ABOUT JULIE ARTZ
I was that kid who spent years—long after my friends had moved on to Sweet Valley Highand Teen Beat—sneaking into wardrobes searching for Narnia. So after nearly two decades of writing everything from book reviews for the local newspaper to technical training materials for software companies, I signed up for NaNoWriMo in 2013 and started drafting my first middle grade novel.
My work, on that novel and the four I’ve written since, explores the contrast between knowing you’re on the inevitable cusp of puberty while still hanging on to the joy and naivety that would lead a twelve-year-old girl to venture again and again into that wardrobe seeking magic and that child-like sense of wonder that begins to fade at the onset of the teen years. My characters, often misfits, chafe against the expectations the world imposes on them as they explore their world and through it, themselves.
Weaving in themes of environmentalism, love of the natural world, family secrets, and all that is magical and geeky about those turbulent middle school years, my work is a love letter to that past self and to all the children who might identify with her today. My latest story, a dark fantasy ugly duckling retelling in a second world fantasy setting introduces Gren, the character that is most like my own childhood self. She’s awkward, outspoken, and constantly reminded that she doesn’t belong even as she tries so hard to prove herself to a people who she ultimately discovers are not her true family.
The story works as a metaphor for how disorienting the body changes that come with puberty can be—Gren finds herself in a body that is not only different from that of her peers, but foreign to herself. But it also about the idea of finding community and friendship despite those differences.