Stokes, Penelope J.
Stokes, Penelope J.
PERSONAL: Born in MS; daughter of a social worker and an English teacher. Education: Earned Ph.D.
CAREER: Former college professor of English and creative writing; novelist and nonfiction writer. Speaker at writing workshops.
Turner's Crossroads, LifeJourney Books (Elgin, IL), 1993.
Home Fires Burning, Tyndale House (Wheaton, IL), 1996.
Remembering You, Tyndale House (Wheaton, IL), 1997.
Till We Meet Again, Tyndale House (Wheaton, IL), 1997.
The Blue Bottle Club, Word Publishing (Nashville, TN), 1999.
The Amethyst Heart, Word Publishing (Nashville, TN), 2000.
The Amber Photograph, Word Publishing (Nashville, TN), 2001.
The Treasure Box, W Publishing Group (Nashville, TN), 2002.
The Wishing Jar, W Publishing Group (Nashville, TN), 2002.
The Memory Book, W Publishing Group (Nashville, TN), 2002.
Circle of Grace, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.
Grace under Pressure, NavPress (Colorado Springs, CO), 1990.
Essentials of Quality Fiction, SilverFire Editorial Services (Blue Earth, MN), 1994.
Faith: The Substance of Things Unseen, Tyndale House (Wheaton, IL), 1995.
The Complete Guide to Writing and Selling the Christian Novel, Writer's Digest Books (Cincinnati, OH), 1998.
Beside a Quiet Stream: Words of Hope for Weary Hearts, J. Countryman Books (Nashville, TN), 1999.
Thanks Dad!: Lessons from the Lake—On Living and Loving, J. Countryman Books (Nashville, TN), 2000.
(Editor) Edward M. Bounds, Power through Prayer: With Special Study Guides for Today's Reader, World Wide Publications (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.
(Adapter) O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi, Victor Books (Wheaton, IL), 1996.
Also author of Faith on the Home Front, three volumes; Simple Words of Wisdom: Fifty-two Virtues for Every Woman, J. Countryman Books (Nashville, TN); and The Miracle of the Christmas Child, J. Countryman Books.
SIDELIGHTS: Penelope J. Stokes earned a Ph.D. in renaissance literature and taught on the college level for many years. Her heart was never completely in teaching, however; from childhood she had longed to be a writer. For more than two decades Stokes has followed her first instinct, turning out novels with spiritual themes, inspirational nonfiction, and basic "how-to" books for those interested in writing for the Christian market. Working in her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, she explained on her Web site that she crafts stories "about people. Not just about what happens to them, but about what happens in them—the spiritual, emotional, and psychological passages that lead people to an understanding of their inner selves, and of one another."
Some of Stokes's novels employ magical realism to help her characters to attain a crucial moment of inner understanding. In The Memory Book, for instance, a young woman comes to terms with her family's violent past by traveling back in time to meet the creator of a home-made scrapbook. The characters in The Wishing Jar seek purity of heart so that a magical vase will impart wishes to them. In an interview published on her Web site, Stokes said she hopes these novels "will serve to open readers to the possibility of the miraculous or magical in their own lives. I hope it will remind readers that our lives are inextricably linked with the lives of others, and that spiritual truth lies in the connections."
The connections of friendship are explored in Stokes's novel Circle of Grace. In this story protagonist Grace Benedict struggles to reconcile herself with the fact that she has terminal cancer, and also fictionalizes her life in a round-robin diary she has kept with a circle of friends. In order to come clean about her life before it is too late, Grace organizes a get-together of her far-flung friends, only to discover that they, too, have been less than honest about their own circumstances. "Stokes is a competent writer who knows how to craft a well-paced story," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer of Circle of Grace. In Booklist, Carol Haggas concluded that the novel, with "abiding warmth and moving sensitivity," provides its readers with "an inspiring tribute to the power of true friendship."
While Stokes's books are commonly classified within the "Christian" fiction genre, the author says her aim is not necessarily to preach to her audience. "My stories are, for the most part, about spiritual exploration, about people grappling with reality and somehow managing to find that God—or some force beyond themselves—is in there grappling with them," she said in the interview. Oon TheBestReviews.com Shelby Bagby noted that Stokes's work "will make most of us, stop and take a good look at our own lives and the things that are truly important to us." A Publishers Weekly critic cited Stokes for "distinctively good writing," noting further that her prose "is smooth as butter."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2004, Carol Haggas, review of Circle of Grace, p. 1705.
Publishers Weekly, March 3, 2003, review of The Wishing Jar, p. 53; June 7, 2004, review of Circle of Grace, p. 32.
Penelope J. Stokes Home Page, http://www.penelopejstokes.com (March 21, 2005).
TheBestReviews.com, http://thebestreviews.com/ (February 28, 2005), Shelby Bagby, review of Circle of Grace.
Tracy's Book Nook Web site, http://www.tracysbooknook.com/ (February 28, 2005), review of The Wishing Jar.