ABOUT BRITTA JENSEN
Britta Jensen’s debut YA novel Eloia Born won the 2019 Writer’s League of Texas YA Discovery Prize and was long-listed for the 2016 Exeter Novel Prize. Reviewers are calling the book “both a dystopian narrative and a quest story; consider it a spiritual successor to Lois Lowry’s The Giver and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village.” The sequel, Hirana’s War released October 1, 2020. Many of her stories explore themes of persevering through disability, parental separation and the intersection of various cultures on new worlds. Her stories have been shortlisted for the 2017 Henshaw Press and Fiction Factory prizes and she was published in Stories for Homes, Volume 2. Britta’s plays have been performed in New York City, Japan and South Korea. She earned a BA in Acting Performance from Fordham University and an MA in Teaching of English Literature from Columbia University. For the past sixteen years she has taught creative writing and edited books for both traditional and indie authors. She has received numerous awards, including the General Sharp Award from the US Army, for her innovative teaching of creative writing in New York City, South Korea and Germany. Friends often refer to her as a polyglot—which is a product of living twenty-two years overseas in Japan, South Korea, and Germany before settling in Austin, Texas. She enjoys mentoring writers and editing books with The Writing Consultancy and Yellowbird Editors. In her spare time she dances Argentine Tango, sings and volunteers with the Relief Society, SCBWI and the Writer’s League of Texas. Join her mailing list at www.britta-jensen.com to get free writing advice and stories!
“I believe writing gives voice to the deep things we cannot say.”—Britta Jensen
In the fifth grade my family moved to Yokosuka, Japan. It was the first time my family felt welcome in a new location after a very itinerant life. I was ten years old and prone to fighting on the playground with boys when they called me names. One day my teacher, Tomimatsu-sensei, caught me punching another boy and hauled us both in. She gave us a severe verbal undressing in Japanese and English to the point that we both were in tears. She sent the boy away and peered over her long desk. I thought for sure she was going to call my mother.
Instead, she pulled out a translucent sheet of my calligraphy. She asked to see the notebook I carried around with me everywhere, scribbling when I had a quiet moment in class or during lunch. (Often making me the object of teasing from boys).
Tomimatsu-sensei tapped the notebook. “You are a good girl. Good girls don’t get in fights with boys. Look here…” she pointed to a page of calligraphy I’d finished earlier in class, then flipped to a page in my notebook. “You are a writer. See how you carefully follow the stroke order of every character of kanji. That is a gift.” She smiled and handed me a pen from her desk. “You are like Lady Murasaki, or Murasaki-shkibu, our first woman novelist in Japan. I want you to develop your talent during lunch time instead of fighting. I will see you here everyday.”
She wrote me a pass and every day I dutifully came to her classroom for lunch. She stopped calling me Britta and a different Murasaki-shkibu was born.
Many teachers and professors, like Tomimatsu-sensei, were my first mentors. They encouraged me to keep writing, to analyze the narrative, characters and how the story is guided by their intentions and voice—not unlike inspecting the whorls and curves of a page of kanji.
My stories first found a home while working with teens in Washington Heights, NYC and overseas with multi-cultural military communities whose lives inspired me. After “bribing” students with stories I made up as an incentive to finish our required reading, I was inspired to share my novels with a wider audience. I was curious why many mainstream bestselling stories didn’t feature more female and multi-cultural voices (particularly from non-western diasporas?) Why weren’t there more diverse, disabled, and stronger feminine voices dominating books for teens?
I definitely do not write with an agenda. However, after sixteen plus years of discussions with teen readers, students and editors, I’ve realized that I have been writing what I know as well as what I hope to see in the future, albeit rather subconsciously. I want all the dear people who surround me: disabled, non-disabled, multi-pigmented, and the voices of women especially to be explored in new ways through the lens of speculative fiction. I’ve been heavily influenced by NK Jemisin, Becky Chambers, Madeleine Thien, Zadie Smith, Brandon Sanderson, Matt Haig and Maria Turtschaninoff.
I believe writing gives voice to the deep things we cannot say. Stories open windows to the soul and can be a vessel for healing. My work as an artist informs how I advise writers because I daily show up to the page and prioritize my most vital work. At the heart of becoming a better writer is holistic and honest revision, which are key to literary success. I believe in consistently seeking to improve my craft to help the narrative of every story I work on to have a readership in our global world. I will never stop looking for the best way to tell stories and help others walking the literary road.
As an editor and writing mentor I want to partner with authors who envision their work reaching a wider audience and are willing to go deep with their story’s structure, narrative and characters. I don’t believe in gimmicks or tricks when crafting fiction. This is deep work. Sustainable growth requires showing up to the page consistently and being willing to revise your work through multiple drafts to either prepare for traditional or indie publication. Though indie publication can be frowned upon, there are still a lot of gatekeepers, particularly for speculative and minority writers that make it hard to get published through traditional means. I know first-hand how quality indie publishing can fashion one into a more polished and professional author.
The indie space continues to release a lot of quality, award-winning work. Several notable authors, who started as indies: Becky Chambers, Matt Haig, Christopher Paolini, and Barbara Freethy are amongst a growing cadre. Speculative fiction especially finds its heart most often in the indie space and I am proud to be a part of this world where authors know their readers personally, are involved in marketing decisions and aware of all the distribution channels available to them. If you want to support authors and contribute to your literary community, buy their books! If you’re on a budget, you can download my first novel, Eloia Born for free.
If you have a story you’re wanting to tell, or have already crafted and are looking for guidance, do visit The Writing Consultancy where I’m the head editor. Thanks for joining me here and I look forward to seeing you at one of my book events very soon!