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Waka T. Brown Talks About Writing for Children

Owen with middle-grade author Waka T. Brown 

Waka T. Brown has published three novels for middle graders. Her latest book, The Very Unfortunate Wish of Melony Yoshimura, came out last summer (Quill Tree Books, 2023). I recently spoke with Brown near her home in the Portland, Oregon, area. We discussed her books and her love of writing.  

The main character of Brown’s latest novel, Melony Yoshimura, is a middle schooler who wants more freedom from her overprotective parents. The story’s villain, an evil spirit called the “Amanjaku,” gets her everything she wants. But Melony soon learns that trusting the Amanjaku has a terrible price. 

Brown, who is of Japanese ancestry, is the first member of her family to be born in the United States. She grew up in Topeka, Kansas. Her latest novel, she said, was inspired by a Japanese folktale, “The Melon Princess and the Amanjaku.”  

“This folktale was one of my very favorite children’s books,” Brown said. During the pandemic, she saw parallels between the Amanjaku story and people’s experiences in lockdown. “Everybody around me wanted a lot more freedom,” she said. “Parents also had this fear of letting their kids do too much.”

Brown hopes that young readers will think more deeply about their actions as they grow up and gain their independence. “That freedom comes with a certain amount of responsibility,” she said.


Brown’s latest novel was inspired by a Japanese folktale.  


Brown didn’t start writing seriously until her senior year at Stanford University. She wrote screenplays and later began writing for middle graders. Her debut novel, While I Was Away, was published in 2021. Her second novel, Dream, Annie, Dream, came out in 2022. Both titles are published by Quill Tree Press. 

While I Was Away recounts Brown’s move to Japan when she was 12. Her parents sent her to live with her grandmother because they feared she was losing her Japanese language skills in the U.S. Dream, Annie, Dream is a fictional novel based on Brown’s experiences growing up in Kansas in the 1980s. 

Brown’s next title, a picture book called Perfect, will be published in the fall. She also has another novel coming out next winter. In addition to writing, Brown enjoys running, baking, and playing the guitar. She and her husband have three sons. 

Brown’s advice for aspiring writers is to not get discouraged. “Remember that you like writing,” she said. “Whether or not it sells or it’s published or not published, just the act of writing is wonderful. You’re creating something.” 

Photos courtesy of the author