Born January 16, 1952, in Jamestown, NY; partner of Sherri Leggett. Education: Colorado Women's College, B.A., 1974; Metropolitan State College of Denver, B.S. (summa cum laude), 1985; University of Colorado--Denver, M.B.A. (magna cum laude), 1989. Avocational Interests: Human rights, animal rights advocacy, reading, traveling, manuscript evaluations and writing workshops, dancing, singing, musical theater. Memberships: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors' Guild, Colorado Authors' League, Colorado Center for the Book, Denver Zoological Society, Cat Care Society, American Civil Liberties Union, GLBT Center of Colorado. Addresses: Home: Lakewood, CO. E-mail: email@example.com.
Writer. Tracom Corporation, Denver, CO, secretary, research assistant, computer programmer, and systems analyst, 1975-84; Electronic Data Systems, Denver, computer systems engineer, 1985-88; Jefferson County School District, Lakewood, CO, special needs educational assistant. Fifth grade teacher, 1975.
KC3 Reading Award, Greater Kansas City Association of School Librarians, 1995, for The Stinky Sneakers Contest; Best Book in Language Arts: K-6 Novels, Society of School Librarians International, 1997, for How Do You Spell GEEK?; Top Hand Award for Young-Adult Fiction, Colorado Authors' League, 1998, for Revenge of the Snob Squad; Best Books for Young Adults selection, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults selection, and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers selection, all American Library Association (ALA), all 2000, all for Define "Normal"; Best Books for Young Adults selection and Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults selection, ALA, Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, and Lambda Literary Award finalist, all 2003, and Amelia Bloomer Project Recommended Feminist Books for Youth, and Stonewall Honor Book, both ALA, both 2004, all for Keeping You a Secret; Buxtehuder Bulle nomination, National Book Award in Young People's Literature finalist, 2004, and Best Books for Young Adults selection, ALA, Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, Stonewall Honor Book, and Lambda Literary Award finalist, all 2005, all for Luna; Rainbow Reads selection, ALA, 2005, and Best Books for Young Adults selection, and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young-Adult Readers selection, both ALA, and Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, all 2006, all for Far from Xanadu; Lambda Literary Award, James Cook Teen Book Award, Ohio Library Council, Cybils Award finalist, and Rainbow Reads selection, all 2006, all for Between Mom and Jo; Golden Crown Literary Award finalist, and Rainbow Reads selection, both 2007, and Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, and Cooperative Children's Books Center Choice designation, both 2008, all for grl2grl.
- The Stinky Sneakers Contest, illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.
- Risky Friends, Willowisp Press (St. Petersburg, FL), 1993.
- B.J.'s Billion-Dollar Bet, illustrated by Cynthia Fisher, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1994.
- How Do You Spell GEEK?, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996, reprinted, 2009.
- Revenge of the Snob Squad, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1998.
- Romance of the Snob Squad, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1999.
- Love Me, Love My Broccoli, Avon/HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
- Define "Normal," Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.
- A Snitch in the Snob Squad, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
- Keeping You a Secret, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2003.
- Luna, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2004.
- Far from Xanadu, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2005.
- Between Mom and Jo, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2006.
- grl2grl: Short Fictions, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2007.
- By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2008.
- Rage: A Love Story, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2009.
- She Loves You, She Loves You Not--, Little (New York, NY), 2011.
- It's Our Prom (So Deal with It), Little (New York, NY), 2012.
Also author of numerous articles for juvenile, young adult, and adult periodicals, including Wee Wisdom, Hopscotch, Career Woman, Purple Cow, Venture, My Friend, Free Spirit, Lollipops, Family Fun, On the Line, Touch, Guide, Children's Book Insider, Wilson Library Bulletin, Writer's Handbook, Writer, Accent on Living, and Good Housekeeping. Contributing editor for IEA News.
Julie Anne Peters is the author of several award-winning titles for children and young adults, including The Stinky Sneakers Contest, Define "Normal," and Between Mom and Jo. Peters has a special affinity for young adult literature; "I've always loved reading it," she told interviewer Malinda Lo for AfterEllen.com. "I really just love the passion in it, and I love transporting back to that time in life, when you did live passionately, you lived with velocity. Every day was such a drama. You could have lived your whole life every day, with so many ups and downs!"
After trying her hand at teaching and working as a systems engineer, Peters began her writing career after becoming frustrated with corporate life; "You can only waste so much of your life geeking out about 4GL and artificial intelligence," she remarked on her home page. She explored the possibility of writing fiction, leading to the sale of a number of short stories as well as nonfiction articles and educational activities to various children's periodicals. Soon thereafter, Peters was able to get her first two books published, formally launching her career as a young-adult and children's writer.
