PERSONAL: Born in TX; daughter of citrus and wheat farmers; married David Satz (a musician, recording engineer, and computer programmer); children: one son. Education: Attended Texas Christian University; University of Houston, B.A. (English); University of St. Thomas, B.A. (voice).
ADDRESSES: Home—549 First St., Brooklyn, NY 11215-2305. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Riverhead Books, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
CAREER: Consultant, opera singer, and writer. KLEF classical radio, staff member; Houston Festival, arts coordinator; Twyla Tharp Dance troupe, New York, NY, director of development; American Museum of the Moving Image, director of development. Business owner engaged in fundraising and special events.
The Box Children, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Sharon Wyse grew up in a small rural town in Texas. Her parents grew citrus crops in the Rio Grande Valley in winter and ran a wheat farm, 800 miles away in the Texas Panhandle, in summer. Although she loved to write as a teen, Wyse never dreamed of becoming a professional writer. Because she sang in school and church choirs and won a full voice scholarship to Texas Christian University, she believed she would become a choir director, though she had not been particularly interested in teaching. She also sang with the Houston Grand Opera chorus during her years at the University of St. Thomas and took graduate classes in music history while working the graveyard shift at KLEF, Houston's classical-music radio station. Her first professional and profitable writing experience was a grant proposal written during her tenure as arts coordinator for the Houston Festival.
Wyse moved to New York City in 1983 to advance her career and she eventually began her own consulting and fundraising business, raising more than $15 million for clients. In 1984 she enrolled in her first creative writing class, rising before dawn each day to write for an hour before going to work. Memories of her rural childhood experiences soon inspired the idea for her debut novel, The Box People. She started a Sunday writers group and was awarded two fellowships to the Ragdale Foundation writers' colony, where she worked on the book.
The Box Children takes the form of the diary of eleven-year-old Lou Ann Campbell. Lou Ann grows up on an isolated northern Texas wheat farm with a neurotic, abusive, alcoholic mother and a womanizing father who brings his sexual exploits into his daughter's bedroom. Her mother, having had five miscarriages, is again supposedly pregnant; her older brother and only living sibling becomes increasingly distant. The lonely Lou Ann creates five dolls for companionship, each named after one of her five miscarried siblings. Because her mother thoroughly searches her room, and because she knows she will be severely punished if her treasures are discovered, Lou Ann hides her companions in a box—along with slips of paper that are her journal. "The long, hot summer of 1960 will prove to be a major turning point in Lou Ann's life," commented Melissa Morgan for Bookreporter.com. "This brand of coming-of-age-within-adysfunctional-family tale is well worn, and though Wyse's writing abilities are impressive, her story breaks no new ground."
Michelle Tauber, in reviewing the book for People Weekly, wrote that, in spite of the dark subject matter, Wyse "excels at capturing Lou Ann's hopeful spirit. . . . Wry and heartfelt, this is a quietly impressive debut." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews felt the book contains "little emotional depth or a richness of characterization" and called it "An unassuming treatment that fails to meet the terms of its explosive tale, unrealistically minimizing it instead." Meanwhile, a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "Wyse captures the voice of her young protagonist with remarkable skill and naturalness. . . . The novel's conclusion can only just be construed as hopeful, but Lou Ann's hardheaded (and hard-won) optimism rings true."
Wyse, who lives in Brooklyn's Park Slope, continues to work on fiction, sing opera, study acting, and consult for fundraising and special events.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2002, review of The Box People, p. 701.
O, July, 2002, Lisa Shea, review of The Box People, p. 49.
People Weekly, August 12, 2002, Michelle Tauber, review of The Box People, p. 49.
Publishers Weekly, June 3, 2002, review of The Box People, p. 58.
Book Reporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (October 23, 2002), Melissa Morgan, review of The Box Children.
Box Children Web site,http://www.theboxchildren.com/ (October 23, 2002).*