Jenny Martin lives in a fantasy world.
Not all of the time, mind you. Mostly just nights and weekends, when she’s not at her day job as a school librarian.
Martin’s vividly imagined alter ego is a 17-year-old girl who races cars and strives to bring down the oppressive corporate overlords on a 24th-century Earth colony planet.
The girl, named Phee, is the spitfire heroine of Tracked, a young adult adventure novel that grafts elements of The Fast and the Furious onto The Hunger Games.
“In real life, I am one of the most timid people you will ever know,” Martin says. “But in my imagination, as this character, I can be fierce and brave.
“I can do things I’ve longed to do but was always too afraid to try, like racing cars.”
It’s important to note that Martin is selling herself short here. It takes tenacity and courage to write a book and to send it out into the world the way she has.
Tracked, which was published in May by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, has been the recipient of enthusiastic reviews and good sales.
“Even if that’s as good as it gets, boy, I’m so happy,” she says.
In most ways, becoming a published author didn’t change her life. As she works on final edits for the second book in the Tracked duology, which comes out next year, she is still the librarian to 800 students at Beck Elementary in Trophy Club. She is still a wife and mother.
“But it is fun when some of my older students come to me and ask if I’ll sign their book,” Martin says. “And it never gets old seeing my book on shelves.”
Students often come to Martin seeking guidance on their writing projects, because they value her expertise as a “real” writer.
This month, she’ll share many of those pointers with aspiring young writers in Southlake Public Library’s Teen Writing Workshops.
Sessions will be held on three consecutive Thursdays (at 2 p.m. June 11, 18 and 25) on the third floor of Southlake Town Hall (1400 Main St.).
“We want it to be an encouraging, safe place to talk about writing,” Martin says. “I will start off each session with a little bit of instruction and share some tricks and tips to strengthen their writing. We’ll try to build new skills and build their confidence.
“Then, especially in the second and third sessions, we’ll give students a chance to share their writing and get some helpful, supportive critiquing.”
Young writers at all skill levels are welcome.
“Any teen who is remotely interested in writing, even if they walk in without having written a thing, there’s a place for them in this workshop,” Martin says. “We can talk about how to get started, how to write those first few pages and how to develop their voice, which I think is the key to good writing.
“It’s not necessarily what happens in the story that makes it compelling. It’s how you tell the story. Anybody can put one word after another. But it takes a magician to connect words in a way that makes readers keep turning page after page after page.”
Tracked has that kind of propulsive power.
Martin’s eureka moment of inspiration happened after watching Death Race, an adrenaline-fueled Jason Statham movie, and then a documentary about corporations that wield too much power.
Then the lifelong Star Wars fan introduced her bold protagonist, a Han Solo-esque teenage girl, and mixed in a dash of complicated romance, with two desirable but very different boys.
Martin didn’t originally plan on writing books for the young adult market, but she likes where she wound up.
“I enjoy the genre and I respect it,” she says. “Coming-of-age stories can be so exciting. And you can explore so many wonderful themes within this genre. The book has action and adventure and romance and intrigue. It’s fun to be able to do a little bit of everything.
“And given that I’m a school librarian, it just kind of makes sense that it happened this way.”
By Jenny Martin
Dial Books, $17.99
Teen Writing Workshop
▪ 2 p.m. June 11, 18 and 25
▪ Southlake Town Hall (1400 Main St., third floor)
▪ For more information, call the Southlake Public Library at 817-748-8243