Peters's first book, The Stinky Sneakers Contest, is based on a combination of a real-life experience and a "grungy" shoe contest that was held out east. "Reading about the contest reminded me of my own childhood humiliation of perpetually smelly feet," she once commented. The plot moves far beyond the title and presents a tale of a friendship in jeopardy because of cheating. The story depicts familiar themes of winning, losing, and honesty, as Earl and Damian compete in the Feetfirst shoe company's smelly sneakers contest.
An Instructor reviewer commented that Peters's "pleasant, easy-to-read chapter book about two African-American boys will stimulate reflection on what it takes to be a winner." Lynnea McBurney, a reviewer for School Library Journal, also stated that, "on the whole, this is a nicely written, humorous story. It is short enough for those just getting into transitional readers, yet there is enough here for enjoyment and food for thought."
Peters's second book, Risky Friends, explores the issue of choosing friends while confronting the reality of single-parent households. Two best friends, Kacie and Vicky, are at risk of losing their friendship over Kacie's newfound companion, Skye, who wins Kacie's attention by buying her gifts. "As a kid, I always envied people with more money than me--thinking wealth solved the world's problems," Peters said.
"That misperception, along with the inevitable growing pains accompanying young adulthood, are the themes explored in Risky Friends." Sister Bernadette Marie Ondus stated in Kliatt: "The younger set, girls primarily, will enjoy this story since they will be able to identify closely with the characters."
Peters's book Define "Normal" grew out of her experiences working with special-needs children. According to her, "these kids weren't necessarily learning disabled, or intellectually challenged. They had so many family problems, so much responsibility, that school was the bottom rung on their priority ladder." Peters noted that the children she worked with struggled daily to survive, and that theirs was a far from normal childhood. "I began to examine the concept of 'normal' and how we use it to label people--particularly teens. We react so negatively to kids who choose to express themselves a bit outrageously, who dress to shock, or ornament their bodies. But this is absolutely normal behavior. Young people are trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in. And conversely, how they'll set themselves apart." It was this exploration of "normal," said Peters, that evolved into two of her characters in this book--Antonia and Jazz.
In Define "Normal" the main character, Antonia Dillon, appears to be a perfectly normal teen--healthy, happy, trouble free. She dresses conservatively, performs well in school, and never questions authority. Yet underneath her controlled exterior she is experiencing tremendous family turmoil. Peters once explained: "Antonia has way too much responsibility for a fourteen-year-old girl. She has no time or energy to explore who she is as a person." On the other end of the spectrum is Jasmine Luther. "Jazz," noted Peters, "is all about self. She's this glorious expression of who she is. But Jazz is free to be herself because she has a solid family foundation. If she crashes and burns, she knows someone will be there to douse the flames. Antonia doesn't have this luxury." The conflict in the book occurs when Antonia is assigned to peer counsel Jazz in school, leading to a resounding clash of values. As both girls work through the counseling sessions, they each come to terms with their problems, eventually becoming friends. Writing in School Library Journal, Kimberly A. Ault lauded Define "Normal" as "believable" and "well written."
Peters is also the author of a series of books about a group of sixth-grade girls who call themselves the Snob Squad. Each book explores aspects in the lives of these girls as they bond in friendship to combat the loneliness of being outcasts and misfits. Along the way, they fall in love, uncover mysteries, and solve crimes. In A Snitch in the Snob Squad, Jenny, the main character, and her friends try to discover the truth about a theft at school and its related cover-up, while also grappling with issues of trust at home and with her friends.
According to Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman, readers will "appreciate the honesty as Jenny wrestles with issues of friendship, guilt, and loyalty."
Romance of the Snob Squad centers on a crush that one of the Snob Squad girls has on a classmate, while simultaneously addressing aspects of family love and loyalty to friends.
Rochman noted that the narrator's "bossy, wry first-person narrative is candid ... kind, and sad," predicting that many middle-graders will identify with the issues explored in this book.
At the suggestion of her editor, Peters, an openly gay woman, entered new literary territory with the novel Keeping You a Secret. A love story, the work centers on Holland Jaeger, a popular and intelligent high-school senior who falls in love with Cecelia "Cece" Goddard, a strong-willed transfer student. After Holland's friends and family shun her, she must turn to members of the gay community for support.
"Because Holland is such an analytical character, and one who begins the novel believing herself to be straight, the narrative of her self-discovery invites readers to appreciate the natural, gut-level way she falls for Cece," observed Nancy Boutilier in the Lambda Book Report. "The book is a window into one girl's efforts to fashion a lesbian sense of self amid high school pressures." Audience response to Keeping You a Secret was overwhelming, Peters remarked to Lo. "Once the book came out I just got thousands of letters, I could not believe it. It kind of gave my writing a higher purpose, I think. Kind of a greater calling. And I worked through all my fears about doing it, because it's just important. It's important to get that literature out there."
