By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Region – Several years ago, Anna Staniszewski, a book author for young adults, said she found herself feeling down after working on a project that she described as “very dark.”
“I needed something fun to work on, so I sat down and started writing a scene about a girl named Jenny who comes home from school to find a talking frog sitting on her bed. Most people would probably be scared or excited about a magical frog, but Jenny wasn’t either of those things – she was annoyed. She even took the frog and threw it out the window!” she said. “Jenny's reaction intrigued me, and I knew I had to tell her story.”
The result is “My Very UnFairy Tale Life,” the tale of an exasperated young girl, Jenny, who must deal with many of the everyday travails 12-year-old girls must face. But much to her annoyance, Jenny has also been appointed by a mysterious “committee” to come to the rescue of a misfit group of magical creatures, including unicorns and baby dragons, who are not always as appreciative of her help as they perhaps should be. The book has just been published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.
Staniszewski, who was born in Poland, grew up in Westborough. As a child, she said she loved hearing traditional stories of both American and Polish cultures, especially fairy tales.
“When I think about the books that influenced me the most in my life, most of them were from my childhood,” she said. “When I was young, I didn’t just read books; I lived in them. When I read and write books for young people, I’m able to recapture that feeling of inhabiting a story.”
After graduating from Westborough High School and Sarah Lawrence College where she studied theater, she worked for a time at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. It was there, she said, that she realized her “true calling to write children's books.” She then began to study writing for children at Simmons College.
After graduating from Simmons she was “thrilled” to be chosen for the annual Writer-in-Residence fellowship at the Boston Public Library.
“The fellowship was an amazing experience,” she said. “It gave me a chance to call myself a real writer, and it helped me to develop the discipline necessary to succeed in the field.”
In 2009, she signed with Ammi-Joan Paquette at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Her first idea for a book didn's take off, but the agency did show an interest in “My Very Unfairy Tale Life.”
After revising and streamlining the manuscript, she said, “the folks at Sourcebooks liked my wacky little book and offered me a contract.”
As much as she loves to write, Staniszewski noted it can be a “pretty lonely endeavor” at times. Networking with other writers has been critical, she said.
“I’ve had several trusted critique partners over the years that'se helped me make my writing stronger, and I’ve also found an amazing community of writers online,” she said. “It's nice to have other people to talk to, swap ideas with, and learn from.”
Between promoting the new book, teaching at Simmons, writing and finding time to spend with her husband and their “adorably insane black Labrador, Emma,” life is pretty hectic, she acknowledges.
But, she added, “I have a few new projects in the works, so I’m hoping those will also hit shelves someday soon.”
“My Very UnFairy Tale Life” is now available in stores and online. For more information, go to www.annastan.com.