Jon Etter

Writer, Teacher, Resident of the October Country

For those of you who have asked what Quentin Q. Quacksworth, Esq. looks like (since he, of course, refuses to show up to any public events related to Those Dreadful Fairy Books), here he is in all his whiskery glory. This picture was taken right after he won that Blabby Award for Narratorial Excellence for Honest Jim and the Do-Right Lads that he’s always going on about. He has said that that was the happiest moment in his life, and you can sure tell it by the look on his face.

Now you see what I’ve been dealing with for the past four years…

Well, Yet Another Dreadful Fairy Book is out in the world and it has been my pleasure over this first week of its release to host a book launch party (complete with home craft project) on Wauwatosa Public Library’s Children’s Department’s Facebook page and do a reading/book talk/Q&A with Mystery To Me Bookstore via Crowdcast. In case you couldn’t join us for one or both of those, you can still watch the recording. Below are links to both events.

Mystery To Me Crowdcast

Wauwatosa Public Library Children’s Department Book Launch



I’m excited (but also a little sad) to announce that today the third and final installment of Those Dreadful Fairy Books, Yet Another Dreadful Fairy Book, is now available in stores and from online retailers and anywhere else you can get books! When I wrote A Dreadful Fairy Book four and a half years ago, I had already failed to land an agent or publisher for the first book I had written (it’s still unpublished but I might circle back to it eventually and see what I can do with it) and wasn’t terribly optimistic about Dreadful doing any better. “Oh, well,” I told myself at the time, “At least I’ve written a story that my kids, wife, and friends enjoyed, and I had a lot of fun doing it.” And then I moved on to the next project.

I never could have guessed that my little book of ill-behaved, misfit fairies would land me an amazing agent (Adria Goetz), that it would find a home at a wonderful publisher (Amberjack Publishing), or that that publisher would become an imprint of an even bigger (and also wonderful) publisher with even wider reach (Chicago Review Press). And now, as of today, I’ve had three books published and have completed an entire series. For those of you who have asked, that’s it for Shade, Ginch, the Professor, and all the other residents of Elfame, at least for now. My agent is currently trying to find a home for a middle grade historical fiction book I wrote and I’m currently working on another one, which will probably be followed by a horror book for kids since both of my kids have been lobbying for me to write one for a while now. But I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point I step into a ring of toadstools and find myself back in Elfame once again.

Before I go and do something more productive than this (or perhaps less productive), I need to take a moment to thank a few people. First and most importantly, I need to thank my wife, my kids, my parents, and my friends for all the love and support they’ve given me in my writing endeavors and life in general. Adria Goetz, for being the best literary fairy godmother a writer could ask for. All the wonderful people at Amberjack Publishing and Chicago Review Press for all the hard work they’ve done getting the books published, out into the world, and letting people know about them, with special thanks going out to Dayna Anderson, who against all good sense and sound judgment thought it would be a good idea to sign a Mister Nobody from Nowhere like me to a three-book deal, and to Cherrita Lee, my editor and partner-in-crime for the whole series–the books wouldn’t have been the same (or nearly as good) without her. Adam Horsepool, for all the wonderful artwork in the series (his rendering of Shade on the first cover and his illustration of the Questing Beast are particular favorites of mine). All the libraries, bookstores, schools, and festivals who have been kind enough to host me and promote the book. And most importantly, all of you out there who have read the books. Thank you all for helping my childhood dream of someday having books sitting on shelves in libraries come true!

…until Yet Another Dreadful Fairy Book, the third and final (maybe?) of Those Dreadful Fairy Books will be in stores, popping up in mail boxes, and on library shelves! To tide you over, enjoy these awesome illustration from the book by my partner-in-crime, Adam Horsepool.

A month or two ago, a Language Arts teacher asked me and some other writers to record our answers to the question “What do you love about reading and writing?” for his students. Below is mine.

If there are any other teachers or librarians out there interested in having me record something like this or who would like to set up an online reading, book talk, or Q&A, I’m always happy to oblige! Just go to my contact page, and we’ll see what we can do!

