Albert Leonard Middle School Students with Author Janae Marks

Once upon a time, Janae Marks learned at Albert Leonard Middle School as a student. On April 7, she returned to teach – as an award-winning author.

Marks, who specializes in young-adult stories, spoke via Zoom to sixth- and seventh-graders. Her lively presentation highlighted how her dedication and hard work shaped her skills as an engaging storyteller. She particularly spoke about her perseverance in continually submitting her work to dozens of publishers until her first manuscript was accepted and published. 

Marks said her aspirations were in part motivated by her love of book series like “The Babysitters Club” by Ann M. Martin. However, she saw an opportunity, as an author, to embrace a greater diversity of characters, especially the voices of young black women like herself. 

Marks’ powerful comments hit home. Humanities Chairman David Luhman said, "I was struck by the impact she had on our students, particularly with regard to her message about the importance of perseverance in pursuing one's dream." 

Said student Luz Lopez, “I liked her presentation because she showed how success isn't easy, that it takes time to accomplish things but it is always worth it.” Other students, like Richard Marine, found the same kind of inspiration in her fiction. He offered that, “From the Desk of Zoe Washington” was one of the best books he has read and it reminded him that occasionally “... people underestimate us because we are younger but we can uncover mysteries and find out things that sometimes adults can't.”

Marks grew up in New Rochelle. Her debut middle-grade novel, “From the Desk of Zoe Washington,” is an indie bestseller and was named a Best Book of the Year by Parents Magazine, Book Riot, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Chicago Public Library and the Boston Globe. It is being developed as an original movie by Disney Branded Television. Her second novel is “A Soft Place to Land.” She has a masters of fine arts in writing for children from The New School and now lives in Connecticut. Learn more about Marks at