2017 Conference Faculty: Varian Johnson

Meet the faculty of the 2017 Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference. We’ve asked all our faculty members to answer 4 quick questions so we can get to know them better.


Varian Johnson, Author

Varian Johnson is the author of six novels, including the Jackson Greene middle-grade series. The first novel in the series, The Great Greene Heist, received two starred reviews and was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book Selection, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, and a Texas Library Association Lonestar List selection among other accolades. His latest caper, To Catch A Cheat, was released in 2016. Kirkus praised the novel in a starred review, calling it, “A satisfying stand-alone sequel; new readers and old friends will be hoping for further adventures.” Varian has also written for the Spirit Animals middle-grade fantasy series as well as novels and short stories for YA audiences.
Varian was born in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering. He later received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Varian now lives outside of Austin, TX with his family.


Varian Johnson
Varian Johnson

What attracted you to children’s books?

I always loved the idea of writing, but it wasn’t until I discovered Walter Dean Myers and Virginia Hamilton that I realized I *could* become a writer. I further discovered that I wanted to write for young people after reading HARD LOVE by Ellen Wittlinger. After reading that book, I knew I belonged in children’s and YA literature.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of writing is being able to do my job in my pajamas!

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part is that writing can be a lonely profession. Social media has made it easier to have “water cooler” conversation, but if you’re not careful, it can also dominate your entire day.

What’s the best piece of advice you were given that helped drive your career?

Read, read, read. And then write, write, write. Networking and marketing have their place, but the best way to get noticed is to write an outstanding book.

Come see Varian at the 2017 Austin SCBWI conference, May 20-21, 2017