Janet Kravetz (also writing under the pen name Topaz Ruby) is an award-winning author, poet and artist. Janet was born in Ukraine in 1983 and grew up in Israel, where she had a career in legal research, joining the Israel Bar in 2009. Soon thereafter she immigrated to Nova Scotia, Canada and continued working in the field of legal research and public policy, while volunteering with various local committees for the promotion of diversity and inclusion. She speaks Russian, Hebrew and English.
In 2014 her book of poetry and art “Reaching Beyond Ourselves – Leading a Spiritual, Peaceful and Diverse World” won the international Beverly Hills Book Awards under the Poetry category for content and presentation (Topaz Ruby, second edition 2020 on Amazon). In the following years Janet turned to writing more poetry and also a few unpublished manuscripts dealing with topics of spirituality, mental health, diversity and the environment.
Her sci-fi novel series “Sky Curse” tells the tale of Cecilia Miller, a coder of artificial dreams, who lives in the year 2045 when climate chaos has become the norm and the collective mental health of humanity has fallen to a grave state. It seems like only technology can help, and Cecilia is determined to be the one to bring that help. “Sky Curse is available on Amazon. Sky Curse recently won the Literary Titan Silver Book Award!
Early Testimonials for book 1 “Sky Curse: The Chosen Five:”
1. This enticing novel warrants action against climate change by showing us a glimpse of a frightening society that has neglected our planet and is reaping the dangerous consequences. An excellent, thought-provoking read for Youth and adults alike. (N K-B)
2. I love the premise, the amazing plot twists and that it reads like a realistic, probable and alarming near-future dystopian novel – I could be alive to see that future. The intricacies of new technology, human happiness and fulfillment, and even religion are all complicated subjects that were blended together well for this story. (G.M)
3. Although it’s not my favourite genre, it was very thrilling to read. I was both entertained and worried for the main characters, while learning new things about issues that might come back to bite us in the future, if we don’t take care of them now. (W.A)
In 2013, you launched your career as a poet and in 2014, you were an award-winning author of the poetry and art book, “Reaching Beyond Ourselves – Leading a Spiritual, Peaceful and Diverse World” which won the international Beverly Hills Book Awards under the Poetry category for content and presentation. Tell us about the book and why you think it resonates with readers.
This is a book of poetry and art about my Jewish heritage, the ramifications of war (my late grandparents who were Holocaust survivors from Ukraine, whereas I myself experienced war in Israel as a child) and the need for global peace. Some poems tell my own story and the story of my late grandparents while other poems are inspirational and motivational in nature. The premise of the book is that despite the difficulties we should aim to leverage global faiths, spirituality and religions to unite the world instead of divide the world.
I think that this book resonates with readers because it is telling a simple universal truth – humans have been abusing each other and planet Earth throughout history. This heartbreaking truth is written in a simple poetic language that anyone can understand. Yet at the same time this book seeks to educate and inspire a new global generation of resilient leaders that can reshape our complex reality and lead us into a better future – hopefully a sustainable, diverse and prosperous future without wars.
“This book is a song for peace”- Cynthia Whitcom Emmy-Nominated Writer.
Take us through your creative process when writing, “Reaching Beyond Ourselves.”
In the 90’s Steven Spielberg established a non-profit foundation in California – USC Shoah Foundation – the institute for Visual History and Education. The foundation recorded testimonies from Holocaust survivors from around the world. The foundation sent a filming crew to my home in Israel to film my late grandmother’s survival story. In 2012, long after her passing, I viewed her interview on video. She had told her story and ended her talk by saying that wars have catastrophic impact on humanity and that the world needs to finally learn how to live in peace. I felt fortunate to hear that timeless message. To have a piece of my heritage on video. I decided to put this message of peace in writing. I started with writing a poem titled “Thank You Steven Spielberg,” then continued to writing a few more poems about myself and my heritage until it grew from there into inspirational and motivational poems too.
On April 8, 2013 an overflowing crowd of over 200 people gathered at the Halifax Saint Mary’s University Scotiabank Theatre to solemnize Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day.) I was honored to read the poem “Thank You Steven Spielberg” on that occasion, while sharing my Jewish heritage with others. The positive feedback made me feel I was on the right track with the book.
Why is this book timely?
The book provides relevant history lessons and timely questions. When countries experience war and environmental degradation, like today in Ukraine, I still ask the same questions I had asked in the book, such as “can ashes from yesterday’s fire rise to tomorrow’s future while taking shape and form…?”
The book got a 4/4 review from the Online Book Club in February 2022. Part of the review explains why readers are finding this book timely:
“This book puts into perspective the lifelong ramifications of wars. Decades after the holocaust, families are still hurting and learning to live with those scars. I couldn’t help but wonder about families in Ukraine and Russia today with what is currently happening in those two countries.”
Unfortunately, there are strong links between conflict, environmental harm, and human suffering. One timely message in the book is the importance of protecting both human rights as well as the environment. Here’s a sample poem from the book, which uses as metaphor a real-life situation – the drying up of the Dead Sea – to tie together these themes.
Tell us about the inspiration for Book 1 Sky Curse: The Chosen Five.
