College Preparatory School for Girls Grades 3-12

Lower School Virtual Visit with Janae Marks: Author of 'From the Desk of Zoe Washington'

Janae Marks, author of the middle-grade novel From the Desk of Zoe Washington, delighted the fifth and sixth graders with a virtual author visit on Wednesday, April 7. Marks’ novel was the most frequently referenced book during the Lower School’s Summer Reading Book Bingo. The fact that it was so popular amongst the students convinced Lower School Librarian Evelyn Schwartz to reach out to Marks to visit both grades during a Google Meet session. 

From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a captivating story about a young girl who receives a letter from her estranged and imprisoned father, who tells her that he did not commit the crime of which he's accused. She begins searching for the truth to figure out if he has been wrongly convicted or really is guilty. The novel explores many issues regarding race and inequalities related to the criminal justice system. The character Zoe Washington delves deeply into social justice, her family relationships, and even her love of baking! 

During the Lower School author visit, Marks spoke enthusiastically about her journey as an author and how she was able to write three full young-adult manuscripts before switching to middle-grade books. She also shared how much she has learned about perseverance, particularly through getting frequent rejection letters before her book was finally accepted and published. 

The fifth graders loved her writing tip to help combat writer's block, which is to switch up writing modes! She found that changing between physically writing down her ideas and typing them helped her focus. 

Lower School students also engaged in some fun grade-level book clubs during recess where they talked about the book’s social justice themes, Zoe’s relationship to her family and baking, and, of course, the ending! Students also had a great time doing a book-related activity. They made Froot Loops necklaces as an homage to Zoe’s Froot Loop cupcakes in the novel. 

Learn more about From the Desk of Zoe Washington and author Janae Marks at