Jacquelyn Mitchard was born in Chicago, the daughter of plumber and a mother who brought her putty from her part-time job at the hardware store. Of Canadian, Czech, and American Indian descent (a member of the Lac du Flambeau Cree Chippewa tribe) she is the first person in her family to graduate high school. Beginning in second grade, wrote stories and poems by the light from the hall that seeped under her bedroom door from the hallway in her parents’ apartment. Thirty years would pass before she published a novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, which was named in 2007 by USA Today the second most influential book of the past 25 years.
Her only formal training was, and remains, the freshman and sophomore English elective. Fortunately she worked under the tutelage of the magnificent writer and teacher Mark Costello at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana – who also taught Bob Shacochis and David Wong Louie, among others. In a recent introduction at the University of Illinois, Costello said that, although he had very specific rules for the time allotted to each students’ writing, Mitchard converted twelve egotistical teenagers into her reading circle.
After college, Mitchard worked for more than 20 years as a newspaper reporter and was married in 1983 to her first boss, the award-winning reporter Dan Allegretti. Widowed by colon cancer in 1993, she wrote everything from political lectures for movie stars to warning labels for paint sprayers to support her four young children. She also was a speechwriter for former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala, who, when she went to Washington, told Mitchard, “What you need to do is to write the Great American novel.” Mitchard is still trying.
A year after her husband’s death, at the urging of her friend, Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World, she attempted the first fiction she had written since she was 17 years old.
An exercise in mourning for the large Italian family to which she no longer belonged, and also an attempt to demonstrate to her children that tragedy was not permission to live a small life, Mitchard turned never expected a successful publication. She recovered from a drawer the plot laid out for her in a dream she had three years previously – a dream so vivid it woke her and prompted her to scribble details on a half sheet of paper. The Deep End of the Ocean was published in 1996 by Viking Press and has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide. It was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club and write large on the screen in a film directed by Ulu Grosbard and produced by Michelle Pfeiffer, who also starred in the film.
In 1997, Viking published a collection of Mitchard’s newspaper essays, The Rest of Us: Dispatches From the Mother Ship, and in 1998, her second novel, The Most Wanted, which was short listed for the Orange Prize. . These, and her subsequent novels, as well as her essays, journalism, and her non fiction books, among them the memoir "Mother Less Child: The Love Story of a Family.' have been nominated for and awarded several literary prizes, and have been nominated for but not awarded others.
Her third, fourth and fifth novels, Twelve Times Blessed, A Theory of Relativity and The Breakdown Lane, were published in 2001 and 2003 and 2005 by Harper Collins. Her sixth adult novel, Cage of Stars, and her seventh, Still Summer, appeared in 2006 and 2007 from Warner Books (now Grand Central). With Random House, Mitchard wrote No Time to Wave Goodbye and Second Nature: A Love Story. In 2012, Mitchard became Editor-in-Chief of Merit Press, an imprint devoted only to classic Young Adult novels, particularly those featuring elements of real-life suspense.
Mitchard has written six novels for Young Adults: Now You See Her (2007, Harper Teen), All We Know of Heaven (2008, Harper Teen) and the forthcoming What We Saw at Night, from Soho, The Midnight Twins (2008, Razorbill/Putnam). Her middle-grade books include Starring Prima: The Mouse of the Ballet Jolie (Harper Children’s, 2005), Rosalie, My Rosalie (Harper Children’s, 2006).
Her children’s picture books are Baby Bat Lullaby (Harper Children’s, 2004) and Ready, Set, School! (Harper Children’s, 2008)
Mitchard, a frequent contributor to magazines that include Real Simple, AARP, and Ladies Home Journal, and was recently named a contributing editor for More magazine. Her essays have been widely anthologized in publications including Colleen Curran’s Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups and What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings (2007) and CHOICE: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood and Abortion, edited by Karen E. Bender and Nina De Gramont (2007), as well as A Love Like No Other: Stories From Adoptive Parents (2005) edited by Jill Smolowe and Pamela Krueger.
A founding organizer One Writer’s Place, a free residence for emerging writers in Massachusetts, Jacquelyn Mitchard lives with her husband, Christopher Brent, and their nine children, on Cape Cod./p>
Stories, she believes, are what we use to explain ourselves to each other and to history, and songs are what we need when even stories are not enough to explain ourselves to eternity.
F. Scott Fitgerald, Emily Bronte, Truman Capote, Michael Shaara, Rick Bass, Thomas H. Cook, Alice Monroe, Lorrie Moore, Sherman Alexie, Sue Miller, Ann Tyler, Ann Patchett, Wallace Stegner, Elizabeth Berg, Daniel James Brown, Rumer Godden, Ruth Rendall, Wiley Cash, Mitchell Wieland, Peter Carey, Nick Hornby, Stephen King, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Enid Bagnold, Alice Elliott Dark, Shirley Jackson.
What We Lost in the Dark (for Young Adults)
Viking, Harper Collins, Warner Books, Harper Children's, Harper Teen, Razorbill/Penguin Putnam
National MS Society, Women Against MS, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, One Writer's Place
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