Peters's novel Luna, about a transgender teen, was nominated for a National Book Award. At night Regan watches as her older brother, Liam, slips into her room, puts on makeup, and transforms himself into Luna, his "female" self. When Liam begins dressing as a girl in public, Regan fears a backlash from their parents and classmates, and she also worries that constantly addressing her brother's needs prevents her from enjoying her own life.
According to Horn Book reviewer Laurence Adams, Peters "succeeds in creating whole, complex characters confronting these issues." The author "does not shy away from the complexities of 'coming out' as a transgendered person, nor does she get on a soapbox about the myriad of issues surrounding transgenderism," reported Lynn Evarts in the Lambda Book Report. "She simply allows Regan to report and allows us to peek inside her life, as she desperately tries to hold herself and her brother together."
Far from Xanadu tells the story of Mike Szabo, a butch lesbian teenager living in rural Kansas. When beautiful, rebellious Xanadu moves into town to live with relatives, Mike falls head-over-heels in love. The new girl is straight, however, and although she has no intention of dating Mike, she enjoys the attention she receives from Mike and toys with her emotions.
"Despite the multitude of difficulties the protagonist faces," noted Miranda Doyle in School Library Journal, "the story never slips into melodrama, and all of the issues are handled with sensitivity and compassion." Michael Cart, writing in Booklist, also praised the work, stating that "there's no arguing with the honest intensity of Mike's emotions."
In Between Mom and Jo, Peters "wanted to look at same-sex marriage and relationships from the child's point of view," she told Lo, adding: "I think a lot of times it's more of a burden on them than we think it is." The novel concerns Nick, a teenager who has been raised by Erin, his biological mother, and her partner, Jo. When their relationship ends, Nick is torn between his loyalty to Erin and his love for Jo, who has no legal rights to the boy.
"This coming-of-age novel powerfully portrays the universal pain of a family breakup," observed School Library Journal contributor Beth Gallego, and Janis Flint-Ferguson remarked in Kliatt that Nick's "pain is palpable as Jo and Erin work through their differences to do what's right for their son."
In addition to her novels, Peters has also released grl2grl: Short Fictions, a collection of ten stories that focuses on lesbian and transgender teen issues.
"To sustain a career in writing, a writer has to evolve," Peters told a Mombian.com interviewer. "I begin with the premise that each new work I undertake must be newer, fresher, bigger and better than the last. I'm always asking, What can I do that I've never done before? How can I stretch and risk and keep myself and my readers excited? Young adult literature is the ideal venue to experiment with style, form, voice and subject matter." grl2grl earned strong reviews. "Peters skillfully varies the subject matter and tone from piece to piece," Horn Book critic Anita L. Burkam wrote of the collection, and a Publishers Weekly reviewer complimented the "authenticity of Peters's voices."
In Rage: A Love Story, the protagonist of the work, high-schooler Johanna, has become infatuated with a girl named Reeve. Reeve has been a victim of abuse, and has herself become abusive to the people in her life. Because of her abusive relationship with Reeve, Johanna begins to lose everything that is important to her.
Reviewing the work, Francisca Goldsmith, a contributor to Booklist, lauded: "This book may feature her best writing yet and will make her many new fans." Horn Book contributor Claire E. Gross noted: "Peters has always steered clear of making her gay characters model minorities; here, allowing Johanna's and Reeve's personalities a wealth of contradiction and complexity."
Peters tackles the topic of suicide in her next work, By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead. Daelyn has to wear a neck brace and is unable to speak due to her last suicide attempt. She is determined that her next attempt will be a success. Daelyn has been bullied physically and emotionally for years, and she is determined to end her life one way or another. She participates in an online community for people who are planning to commit suicide, which offers advice and discussion boards. The reader gets to know Daelyn's history through her posts on the discussion boards and conversations in the chat room. Daelyn's DOD, or day of determination, the day she plans to kill herself, is twenty-three days from the start of the novel. As the DOD nears, she becomes more adamant about sharing her story.
Reviewing the work on the Teenreads Web site, contributor Norah Piehl recommended: "By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead should be required reading for those who have been bullied (who will know the truth in each of Daelyn's words) and for those who have been bullies (who might see for the first time the true consequences of their actions)." Elissa Gershowitz, a Horn Book contributor, noted: "The authenticity afforded by the author's unwavering commitment to her main character's often distorted perspective elevates the story above its morbidly titillating will-she-or-won't-she element." A Kirkus Reviews contributor opined: "Parts of her journey feel rushed." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted: "This book and its open-ended conclusion will challenge teens to think about the impact of bullying."
InShe Loves You, She Loves You Not--, Alyssa's father sends her off to Colorado to live with her mother, whom she hardly knows, after finding her in an incriminating position with her girlfriend, whom he does not approve of. Alyssa hates her father for being homophobic and judgmental, but at the same time wages similar judgments on her mother, who is an exotic dancer.
