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Lord, Cynthia

Lord, Cynthia

PERSONAL:

Born in Waltham, MA; married; children: two. Education: Attended college.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Brunswick, ME. Agent—Adams Literary, 7845 Colony Rd., C4 No. 215, Charlotte, NC 28226. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Educator and writer. Former teacher of first- and sixth-grade in New England public schools.

MEMBER:

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Maine Writers' and Publishers' Alliance.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators work-in-process grant, 2004; Smartwriters.com contest winner; Newbery Honor Book designation, Schneider Family Book Award in middle-school category, Michigan Library Association Mitten Award, New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing inclusion, National Council of Teachers of English Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts designation, American Library Association Notable Book designation, and nominations for numerous child-selected state awards, all 2007, all for Rules.

WRITINGS:

Rules (middle-grade novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of short fiction and of curriculums for educational publishers.

SIDELIGHTS:

With her first book, former middle-school teacher Cynthia Lord achieved what many writers only dream of: earning the Honor Book designation from the prestigious Newbery Award committee. Her middle-grade novel, Rules, was inspired by Lord's experience raising an autistic child. "David is based loosely upon my son when he was a young child," the author noted on her home page, referencing one of her novel's characters. Although "some incidents in the book came from real experienc …, most of the events, details, and characters in Rules came from my imagination," Lord added. "The first line I ever wrote on the first blank page was: ‘At our house, we have a rule,’ and the story, the characters, the title, all sprang from that seed."

Dubbed "a heartwarming first novel" by Booklist contributor Cindy Dobrez, Rules draws readers into the story of twelve-year-old Catherine, who lives with her parents and autistic younger brother David in coastal Maine. Although Catherine is a caring girl and loves her little brother, she is embarrassed by some of the things the boy does, such as hugging strangers or dropping his toys into the fish tank, and also feels burdened by having to care for her brother much of the time. To help David understand his surroundings and learn to navigate daily life, she develops a series of simple rules for him to follow. Over the summer, sadness over a departed best friend, feelings of guilt over her anger that David takes the bulk of her parents' attention, the approach of adolescence, and her growing affection for a wheelchair-bound boy named Jason combine to cause Catherine confusion. To deal with her feelings, Catherine turns to art, and also sets down a series of ground rules that she hopes will define her world. Ultimately, the preteen "begins to understand that normal is difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, to define," as Connie Tyrell Burns noted in a School Library Journal review of Lord's award-winning novel debut. Referencing Catherine's conflicting feelings, a Kirkus Reviews writer wrote that "middle-grade readers will recognize her longing for acceptance," and in School Library Journal Connie Tyrrell Burns called the preteen "an endearing narrator who tells her story with both humor and heartbreak." In her novel Lord "candidly capture[s] … the delicate dynamics" within a family coping with disability, Burns added, and in Publishers Weekly a critic described Rules as "a rewarding story that may well inspire readers to think about others' points of view."

In an online interview with Debbi Michiko Florence, Lord discussed the experience of writing Rules, as well as her thoughts on the writing life. "One personal rule I tell children who ask me for writing advice is Read, write, learn, and dream," she told Florence. Her advice for beginning writers: "Don't be afraid to try something, even if you think it won't work. Sometimes I am not the best judge of what my story needs and trying a suggestion can open a new possibility."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 2006, Cindy Dobrez, review of Rules, p. 98.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 2006, Deborah Stevenson, review of Rules, p. 411.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2006, review of Rules, p. 234.

Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2006, review of Rules, p. 188.

School Library Journal, April, 2006, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Rules, p. 142.

ONLINE

Cynthia Lord Home Page,http://www.cynthialord.com (August 8, 2007).

Debbi Michiko Florence Web site,http://www.debbimichikoflorence.com/ (April, 2006), interview with Lord.

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