Jane Ozkowski on Writing Watching Traffic

Watching Traffic by Jane OzkowskiSeven years ago, my friend Gwen came home from a trip to Germany with a box of her grandmother’s gold-capped teeth. Gwen studied jewelry design and metalsmithing at the Ontario College of Art and Design, and using the gold from those teeth would save her from having to spend hundreds of dollars on gold in school that year. It was a logical explanation, but the idea of someone’s grandmother giving them a box of old teeth stuck with me. I started imagining other situations where a grandmother might pass on such a strange and somewhat disgusting gift. I asked myself: Who might the grandmother be? Who would she give her teeth to? What would the receiver do with a box of gold-capped teeth? A few weeks later, I had the opening for Watching Traffic written.

When I began writing Watching Traffic, I didn’t necessarily realize I was writing a novel. I was twenty years old, and my main purpose for working on this strange little story about a girl and a box of teeth was to learn how to write. I didn’t set goals for word counts or chapters or even expect that I would ever finish the story. I just wanted to write for a set number of hours each day in order to experiment and find my voice as a writer. As I came back to my desk each morning, I found it was much easier to continue working on one story rather than to face a blank page each day. Slowly, an early version of Watching Traffic took shape.

Seven years later, I still can’t quite believe that Watching Traffic exists as an actual real-life book. I’ve dreamed of being a writer my whole life and have been devoting myself to writing since I was seventeen. It took years of waking up before sunrise to write before work and prioritizing writing over movie nights, barbecues, picnics and sometimes even sleep. Now that I have an actual book I feel a little stunned. I feel as though I should still be editing and making adjustments. After seven years, it’s hard to let the story go. I keep trying to tell myself that the story doesn’t belong to me anymore. It’s time for it to go out into the world and find a new home in other people’s minds.


Watching Traffic by Jane Ozkowski

Emily has finally finished high school in the small town where she has lived her whole life. At last, she thinks, her adult life can begin.

But what if you have no idea what you want your new life to look like? What then?

While Lincoln gets ready to go backpacking in Australia, Melissa packs for university on the east coast, and a new guy named Tyler provides welcome distraction, Emily wonders whether she will end up working forever at Pamela’s Country Catering, cutting the crusts off party sandwiches and stuffing mushrooms. Is this her future? Being known forever as the local girl whose mother abandoned her in the worst way possible all those years ago? Visiting her spacey grandmother, watching nature shows on TV with her dad and hanging out with Robert the grocery clerk? Listening to the distant hum of the highway leading out of the town everyone can’t wait to leave?

With poetic prose and a keen eye for the quirks and ironies of small-town life, Jane Ozkowski captures the bittersweet uncertainty of that weird, unreal summer after high school — a time that is full of possibility and completely terrifying at the same time.

New Releases from Groundwood this August

Our Fall 2016 list starts… now! We’ve got four great new titles publishing this August all of which are available to order right now at houseofanansi.com — check out the list below!


BUDDY AND EARL AND THE GREAT BIG BABYBuddy and Earl and the Great Big Baby
by Marueen Fergus, illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
Publishes August 1st

Mom’s friend Mrs. Cunningham is coming for a visit, and she’s bringing her baby! While Buddy tries to explain the ins and outs of babydom to Earl, neither of them is prepared for the chaos the small and adorable creature brings with him.

When the baby manages to escape from his cage — which Buddy gently suggests is really just a playpen — it’s up to our favorite odd couple to save the day.

This third title in the critically acclaimed Buddy and Earl series follows a dog who likes to play by the rules and a hedgehog who knows no limits on another fun adventure in deductive reasoning and imaginative play.


A BOY NAMED QUEEN by Sara CassidyA Boy Named Queen
by Sara Cassidy
Publishes August 1st

Evelyn is an only child with a strict routine and an even stricter mother. And yet in her quiet way she notices things. She takes particular notice of this boy named Queen. The way the bullies don’t seem to faze him. The way he seems to live by his own rules. When it turns out that they take the same route home from school, Evelyn and Queen become friends, almost against Evelyn’s better judgment. She even finds Queen irritating at times. Why doesn’t he just shut up and stop attracting so much attention to himself?

Yet he is the most interesting person she has ever met. So when she receives a last-minute invitation to his birthday party, she knows she must somehow persuade her mother to let her go, even if it means ignoring the No Gifts request and shopping for what her mother considers to be an appropriate gift, appropriately wrapped with “boy” wrapping paper.

