J. Albert Mann ’17 Releases WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW

We are celebrating the release of VCFA grad J. Albert Mann’s new YA novel What Every Girl Should Know, a very timely biography of Margaret Higgins Sanger.

“Margaret was determined to get out. She didn’t want to clean the dirty dishes and soiled diapers that piled up day in and day out in her large family’s small home. She didn’t want to disappoint her ailing mother, who cared tirelessly for an ever-growing number of children despite her incessant cough. And Margaret certainly didn’t want to be labeled a girl of “promise,” destined to become either a teacher or a mother—which seemed to be a woman’s only options.

As a feisty and opinionated young woman, Margaret Higgins Sanger witnessed and experienced incredible hardships, which led to her groundbreaking work as an advocate for women’s rights and the founder of Planned Parenthood. This fiery novel of Margaret’s early life paints the portrait of a young woman with the passion and courage to change the world.”

The Q & A

Jennifer, you’ve written a number of books. Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? How does revision work for you? What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process for this book and why?

This novel had a long revision process because its first draft was written in vignette, and one of the stipulations upon its sale is that I rewrite it into prose. It had been the first time I’d written vignette, and I had fallen in love with the special beauty of this incredible form. Yanking it out was painful.

Can you tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall to keep you going when the going gets tough?

I try not to have specific “walls” to decorate. I came to writing while working as a financial analyst and raising young children. I needed to be able to write anywhere and at any time…plane, hospital, my mother’s house. So, I have no special place and no special routines, and I like it this way.

You are clearly a very disciplined and focused writer. What would you say is your writing superpower?

Definitely my writing superpower is my ability to stick with a project and finish it. There are so many ups and downs to writing a novel… days where you feel it all working and those where you absolutely know the entire thing is a piece of trash. I can write straight through those “trash days” with little more than a stomach ache.

What are your favorite VCFA memories?

My favorite memory is of an impromptu dorm-room party held with my roommate, Adrienne Kisner. The two of us are pretty quiet and often had lights out by 10pm. Although one night, a few Post Its dropped by, and soon our room overflowed with them. It was an amazing night. Although the next day we were “written up” for noise, and I’d never been “written up” for anything in my entire life! I actually cried. But I’ve since accepted myself as the rebel rule breaker that I am.

Rebel rule breaker. That’s a wonderful thing to embrace, especially given the context of your writing about Margaret Sanger. It sounds like your graduation class helped you to accept that part of yourself. What else was special about your class?

My class (The Dead Post Its) was the most surprising thing about my experience at VCFA. I had no idea going into the program that I would come away with such an incredible community. They made the two years at VCFA an unforgettable experience and continue to be a major presence in my life today. I shiver at how close I came to the possibility of not knowing these people!

Do you have any advice that you would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

Don’t enter the program with a set agenda for your writing. Open yourself up to writing things you never imagined you would.

Thank you, Jennifer. It’s been great to hear a bit more about you and your writing life!

About the Author

J. Albert Mann is the author of six novels for children, as well as the author of short stories and poems featured in Highlights for Children, where she won the Highlights Fiction Award, as well as the Highlights Editors’ Choice Award. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults and is the Director of the WNDB Internship Grant Committee. She graduated from VCFA in 2017.



WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW is published by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

This post was written by Amanda West Lewis.

Amanda West Lewis combines careers as a writer, theatre artist and calligrapher. Her eight books for children and youth range from non-fiction books to historical novels. September 17: A Novel was nominated for the Silver Birch Award, the Red Cedar Award, and the Violet Downey IODE Award. The Pact was listed as a 2017 USBBY Outstanding International book. Amanda has a particular interest in creating historically relevant stories for young people and is currently working on a new novel about youth activism in 1968. She is the founder of The Ottawa Children’s Theatre, a company dedicated to drama education for children aged 3 – 17. Amanda has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA and is a proud member of The Dead Post-Its.