Writing Courageous Teens
YA Fiction Inspired by History
JEANETTE INGOLD is the author of Christopher and Spur Award-winning historical fiction and contemporary novels for young adults and middle school readers. She was one of thirteen children’s writers honored at Laura Bush Celebrates America’s Authors activities, and her novel HITCH was a National Endowment for the Humanities/American Library Association We the People Bookshelf choice.
Jeanette began her writing career in a newsroom, putting together obituaries and boiling down press releases. As reporter, columnist, and the Missoulian’s Western Montana editor, she gained experience she would later put into PAPER DAUGHTER, about a journalism intern whose investigations lead to her own Asian-American heritage. It earned an Oppenheimer Gold Seal, and VOYA magazine called it “a must read for those who love mysteries and family history.”
With themes of resilience and perseverance, integrity, responsibility, and personal growth, Jeanette’s books feature realistic teen characters who face challenges and hard times head on. Their courage inspires young readers to look into themselves for their own capabilities and strengths.
HITCH tells the story of seventeen-year-old Moss Trawnley, who turns to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC, as a way out of the poverty and homelessness of the 1930s Great Depression. A Society of School Librarians International Best Book, HITCH was honored with a Christopher Award, an award established to salute works that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”
THE BIG BURN is an action-packed Montana Book Award honor book and Western Writers of America Spur Award for Teen Fiction winner that VOYA called “a must-read for adrenalin junkies.” Portraying a devastating 1910 wildfire from the viewpoints of multiple fictional characters and through innovative, short non-fiction outtakes, it’s been featured in One Book-One Community programs, and schools have used it across the curriculum, from English to science classes.
Jeanette’s interest in twentieth century United States history plays a part in all of her books, which are known for the careful research, wealth of fact, and authentic voices that go into them. The New York Times Book Review called the aviation details she wove into AIRFIELD “engrossing,” and the New York Public Library named AIRFIELD a Book for the Teen Age.
The experiences of people who know blindness firsthand guided Jeanette’s writing of THE WINDOW, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and International Reading Association Young Adults’ Choice.
Adolescents as talented as the teenage violinist at the center of MOUNTAIN SOLO provided their take on the power of music, and Jeanette’s own memories of the pleasures of playing violin in a high school orchestra also went into it.
Jeanette and her husband live in a mountain valley in Montana, at the edge of woods that stretch into wilderness. When Jeanette’s not writing, she’s often out in the
forest, exploring and taking pictures and thinking about what adventure she’d like to write next.
Jeanette’s diary, quick view:
5:45 am. I ask our Lab-Aussie cross, Mica, to please sleep another fifteen minutes. (She won’t.)
6:00 am. Coffee and the Wall Street Journal. (I like the book reviews and Personal section.)
6:30 am. Breakfast and to work. In cold weather I write in my office, and in summer I take my laptop to the front porch.
12:00. Noon comes too soon and as a surprise.
And then there’s the rest of the day, back in the here-and-now world of appointments and errands, family and friends.
I’m a reader, with three or four books going at once.
I’ve taken up my high school violin again, so there are lessons and practicing.
My camera may come out to capture a bear or a fox crossing the yard. Or maybe there’s new snow on the mountains, or the front field is greening up or turning the dry tan of fall.
In the evening I may hike along a nearby creek or up a forest gulch. (The wintertime version is snowshoes and the growing dark of late afternoon.) Mica is all for it.
Have you always lived in Montana?
I have for most of my adult life, but I was born in New York, into a family of Texans.
Do you have children?
My husband, Kurt, and I have a daughter and son, both married, and two grandsons. I look forward to family adventures that bring everyone together. Last summer it was a backpacking trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Do you like to travel?
Love to. Road trips especially. Kurt and I get teased about needing three days to go four hundred miles, but when traveling two-lane highways and taking our time we always find new places to explore and interesting people to get to know.
How did you start writing?
Professionally? I began as a reporter at the daily Missoulian, a job I loved. Before that—I’m talking junior high here—I’ve got a box of five-year diaries all bought with good intentions.
What do you like to read?
All kinds of things. Novels. Journals kept by people who lived in other times. Books on lifestyles and psychology, history and writing. There’s so much to learn!
Do you ever run out of ideas?
I’ve got more story possibilities in my file drawer than I’ll ever have time to write. What I like best, though, is stumbling on something that’s new to me, that I’ll want to know more about. That’s how most of my books started.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be?
My in-another-life wish? Photographer, archaeologist, or airline pilot. Or if I could carry a tune, which I can’t, a singer.