it wrote itself. I wanted to write a story that everyone could relate to, so I wrote about something we all know: loneliness; and try to show that we might not be as alone as we think.
I was bullied. A lot. Primary school was torture for me, so much so that I’ve blocked out most of those memories. What I do remember is that feeling of isolation: that there was no-one on my side, that the world was against me.
What I’ve come to realise is that there are people there for me, even when it’s not that obvious. Mouse is my mum, the friends I’ve made since the bullying, the friends I’ve been able to keep, anyone who’s told me I am worth something, anyone who’s put a smile on my face.
I just hope that this book will help other kids see that even when they don’t understand why they feel so bad, that it will pass, and that there are people they can count on. I hope those kids will be reminded that it’s okay to place faith in others, and that when you feel alone, you also have to make the effort to reach out.
What kind of sad are you?
A story about loneliness and the gift of friendship.
If you loved The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, this book is for you.
Please celebrate this launch with us today by purchasing a copy (or two or three) for a child in your life (or for the lonely child in your own heart) here:
Thank you so much for supporting a brand new author and Joanne Fedler Media.
It’s the first of many beautiful children’s books we will publish to inspire, uplift and nourish young readers.