Somewhere in 2014, I had a profound realization. It all started when my book, Reaching Beyond Ourselves had just won an international book award. I realized that the world cannot be spiritual, peaceful and diverse as long as climate change and the ever-growing scarcity of natural resources is threatening our near future. We live in unprecedented times when our sustainability efforts as well as our technological advances and failures will one day define humanity. Thus, I came to believe that authors and poets should help facilitate discussions about sustainability and the future of technology. At that point, making a real impact through my near-future sci-fi writing seemed to take precedence over anything else. To start conversations on this, I knew I wanted to write a mind-provoking sci-fi novel series on this topic.
What do you want us to know about the main character?
Initially I wanted to develop a female protagonist that is a force of nature in a world where environmental degradation is getting out of control. I wanted Cecilia Miller to be strong. Fierce. Determined. A perfect role-model. I started drafting such a protagonist.
However, in Spring 2016 a group of four high school students from the 2015 Asper Human Rights and Holocaust Studies program all chose individually to present my poetry from “Reaching Beyond Ourselves” at the official Nova Scotia Holocaust memorial ceremony in Halifax. I was humbled. I knew my book was making the intended impact, because their teacher let me know that the students had been moved and inspired by the book. I realized during the conversation with that teacher that I wanted my next writing to appeal to youth too. I wanted to develop a realistic sci-fi-novel protagonist they could easily relate to. I wanted to write something entertaining but also educational to guide them on their path to making the world a better place in times of environmental crisis. Subsequently, I didn’t want a protagonist that was perfect, because no one is perfect. Sometimes we are heroes, fixing the world. Sometimes we are heroes, fixing our own worlds, trying to find balance in life. I wanted my readers to know that we all struggle at times. We are all rushing to get somewhere in life and sometimes are shocked to find out we’re simply “running on thin air.” The more ambitious and successful we are the more likely it is that we’re spreading ourselves too thin. What matters eventually is what we do after we come to terms with our own vulnerabilities. Do we become kinder to ourselves? Do we take the time to stop everything and rest? Can we still hope to make a positive impact on the world?
I then came to the final realization that the protagonist had to be someone who is painfully aware of her vulnerabilities and yet still makes a difference in the world. So, I rewrote the protagonist’s character arc. Thus, Cecilia Miller came to be, and my upcoming debut sci-fi novel series “Sky Curse” started writing itself. I gave Cecilia a few realistic life struggles, but also some assistance from mysterious crystals to balance things out. Cecilia suffers from social anxiety and alcoholism, among other things, yet she embarks on a profound awakening journey in her attempts to save Planet Earth.
Tell us about “Mental Health Conversations – The Wheels are Turning”.
“Mental Health Conversations – The Wheels are Turning” is an article I published on an online blog, which was later made into a YouTube video. It talks about my experience more then twenty years ago when I volunteered in Israel, working with students with special needs as a teacher assistant. That’s where I came to realize that there must be more resources for teachers to address mental health in classrooms. On another note, in that distant past two of my favorite teachers unfortunately passed away by committing suicide. Those painful experiences shaped my understanding of mental health and resilience for years to come, including when choosing topics for my writing.
Speaking of resiliency, I myself have struggled with mental health and a lot of my writing about mental health and about spiritual and mental awakening has been based on my newfound resilience. I’ve been fortunate to find much needed balance and joy in my life in recent years, but it takes a lot of hard work to maintain this. Today I hardly know anyone who doesn’t struggle with mental health to some extent at some point of their lives. Nowadays a lot of people get psychological and/or psychiatric help and are able to continue living ordinary or even extra-ordinary lives. The more I open up to people in my life about my mental health struggles, the more they open up to me about their own mental health struggles. And I realize – we’re not just chatting aimlessly by opening up. We’re supporting each other, creating safe environments and perhaps even saving lives. We’re showing people an alternative to substance abuse, addictions and in some cases – suicide.
The current Canadian news headlines about mental health may suggest that mental health conversations are very important, especially now. Here’s an example from Canadian news:
“In a new survey…54 per cent of Canadians said their mental health had worsened during the past two years – with women faring significantly worse than men.”
“Sixty per cent of women aged 18 to 34 said their mental health had worsened throughout the pandemic, and that number jumped to 63 per cent for women aged 35 to 54 over the past two years.”
“The situation is similarly dire from a global perspective…”
(“2 Years into the Pandemic, Canada’s Mental Health System is at a Crisis Point. CBC News”, March 11, 2022).
I would like to take it one step further as I argue, that there is a need for more mental health educational resources for children, youth and adults. I believe that authors can help develop fun educational resources, while engaging wide audiences in mental health conversations. Together we can promote, through literature, collective and individual mental health resilience as one of the most important global priorities. Thus, I address mental health and resilience issues in my writing for all ages, in particular for children and youth, because I understand the challenges teachers and parents face with catering to the mental health needs of their students, especially when they themselves might be facing some sort of mental health challenges of their own at some point. Teachers prepare students for the future and I feel fortunate to offer them my support. Currently I’m writing articles and creating teaching materials for the Canadian website The Teacher App.ca. The organization connects teachers across Canada with the support they need to build resiliency within themselves and to address mental health in their classrooms. This tool works towards building a more resilient Canada and I’m happy to volunteer with them.
What is next?
Publishing the Sky Curse novel series is my main priority. I also hope to be able to publish soon more of my unpublished work that deals with mental health and resilience. Whatever I do in the future, I hope to be making positive impact on global society through my writing.
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