Today, we are thrilled to talk to Janae Marks from her desk in which she wrote From the Desk of Zoe Washington. We asked her about her writing journey and plans for the future. Janae has the mojo mic.

Middle Grade Mojo: From the Desk of Zoe Washington, has been praised for handling the difficult topic of a parent being incarcerated. School Library Journal said it best. “A smart, necessary, and hopeful middle grade debut that expediently balanced a gentle, heartwarming tone with the searing insight into systemic racism.” How did you balance this heavy subject for middle grade readers?

Janae Marks: I’m really glad that readers enjoy the balance, because it took a lot of revision to get it right! I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want the book to be only about racism and injustice. I wanted to also show the lighter, fun parts of Zoe’s life – like her baking. And I also wanted to show her being a regular kid, dealing with typical friendship drama. To accomplish this, I made sure to give Zoe a full life outside of what’s happening with her father in prison.

MGM: What do you want readers to take away from your story?

JM: First of all, I hope they’re entertained and it makes them want to keep reading more books! I also hope it inspires young readers to pursue their dreams (like Zoe does with her baking) and stand up for what they believe is right, even in the face of opposition.

MGM: I saw a recent Twitter post about minority writers being shy about promoting their books? Why do you think that is? What advice would you give writers?

JM: I’m sorry to hear this! I understand that it can be awkward and uncomfortable to self-promote, but books written by authors of color are so necessary. Kids need them now more than ever. So, please – keep shouting about your books! I know that I, and many other readers, want to know about them so we can buy and read them.

MGM: What upcoming projects do you have planned, and what do you hope to see in the future of children’s publishing?

JM: My next middle grade novel – another standalone – comes out in the fall of 2021. I can’t wait to share more about it soon! As for the future of children’s publishing, I hope it gets more diverse on all sides. I want more authors and illustrators of color to be published, but I’d also love to see more people of color become agents, editors, marketers, publicists, publishers, etc.

For information about Janae, visit her website at

Purchase From the Desk of Zoe Washington at