Betty S. Evans, a contributor to School Library Journal, described the work as "an entertaining read." A Publishers Weekly contributor said: "Readers will appreciate Alyssa's honesty."
Peters once told CA:"The most gratifying aspect of writing for young people is discovering that your books transcend storytelling to making a difference in a person's life. I cry when I receive letters like this one from Joli in New York City. 'I read your book about three times,' she says. 'I'm not a person to sit down and read. But your book is wonderful.' Or this from Alexandra in Denver: 'You probably don't know that I don't like to read, but your books really get me going.'"
"Since I was a reluctant reader myself, I know how finding the one book that turns you onto reading is like being handed the keys to the kingdom," Peters added. "The kingdom is knowledge and adventure and self-discovery. Reading opens the realm of possibilities in life. It's life-changing, life-affirming. If my books can ignite one young person's love of reading, what greater reward could there be for a writer?"
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- Booklist, December 15, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Revenge of the Snob Squad, p. 751; April 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Romance of the Snob Squad, p. 1414; May 15, 2000, Jean Franklin, review of Define "Normal," p. 1739; May 15, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of A Snitch in the Snob Squad, p. 1753; July, 2004, Cindy Welch, review of Luna, p. 1834; September 1, 2005, Michael Cart, review of Far from Xanadu, p. 112; March 1, 2006, Krista Hutley, review of Between Mom and Jo, p. 83; August, 2007, Francisca Goldsmith, review of grl2grl: Short Fictions, p. 63; November 1, 2009, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Rage: A Love Story, p. 39; May 15, 2011, Hazel Rochman, review of She Loves You, She Loves You Not--, p. 47; April 15, 2012, Debbie Carton, review of It's Our Prom (So Deal with It), p. 65.
- Denver Post, June 24, 2003, Eric Hubler, "Editor Prods Peters to Reinvent Herself as 'Gay-Lit' Author," p. F1.
- Horn Book, July-August, 2004, Laurence Adams, review of Luna, p. 459; May-June, 2005, Lauren Adams, review of Far from Xanadu, p. 332; September-October, 2007, Anita L. Burkam, review of grl2grl, p. 585; March, 2012, Elissa Gershowitz, review of By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, p. 68; September, 2012, Claire E. Gross, review of Rage, p. 573.
- Instructor, February, 1993, review of The Stinky Sneakers Contest, p. 5.
- Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2009, review of Rage; December 15, 2009, review of By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead; May 1, 2011, review of She Loves You, She Loves You Not--, March 1, 2012, review of It's Our Prom (So Deal With It).
- Kliatt, November, 1993, Sister Bernadette Marie Ondus, review of Risky Friends, p. 10; May, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Keeping You a Secret, p. 12; May, 2006, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Between Mom and Jo, p. 13; July, 2007, Amanda MacGregor, review of grl2grl, p. 36.
- Lambda Book Report, August-September, 2003, Nancy Boutilier, review of Keeping You a Secret, p. 32; October, 2004, Lynn Evarts, review of Luna, p. 13.
- Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1996, review of How Do You Spell GEEK?, p. 67; March 13, 2000, review of Define "Normal," p. 85; April 21, 2003, review of Keeping You a Secret, p. 63; May 17, 2004, review of Luna, p. 52; September 17, 2007, review of grl2grl, p. 56; November 30, 2009, review of By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, p. 49; April 18, 2011, review of She Loves You, She Loves You Not--, p. 55; March 19, 2012, review of It's Our Prom (So Deal with It), p. 90.
- School Library Journal, March, 1993, Lynnea McBurney, review of The Stinky Sneakers Contest, p. 184; October, 1996, Harriett Fargnoli, review of How Do You Spell GEEK?, p. 124; July, 2000, Kimberly A. Ault, review of Define "Normal," p. 108; April, 2001, Janet Hilburn, review of A Snitch in the Snob Squad, p. 148; June, 2005, Miranda Doyle, review of Far from Xanadu, p. 167; April, 2006, Beth Gallego, review of Between Mom and Jo, p. 146; May, 2010, Sarah K. Allen, review of By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, p. 121; June, 2011, Betty S. Evans, review of She Loves You, She Loves You Not--, p. 130; January, 2012, Johanna Lewis, review of A Love Story, p. 111.
- Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2012, Jane Harper, review of It's Our Prom (So Deal with It), p. 62; August 11, 2012, Marlyn Beebe, review of She Loves You, She Loves You Not--, p. 276.
- AfterEllen.com, http:/ /www.afterellen.com/ (April 21, 2005), Malinda Lo, interview with Peters.
- Julie Anne Peters Home Page, http://www.julieannepeters.com (February 1, 2009).
- Mombian.com, http://www.mombian.com/ (March 28, 2007), interview with Peters.
- Teenreads, http://www.teenreads.com/ (May 17, 2011), Norah Piehl review of By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead.*