I grew up the much youngest of five kids in a family of readers and travelers. Our house on Long Island, close to the beach and a short train ride from New York City, sometimes felt like a terminal, humming with people embarking on or returning from journeys both inward and outward. My older brothers and sisters dubbed me “the little reporter” since I eavesdropped and took notes. I’ve been keeping journals for about 50 years! After vacations, the house settled into library quiet, and as the (temporary) only child of older parents, I spent many hours with my nose in books. They filled shelves in almost every room. I started with Landmark biographies and Enid Blyton’s Noddy tales, worked my way through Nancy Drew and Sydney Taylor’s All-of-A-Kind Family, and graduated from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia to novels by Edna Ferber, Irving Stone, Morris West, and many more.
I went to boarding school and then to Harvard/Radcliffe, where I took pre-med classes but majored in folklore and mythology, concentrating on American social history. After a year off, during which I volunteered with Mother Teresa for two months in India and traveled on my own across Asia, I dropped science from my studies and kept my focus on oral history and writing.
I’m curious, which has made me a serial student: I have master’s degrees in American studies (University of Texas) and Arab studies (Georgetown), as well as an MFA in creative writing (University of Virginia). Love of learning has also made me an itinerant employee. I’ve worked as a newspaper copy editor, academic journal editor, public relations coordinator, college writing center coordinator, teacher (briefly in high school but mostly in higher ed), and longtime freelance writer. The golden thread of my career is putting ideas into words; I figure out what I think through writing, both fiction and nonfiction. It’s an honor to share people’s stories and to help them write their own.
Along the way, I’ve published hundreds of articles for adults and children and a dozen books for young readers, including the picture book Under the Ramadan Moon and the YA novel, The Milk of Birds, a finalist for the Amelia Walden award for YA fiction given by the National Council of Teachers of English. In 2014 The Milk of Birds also made the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer List for books with significant feminist content, the International Reading Association’s list of Notable Book Books for a Global Society, and Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Books of the Year.
I live in Sarasota, Florida, where I teach professional and creative writing at Ringling College of Art and Design. My son and daughter are flying the nest, so my desk-side companion is Zulu, an 8-pound rescue shorkie who flunked out of obedience school.
For more about my work, please visit: www.sylviawhitmanbooks.com.
Regal House Publishing and Fitzroy Books are delighted to bring you Sylvia’s next book, If You Meet the Devil, Don’t Shake Hands, in the fall of 2023.