Interview with Joanne Levy, MG Author of FISH OUT OF WATER
November 4th, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

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My ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review!

I choked up several times reading this beautiful middle grade book. Perfect for reluctant readers, this novel conveys a very important message on gender bias, taking on social norms for activities that are deemed for girls and for boys. I’d love to see this shared in classrooms, read to students out loud.

Definitely put this on your MUST READ list!

About the novel from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Fishel (Fish) Rosner doesn’t like regular “boy” things. He hates sports and would prefer to read or do crafts instead of climbing trees or riding dirt bikes with his friends. He also loves to dance. But all his interests are considered “girly.” Fish doesn’t get why that’s a bad thing. He’s just interested in different things than other boys. When he asks his Bubby to teach him to knit, she tells him to go play outside. When he begs his mom to take him to Zumba, she enrolls him in water polo instead. Why does everyone else get to decide what Fish should or shouldn’t do?


Question: I love the title for this novel. Did you come up with it or was it a suggestion from someone else? From what I’ve read, it fits perfectly for your book. How does being a “fish out of water” fit your main character?  

Answer: Thank you! I love the title too, though I have to admit it came about in a pretty boring way. I didn’t have a set title when I pitched the story to my editor but my working title was ‘The Mitzvah Project’ though he book was about more than that and I wasn’t at all sure the title would stick. My pitch did include the phrase ‘fish out of water’ sort of as a joke in reference to the character. My editor said she quite liked it. As did I and it felt right, so there it is.  I think readers will figure out very quickly that Fish–the main character–feels exactly like a fish out of water and why. He knows that in some ways he’s not like other boys in the activities he enjoys and the ones he definitely doesn’t. He’s a little afraid of admitting it and it becomes clear that his fears are justified. 

Question: Share with us some book secrets, things that no one would know about this book just from picking it up and reading it.

Answer: I love giving characters unique/meaningful names and Fish was no exception. I often search baby naming websites for HOURS just trying to find the perfect name for a character. Fishel popped out at me and I loved it immediately. I thought it would be so fun to have a kid named Fish in a book. It also feels vindicating because I once wrote a book where there was a kid (nick)named Cabbage and I’m still sad that the book never sold and thus Cabbage never saw the light of day. But alas, now we have Fish. Also, the character of Fish was inspired in part by the son of a good friend of mine. He is SUCH a character and I love his clever and unique way of looking at the world. I didn’t quite do him justice in this short plot-driven book, but I dedicated it to him so he knows that he had a hand in it. Also, his mom is a fabulous knitter and I think her talent (of which I am in awe) was another (albeit unconscious) inspiration for the book. 

Question: Fish Out of Water is your fourth novel and you have two more coming out next year. What have you learned through this process that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?

Hmm. I’m not the type of person to look back. Everything I’ve done, even the mistakes, are learning moments. I feel like I should say: Don’t be in a rush to publish. But the truth is, I still struggle with this – I’m so impatient! But if you send out books that aren’t ready, you may be hurting yourself and your potential for a great career. We all need practice and time for our work to mature and percolate. No one writes perfect books out of the gate. No one. We need time and distance to see our writing objectively and putting it out too early can come back to bite you in the butt. You never want to have regrets or be embarassed about your early work because when it’s out there, it’s out there potentially forever. Get lots of help – a critique group or beta readers who aren’t related to you and who will be honest – to make your work sparkle and shine before you start sending it out. Can someone please remind me of this when I finish my next draft, though?  

Bonus Round:

What do you prefer?
Books to read: romance, thrillers, historical fiction, picture books, YA, MG, sci-fi, non-fiction, fantasy, horror, fiction, biography, other?

ROMANCE. I do read a lot of kidlit books because: author of kidlit, but my go-to for pleasure reading is always romance. Historical particularly because I look at screens all day and I like my romances to be far away from modern themes like online dating, or texting or blech, anything computer-related.  

Winter, spring, summer, or fall?

Two part answer: 40% Summer/60% Fall – Summer because I love our pool and just being while I float out in there (again, getting away from screens) but on its own, I love how Fall appeals to all my senses. Plus: sweater weather and being able to sleep.

French fries, onion rings, potato chips, popcorn, rice cakes, sweet potato fries, other?

ALL (except rice cakes). I don’t actually eat much in the way of carbs anymore for dietary reasons, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them. They ALL have their place in my fantasy meals. In fact, just a giant platter of all of the above, thank you very much.

Chanukah, Sukkot, Rosh Hashana, Passover, Simchat Torah, other?

Chanukah, or, as it’s spelled in my home, Hanukkah. And mostly because of latkes (you mentioned fried things above, so…). 😉 Truthfully, I like all the holidays that bring my family together. As I get older, I realize that’s more important than anything, so I’m not fussy about what holiday it is, as long as it’s filled with the people I love (food is a given at pretty much all of them, so…).  

About Joanne Levy:

Joanne Levy’s love of books began at a very early age. Being the youngest and the only female among four children, she was often left to her own devices and could frequently be found sitting in a quiet corner with her nose in a book.

Since she left the corporate world in 2013, Joanne spends her non-writing time helping other authors with their administrative needs as a virtual author assistant. 

Joanne can usually be found at her computer, either creating spreadsheets (sometimes just for fun) or channeling her younger self into books. She lives in rural Ontario, Canada with her husband and kids of the furred and feathered variety. You can follow Joanne on Instagram or find her on Facebook

In her non-writing time (ha!) Joanne enjoys working with wool to make felt creatures. Check out her Esty store to see some of her current items for sale.

Find more information on Joanne’s website!

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