Jessica Spotswood, 35, is an author of young adult fiction and a children’s librarian. She recently edited “A Tyranny of Petticoats,” a collection of historical short stories focusing on girls at various eras in American history. Her new book, “Wild Swans,” arrives in May. Spotswood lives in the District with her husband.
Yeah, I do. I think it’s a fascinating age because there are so many firsts: first love, trying to figure out who you are apart from your family. And I love writing for teenage girls. I think they are so smart and creative. But both teenage girls and the things they like so often get denigrated in our culture. You know, boy bands and girl fashion. There’s not a lot of respect for teenage girls, but they are so resilient. I think it’s awesome to center them in stories and show how powerful and interesting they are and that time of life is. I think there’s something cool and feminist about that, too.
[Laughs.] No, but my co-workers do. My co-worker is always pointing out that I’m an author. But for the most part the children couldn’t really care less.
Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I kind of laugh at them sometimes. It depends. One of my favorite reviews from my trilogy, which takes place in an alternate 1890s New England, the entire review just said, “Too far back in time.” Or I’ve gotten, “I don’t like this. Sounds too much like Jane Austen.” And I’m like, That’s a huge compliment! But sometimes there are critiques that make me think and kind of expand my own ideas. Sometimes they sting, but if they have a point, then maybe there’s something I can learn from that.
I think children’s literature, especially like the middle grade and YA, is really flourishing. I don’t think there’s a dearth of stories for girls, but not all girls are necessarily seeing themselves represented. I think we still have a long way to go in terms of diversity and making sure that all sorts of kids can see themselves in books.
I feel like there’s actually a really cool art scene in the city that gets overlooked a lot of the time in favor of all the political stuff. People think of Washington as monuments and museums and politics, but my husband is a playwright, and so many of our friends are theater people or book people. It’s really awesome and inspiring.
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