Warren, Susan

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Warren, Susan

PERSONAL:

Married; husband's name Tony; children: Christina, Amy. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Arlington, TX. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Wall Street Journal, Dallas, TX, branch, deputy bureau chief. Worked for the Houston Post (now defunct) one year, and for the Houston Chronicle nine years. Has also worked for an oil and gas company, a law firm, a liquor distributor, and a produce wholesaler. Oxford University, Reuters Fellowship, 1992-93.

WRITINGS:

Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Susan Warren has lived in Texas, either in Houston or in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, for much of her life. Warren held several odd jobs as a student, working for companies as varied as an oil and gas business, a law firm, a liquor distributor, and a produce wholesaler. She then found her calling as a journalist, working for a year at the now-defunct Houston Post, and then for the Houston Chronicle for nine years. In the latter position, she was sent to the Middle East in 1991 to cover the Gulf War. After this, Warren spent some time in England, completing a Reuters Fellowship at Oxford University from 1992 to 1993. From there, Warren returned to Texas and began working as the deputy bureau chief for the Dallas branch of the Wall Street Journal. Warren's biography on her home page noted that her post at the Wall Street Journal "gives her freedom to pursue stories about other things she finds interesting for its famed ‘middle column’ feature on its front page. She has written on such wide-ranging topics as people who buy Silly Putty by the pound, the dangers of frying turkeys in boiling oil, and the spring ritual of dewberry picking in the South." According to the profile, Warren's 2007 book, Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever, "grew out of Ms. Warren's October 2005 story about the trials of growing giant pumpkins."

In an autobiographical section on her home page, Warren stated that she, her husband, and her two daughters moved into a home with a dirt lot. Warren was inspired to begin gardening her yard, searching for plants that could survive the harsh summers and winters in North Texas. Warren ultimately found that various species of gourds did well in her yard, and when an accidental hybrid grew to be disproportionately large, the author's curiosity was piqued. While researching what began as a Wall Street Journal article, "I went to a pumpkin weigh-off in Rhode Island and I met father and son master pumpkin growers Ron and Dick Wallace," Warren stated on her home page. From there, Warren resolved to write a book on the topic. She also decided to attempt to grow a giant pumpkin in her own backyard, a project that Warren chronicles in Backyard Giants. The volume additionally explores the world of competitive pumpkin farming.

Critics found much of value in Backyard Giants. Several reviewers commented on the book's humorous tone and topic. For instance, Carol Haggas, writing in Booklist, called Backyard Giants a "hilarious yet enlightening expose." Haggas added that Warren "reveals why and how these passionate, painstaking pumpkin growers" do what they do. Echoing Haggas's opinion, a Publishers Weekly critic commented on the farmers' pumpkin-related successes and failures, described as their "tales of heartbreak." The critic concluded that "Warren peaks the anticipation with the big fall weigh-ins, lending a humorous, poignant touch to this hearty gardener's tale." Discussing Warren's representation of the "rabid" Internet posts of pumpkin growers, a Kirkus Reviews contributor stated that "it has been suggested that, oftentimes, the smaller the stakes (and bragging rights to growing the world's biggest pumpkin seem awfully small stakes indeed), the bigger the drama. That's certainly the case here." Discussing the accuracy of Warren's explanation of the techniques involved in growing 1,500-pound pumpkins, Library Journal writer M.C. Duhig stated that the author "accomplishes what so few writers about science do—she makes clear and interesting the science behind the story."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Warren, Susan, Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2007.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August 1, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever, p. 20.

Horticulture, Gardening at Its Best, October 1, 2007, Liz Olson, review of Backyard Giants.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of Backyard Giants.

Library Journal, October 15, 2007, M.C. Duhig, review of Backyard Giants, p. 82.

Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2006, "Competitive Gardening," p. 10; July 9, 2007, review of Backyard Giants, p. 45.

ONLINE

Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever Web site,http://backyardgiants.com (June 17, 2008).