OPEN MIC: Introducing Contributor Varian Johnson ...

I'm continuing to showcase the nine authors who collaborated with me on OPEN MIC: RIFFS ON LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES IN TEN VOICES (an anthology published 9.10.13 by Candlewick Press). The Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books recently had this to say about our book:
It’s often said that good literature for young people can act as a mirror to one’s own experiences and a window into others’—this anthology fills the bill, providing an accessible assessment of contemporary race relations, while also being as honest, refreshing, and frank as the titular open mic suggests.
Today I'm delighted to introduce you to my friend Varian Johnson, author of "Like Me," a short story that's sixth in the OPEN MIC lineup and is especially "honest, refreshing, and frank." Here are the first few paragraphs to lure you:
"Griff, snap out of it," Evan says, jabbing his elbow into my rib cage. "You're missing the newbies."
I glance at Evan—trying to ignore the scraggly reddish-brown "soul patch" on this chin—then turn to follow his gaze. A mob of girls, huddled together like starry-eyed lambs heading to the slaughter, make their way across the quad with Principal Greer herding them along. With their blinding-white blouses and heavily starched skirts, they look like rejects from an episode of Gossip Girl.
Of course, my blazer and slacks would fit in the show just fine. As Principal Greer says, we're all cut from the same cloth here.
Varian's award-winning books include Saving Maddie (Delacorte / Random House, 2010), My Life as a Rhombus (Flux / Llewellyn, 2008) and A Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid (Genesis Press, 2005). He was born and raised in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering.

Varian later attended the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. He's also the co-founder of The Brown Bookshelf, one of my favorite sites that highlights established and up-and-coming African-American authors of children’s and young adult literature. Today he lives and writes in Austin, Texas.

"I was the typical high-school geek," he says. "I played the baritone in the marching band, was a member of the Academic Challenge Team, and counted my Hewlett-Packard 48G as one of my most prized possessions."

Find out more about Varian and his work by following him on twitter or facebook (highly recommended — his engaging and delightful voice is showcased sweetly on social media).