 

For National Tell a Story Day a little bit ago, my publisher, Amberjack/Chicago Review Press, asked me if I would be willing to record a reading from Another Dreadful Fairy Book, and I immediately agreed. So if you have ever wondered what I sound like, what my living room looks like, or how bad my hair looks when I’m over a month overdue on a haircut (and it’s only getting worse), check it out:

 

One of the most common questions I’ve gotten at school visits, book talks, and readings has been, “What advice do you have for young writers?” I’ve never been fully satisfied with the answers I’ve given, but now I think I’ve got it: “Be like Ada and Cynthia.”

Back in January of 2019 (which feels like a lifetime ago as I write this in our fourth week of safer-at-home semi-quarantine), after doing a couple school visits one of the school librarians emailed me and let me know that there was a pair of 4th graders, Ada and Cynthia, who had written a story and would love to share it with me if that was okay. I said, “Of course! I’d love to read it” The next day those young ladies sent me the first draft of their story “Once Upon a Time Is Overrated” (and included their librarian on the email because kids should always make sure that a parent and/or teacher knows about any communication they have with adults) and asked if I would read it and let them know if there was anything they could do to make it better.

Impressed by that extremely brave and mature request, I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) their delightful story and then wrote back telling them everything I loved about their story and gave them a few ways I thought they could make an already good story even better, the main one being, “I’d love for there to be even more adventures for your main character.”

And then they did the really hard work that a lot of adult writers don’t bother doing: they sat down and started revising. Over the course of the next year, they sent me three or four more drafts, each one better and more polished than the last. It was amazing to watch these two young writers toil at their project with such passion, dedication, and determination. And then, when they were finally satisfied and felt the story was done, they let it go and shared it with other people, another terribly brave act that many adult writers blanch at. First, they let family and friends read it. Then they shared it with everyone in their grade at school (which, honestly, 5th grade me never would have had the nerve to do). And now they’ve made it available as an ebook on Amazon for anyone in the world to read! If you’ve got three dollars and the time for a cracking good read (and let’s be honest, we all have the time while in quarantine), you can get a copy by clicking on the title here: Once Upon a Time Is Overrated.

So let’s take a clear look at everything these young ladies did that is so exemplary for aspiring writers, young and old:

  1. They read a lot (their story is inspired by many of the fairy tales they read growing up).
  2. They write a lot.
  3. They finished their story–a lot of writers quit before they finish a story due to frustration, boredom, or enthusiasm for some other idea that they pursue instead, but not these two.
  4. They asked for and were open to honest suggestions for improvement.
  5. They went back and revised multiple times to make sure they had written the best story they could.
  6. They knew when to let the story go–some writers keep working a thing over and over and never really stop.
  7. They shared it with others.

Because Ada and Cynthia did all that, there’s one more great story out in the world for people to enjoyand the world needs as many stories as possibleand, almost as importantly, I finally have a good answer to a question I’m likely to get asked again. Plus, the next time I personally get stuck or frustrated with my own writing, I’ve got something to tell myself to help get through it: “Be like Ada and Cynthia!”

Thanks, Ada and Cynthia, for writing such a great story and letting me be part of your literary journey (and for the shout-out you gave me in both the acknowledgments and in the story). I can’t wait for your next story!

Once Upon a Time...

 

Hey everyone,

Well, while the family and I have been on spring break this year (woo… sigh…), I’ve been hard at work putting together a study guide with project options for Another Dreadful Fairy Book, and I’m happy to report that it’s done! Just go to the “Teaching Materials” section of this website and you can download it, the study guide for A Dreadful Fairy Book, and the short story “Somebody’s Favorite Knight,” which also has study questions and extension activities at the end, all for free! I hope that you find some of this useful, especially now as we all stay in and stay safe.

Thanks and happy reading and learning!

Jon

ANOTHER DREADFUL FAIRY BOOK

This time it’s not just the study guide and projects that are free–this time, you don’t even have to pay for the story! In my continuing efforts to help out my fellow homebound parents & teachers, I’ve decided to post “Somebody’s Favorite Knight,” a middle grade comedy/fantasy short story that originally appeared in the 2017 anthology Tales of the Once and Future King, for free download. At the end of the story, I’ve put together a study guide with multiple levels of questioning and creative project and research opportunities. Feel free to use and share as you see fit. Hope it helps you more easily get through our current but temporary difficulties.

Take care, be safe, and stay healthy!

Jon

Somebody’s Favorite Knight with Study Questions

medieval art