Tea with Miss Jan

I made a new friend on Monday night. Her name is Jan and poetry is currently helping her through her mid-life crisis. As both readers of my blog are aware, I don’t consider myself a poet. But perhaps when I’m 93 I’ll start a new career as a poet just like Jan.

The Alfred Summer

Through a series of broken legs and critique groups, I (along with a handful of other writers) was invited to tea with Jan Slepian, author of dozens of books in a career spanning over half a century. She’s written everything from picture books to young adult novels and recently self-published a few titles before her recent turn to poetry. The Alfred Summer (1980) was nominated for the National Book Award and was noted as one of the 100 books that shaped the 20th century by the School Library Journal (although my many many many kids are more into The Hungry Thing series at the moment).

The Hungry Thing

I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up to tea. I know I didn’t expect to feel as energized and invigorated as I did when I left. Jan told us a few stories about her life as an author and a person, then listened excitedly to us tell her about our recent experiences writing for children. Jan’s sugary smile filled the room as her cookies filled my belly with sugar. It’s hard not to like someone who appreciates my sarcastic sassiness (she referred to it as ‘wit’). I look forward to more tea (and cookies) and swapping wit with Jan soon.

Tea and Cookies

In the words of Jan Slepian, poet: “Don’t join the crowd who wonders where the time went … toss the unanswerables … and lighten my load.” * Now I’m gonna go try to live every day as if I’m 93.

* copyright Jan Slepian 2013

6 thoughts on “Tea with Miss Jan

  1. Thanks, Josh. I enjoyed meeting all of you, too! For me, my mom’s career is a testimony to the redemptive power of art and creativity. She launched her young adult novel-writing career when she became an empty nester at 60, and it buoyed her for the next three decades. Writing The Alfred Summer transformed the hardest thing in her life (her disabled older brother Alfred) into the best thing of her life (a book that touched thousands). And becoming engrossed with poetry this year is giving her old-old age new creative purpose. Isn’t that amazing? I experience the same thing through performing Playback Theater (see website in signature) which I hope to do until I’m as old as she is.



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