This Writer has Multiple Projects on ‘Simmer’

 In Blog

When Joan Axelrod-Contrada was young, she was one of the children who cheered instead of groaned when doing grammar and writing exercises. “I loved how all the different parts of sentences came together,” she says.

Joan spent much of her childhood reading and making up stories for her dog. As she got older, she became unhappy and introverted. In high school, she discovered the world of journalism.  “It changed my life,” she says. “Instead of looking into myself, I looked outside of myself and focused on other people. I got a front seat view of life. Journalism saved me.”

Over the past 30 years, Joan has contributed much to journalism. She has been telling stories about others in newsprint and also in her own books, many of them dedicated to children.

At Beetle Press, Janice has many connections to Joan. For many years, when Janice critiqued children’s books for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Janice had the pleasure of interviewing Joan and reading and reviewing her books.

Most recently, the interview tables were turned; Joan got to question Janice for a piece Joan is writing about business networking and development for the Boston Globe. (We’ll let you know when that is published.)

Joan recommends that all writers find themselves a community. Also, she says, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Instead of obsessing about one thing, I have different projects to work on. I look at my writing as a stove. I always have two things on the front burners and two things on the back burners, simmering.”

While a stint as editor for her high school paper got Joan interested in journalism, she majored in history at Boston University instead. “Journalism is modern history,” she says. “I’m a geek for history.”

After graduating in 1980, Joan took a freelance writing class that took her back into the journalism realm. While working at a community newspaper, she met her soul sister, Ann Malaspina, and they both became freelancers for The Boston Globe in 1982. Over the years since, Joan has freelanced on and off for the Globe, writing for a variety of different sections.

Joan married a fellow writer, Fred Contrada, a longtime reporter for The Springfield Republican, and the couple had two children. As Joan read to them, she became fascinated with children’s literature. She began writing books for kids, with a focus on reluctant readers and those with reading disabilities.

“I was a very slow reader and still am,” she says. “I loved reading, but I couldn’t read too much without getting a headache. So, I feel like I can relate to that kind of audience. I think my style of writing is natural for their needs and mine as a writer. It’s been a good fit.”

In recent years, Joan earned a master’s in fine arts from Vermont College of Fine Arts in July 2015. While there, she worked on a draft for a picture book about Sylvester Graham who invented the graham cracker. (It’s the same Sylvester Graham that the restaurant in Northampton, Massachusetts, Sylvester’s, is named for. The book release party, to be announced at a later date, will be held there and copies will be sold at the restaurant.)

Joan is currently working on an essay for the March issue of a monthly magazine called The Writer. The essay is titled “Do Writer’s Need Thicker Skins?”

Joan has also helped coordinate The Write Angles Conference for writers off and on for over 20 years, and she will gear up soon for next year’s event, the date for which will be posted soon on

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