Patricia Reilly Giff is available for speaking engagements through the Random House Speakers Bureau. Visit www.rhspeakers.com
for more information.
"I want to see children curled up with books, finding an awareness of themselves
as they discover other people's thoughts. I want them to make the connection
that books are people's stories, that writing is talking on paper, and I want
them to write their own stories. I'd like my books to provide that connection
for them." --Patricia Reilly Giff
© Tim Keating
Patricia Reilly Giff has received the Newbery Honor for Pictures of Hollis
Woods and Lily's Crossing, which is also a Boston GlobeHorn Book
Honor Book. Nory Ryan's Song was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults
and an ALA Notable Book.
"I always start each day by writing. That's like breathing to me," says Patricia
Reilly Giff. In fact, this bestselling author admits: "I wanted to write from
the first time I picked up a book and read. I thought it must be the most
marvelous thing to make people dance across the pages."
Reading and writing have always been an important part of Patricia Reilly Giff's
life. As a child, her favorite books included Little Women, The Secret
Garden, the Black Stallion books, the Sue Barton books, and the Nancy Drew
series. Giff loved reading so much that while growing up, her sister had to grab
books out of her hands to get Giff to pay attention to her; later, Giff's three
children often found themselves doing the same thing. As a reading teacher for
20 years, the educational consultant for Dell Yearling and Young Yearling books,
an adviser and instructor to aspiring writers, and the author of more than 60
books for children, Patricia Reilly Giff has spent her entire life surrounded by
After earning a B.A. degree from Marymount College, Giff took the advice of the
school's dean and decided to become a teacher. She admits, "I loved teaching. It
was my world. I only left because I was overwhelmed with three
careers--teaching, writing, and my family."
During the 20 years of her teaching career, she earned an M.A. from St. John's
University, and a Professional Diploma in Reading and a Doctorate of Humane
Letters from Hofstra University. Then one morning, Giff told her husband Jim,
"I'm going to write a book. I've always wanted to write and now I shall." Jim
worked quickly to combine two adjacent closets in their apartment into one
cramped workspace and, as Giff jokes, she "began [her] career in a closet."
Giff explains, "I want the children to bubble up with laughter, or to cry over
my books. I want to picture them under a cherry tree or at the library with my
book in their hands. But more, I want to see them reading in the classroom. I
want to see children in solitude at their desks, reading, absorbing, lost in a
Giff tries to write books "that say ordinary people are special." She says, "All
of my books are based in some way on my personal experiences, or the experiences
of members of my family, or the stories kids would tell me in school."
Therefore, when she runs out of ideas for her books, Giff says, "I take a walk
and look around. Maybe I spend some time in a classroom and watch the kids for a
while. Sometimes I lie on the living room floor and remember my days in second
grade or third. If all that doesn't work, I ask Ali, or Jim, or Bill"--Giff's
children, whose names often appear in her books.
When she's not writing, Patricia Reilly Giff enjoys reading in the bathtub and
going to the movies and eating popcorn. She and her husband reside in Weston,
Connecticut. They have three children and five grandchildren. In 1990, Giff
combined her two greatest loves--children's books and her family--and, with her
husband and her children, opened The Dinosaur's Paw, a children's bookstore
named after one of her Kids of the Polk Street School novels. This store is part
of Giff's quest to bring children and books together. She and her family are
trying to "share our love of children's books and writing and to help others
explore the whole world of children's books."
Throughout the year, Giff visits schools and libraries around the country and
speaks to her readers about her books, and about writing. When discussing her
work, Giff claims, "I have no special talent, you know. I never took a writing
course before I began to write." She believes that "anyone who has problems, or
worries, anyone who laughs and cries, anyone who feels can write. It's only
talking on paper . . . talking about the things that matter to us."