Darrow, Sharon

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Darrow, Sharon

PERSONAL:

Education: Vermont College, M.F.A. (fiction and poetry), 1996.

ADDRESSES:

E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Poet and fiction writer. Vermont College, M.F.A. program in creative writing, teacher; previously taught at Columbia College, Chicago, IL; leader of writing workshops at College of DuPage, Waubonsee Community College, Off-Campus Writers' Workshop Barrington Area Arts Council, and Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' conferences and retreats in the United States, Spain, and France. Associate editor of magazines, including Rhino and Columbia Poetry Review.

MEMBER:

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors Guild.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Illinois Arts' Council Award nomination; Pushcart Prize nomination; Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators work-in-progress grant; Spur Award Storyteller honor finalist, Western Writers of America, 2000, for Old Thunder and Miss Raney; Oklahoma Book Award, 2004, for The Painters of Lexieville; Oklahoma Book Award finalist, 2006, for Trash.

WRITINGS:

Old Thunder and Miss Raney, illustrated by Kathryn Brown, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2000.

Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein, illustrated by Angela Barrett, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

The Painters of Lexieville, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

Trash, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

Contributor of poetry to Home to Me: Poems across America, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 2002. Contributor of poetry, short fiction, and essays to periodicals, including Other Voices, Whetstone, Great River Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Columbia Review, Folio, and In the Middle of the Middle West.

SIDELIGHTS:

Sharon Darrow is the author of both picture books such as Old Thunder and Miss Raney and young-adult novels such as Trash. Growing up in the Southern United States, Darrow listened to the tales recounted by friends and family, and her love of such stories has inspired much of her work as a writer. "I think I wanted to write to continue to tell stories like those I'd heard, transforming them into the kind of fiction I was reading in my library books," Darrow explained to Ann Jacobus for the SCBWI France Web site.

Darrow's first book, Old Thunder and Miss Raney finds Miss Raney Cloud busy assembling the ingredients for her soon-to-be prize-winning Sooner Biscuits, only to be swept up into a tornado, along with her horse Old Thunder. The picture book was inspired by a story fragment Darrow recalled hearing from her Great-Aunt Thelma. As the writer told Cynthia Leitich-Smith for Cynsations online, Thelma began the story by saying: "‘Kids, did I ever tell you about the time my horse and buggy and I got picked up by a tornado and blown all the way to town?’ Before she could finish, we were called to the table, then my family had to leave and I never heard the end of the tale." The story Darrow's imagination subsequently fleshed out contains "just the right amount of action, humor and heart," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. In Horn Book a critic wrote that the book's "entertaining pace, unpretentious tone, and folksy dialogue make [it] … a natural choice for reading aloud." According to School Library Journal critic Barbara Buckley, "the pace and timing of the story leave one breathless by the last page."

In Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein, Darrow imagines how early- nineteenth-century writer Mary Shelley's young life might have helped inspire the monster she would create in her famous novel. As Darrow explained on the Candlewick Press Web site, she has always felt a kinship with Shelley, who was married to Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley until her death in 1851. "We share a concern about the effects of new technologies on our hearts, minds, and lives," she wrote. "We are both preoccupied by the complexity of parent-child relationships, and we have both made choices that were difficult but personally necessary." Along with her fictionalized picture-book depiction of Shelley's early life, Darrow provides an afterword to help readers separate fact from fiction. Beth Tegart, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, called Through the Tempests Dark and Wild "an intriguing and haunting glimpse into the early life" of a fascinating literary figure.

Darrow turns her attention to teen readers with the novels The Painters of Lexieville and Trash, which introduce the Lexie family from the small town of Lexieville, Arkansas. According to Claire Rosser in Kliatt, the novels are based on Darrow's experiences working in the Arkansas County Welfare Office when she was a teenager. The Painters of Lexieville finds Pert struggling to finish high school so that she can break the cycle of poverty in her family, although her abusive Uncle Orris threatens her dreams. "Darrow seems to get it all right," wrote Rosser, citing the detail Darrow uses to depict the Lexie family. Frances Bradburn, writing in Booklist, called the novel "a harrowing, suspenseful, grudgingly hopeful book that will haunt the reader long after its conclusion."

Sissy and Boy, two of the characters introduced in The Painters of Lexieville, find their way into Darrow's verse novel Trash. Forced to support themselves after their guardian loses his job, the teens find work at a trash-collection service, but when their employers abuse them, they flee to the city in the hopes that they can find a stable home. Urban life holds a new series of challenges for Sissy and Boy, however, and the pair soon take up the dangerous hobby of graffiti tagging. "The language, though rich, evocative and rhythmic, is bleak, with only glimpses of salvation and light," wrote a Kirkus Reviews writer, and Kelly Czarnecki noted in School Library Journal that "Sissy's poignant first-person narrative blends staccato verses with free-flowing prose."

Discussing her work as a writer with Cynthia Leitich Smith for Cynsations online, Darrow noted that "books aren't the only products of the writing life. We also gain life skills and friendships. We learn new things about the world all the time, we get to travel both in reality and in imagination, and we get the chance to do what we've dreamed because it's what we were meant to do. What joy!"

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of Old Thunder and Miss Raney, p. 547; June 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein, p. 1793; November 15, 2003, Frances Bradburn, review of The Painters of Lexieville, p. 606; December 1, 2006, Holly Koelling, review of Trash, p. 38.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2000, review of Old Thunder and Miss Raney, p. 101; January, 2004, review of The Painters of Lexieville, p. 188; October, 2006, Loretta Gaffney, review of Trash, p. 64.

Horn Book, September, 2000, review of Old Thunder and Miss Raney, p. 549.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2003, review of The Painters of Lexieville, p. 1173; August 15, 2006, review of Trash, p. 838.

Kliatt, July, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of The Painters of Lexieville, p. 10; September, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Trash, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, August 21, 2000, review of Old Thunder and Miss Raney, p. 72; December 1, 2003, review of The Painters of Lexieville, p. 57; October 23, 2006, review of Trash, p. 52.

School Library Journal, October, 2000, Barbara Buckley, review of Old Thunder and Miss Raney, p. 119; June, 2003, Beth Tegart, review of Through the Tempests Dark and Wild, p. 158; March, 2004, Susan Geye, review of The Painters of Lexieville, p. 204; October, 2006, Kelly Czarnecki, review of Trash, p. 150.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 23, 2003, review of Through the Tempests Dark and Wild, p. 5.

Times Educational Supplement, review of Through the Tempests Dark and Wild, p. 26.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2004, Cass Kvenild, review of The Painters of Lexieville, p. 42.

ONLINE

Candlewick Press Web site,http://www.candlewick.com/ (July 2, 2007), "Sharon Darrow."

Cynsations,http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ (June 26, 2006), interview with Darrow.

SCBWI France (French chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), http://www.scbwifrance.com/meetthepros/ (July 2, 2007), Ann Jacobus, interview with Darrow.

Sharon Darrow Home Page,http://www.sharondarrow.com (June 25, 2007).

Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators, Illinois Web site,http://www.scbwi-illinois.org/ (June 25, 2007), "Sharon Darrow."

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