Her visit to Queen’s house opens Evelyn’s eyes to a whole new world, including an unconventional goody bag (leftover potato latkes wrapped in waxed paper and a pair of barely used red sneakers). And when it comes time for her to take something to school for Hype and Share, Evelyn suddenly looks at her chosen offering — her mother’s antique cream jug — and sees new and marvelous possibilities.


WATCHING TRAFFIC by Jane OzkowskiWatching Traffic
by Jane Ozkowski
Publishes August 1st

While Lincoln gets ready to go backpacking in Australia, Melissa packs for university on the east coast, and a new guy named Tyler provides welcome distraction, Emily wonders whether she will end up working forever at Pamela’s Country Catering, cutting the crusts off party sandwiches and stuffing mushrooms. Is this her future? Being known forever as the local girl whose mother abandoned her in the worst way possible all those years ago? Visiting her spacey grandmother, watching nature shows on TV with her dad and hanging out with Robert the grocery clerk? Listening to the distant hum of the highway leading out of the town everyone can’t wait to leave?

With poetic prose and a keen eye for the quirks and ironies of small-town life, Jane Ozkowski captures the bittersweet uncertainty of that weird, unreal summer after high school — a time that is full of possibility and completely terrifying at the same time.


WHAT MILLY DID by Elise MoserWhat Milly Did
by Elise Moser, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Publishes August 1st

On a trip to Japan in 1978, Milly noticed that people were putting little bundles out on the street each morning. They were recycling — something that hadn’t taken hold in North America. When she returned to Sauk City, Wisconsin, she discovered that her town’s landfill was nearing capacity, and that plastic made up a large part of the garbage. No one was recycling plastics.

Milly decided to figure out how. She discovered that there are more than seven kinds of plastic, and they can’t be combined for recycling, so she learned how to use various tests to identify them. Then she found a company willing to use recycled plastic, but the plastic would have to be ground up first.

Milly and her friend bought a huge industrial grinder and established E-Z Recycling. They worked with local school children and their community, and they helped other communities start their own recycling programs. But Milly knew that the large-scale recycling of plastics would never work unless people could easily identify the seven types. She came up with the idea of placing an identifying number in the little recycling triangle, which has become the international standard.

Milly’s story is a glimpse into the early days of the recycling movement and shows how, thanks to her determination, hard work and community-building, huge changes took place, spreading rapidly across North America.

Free eBook Preview: Watching Traffic by Jane Ozkowski

Watching Traffic by Jane OzkowskiJane Ozkowski works in the office at a motorcycle driving school, and although she does not have a motorcycle, she does have her license in case she needs to make a quick getaway. Watching Traffic is her first novel. Lucky for you, we have a free eBook preview, available now!

About Watching Traffic by Jane Ozkowski

Emily has finally finished high school in the small town where she has lived her whole life. At last, she thinks, her adult life can begin.

But what if you have no idea what you want your new life to look like? What then?

While Lincoln gets ready to go backpacking in Australia, Melissa packs for university on the east coast, and a new guy named Tyler provides welcome distraction, Emily wonders whether she will end up working forever at Pamela’s Country Catering, cutting the crusts off party sandwiches and stuffing mushrooms. Is this her future? Being known forever as the local girl whose mother abandoned her in the worst way possible all those years ago? Visiting her spacey grandmother, watching nature shows on TV with her dad and hanging out with Robert the grocery clerk? Listening to the distant hum of the highway leading out of the town everyone can’t wait to leave?

With poetic prose and a keen eye for the quirks and ironies of small-town life, Jane Ozkowski captures the bittersweet uncertainty of that weird, unreal summer after high school — a time that is full of possibility and completely terrifying at the same time.

Watching Traffic is forthcoming from Groundwood Books on August 1st, 2016.

Download a Free Preview of Watching Traffic by Jane Ozkowski (ePub)

Download a Free Preview of Watching Traffic by Jane Ozkowski (MOBI)

Enter to Win Watching Traffic by Jane Ozkowski

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We’re celebrating the great Summer weather by giving away a copy of Watching Traffic by Jane Ozkowski!

About Watching Traffic
Emily has finally finished high school in the small town where she has lived her whole life. At last, she thinks, her adult life can begin.
But what if you have no idea what you want your new life to look like? What then?

The contest runs from July 4th to July 17th. A winner will be randomly chosen. Fill out the form below to enter!

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