Barbara Dee is the award-winning author of fourteen middle grade novels, all published by Simon & Schuster. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including TheWashington Post’s Best Children’s Books, ALA Notable Children’s Books, ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, School Library Journal’s Best Middle Grade Books, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Her books appear on numerous state awards lists as well.
Barbara graduated magna cum laude from Yale with honors in English. She has a MA degree from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English and a JD degree from the University of Chicago Law School, where she was an associate editor of the law review. She has taught high school English and has practiced law. Barbara is one of the founders and a former board member of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival, now the largest children’s book festival in the country.
Barbara at age 14
Barbara in second grade
Barbara’s first book, age 5.
Ripley and Barbara doing research for Star-Crossed.
More about Barbara
Barbara grew up in Brooklyn, New York. From earliest childhood, she dreamed of becoming a children’s author– although as a little girl, she assumed the job title would be “authoress.” You can see the cover of her first “book” above, written (and illustrated!) at age five.
Once her three kids were old enough to be in school, Barbara wrote a couple of warm-up manuscripts, then JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY INSANELY REAL LIFE. The first editors to read it passed, but wrote detailed rejection letters that Barbara decided to study. She locked herself in her bedroom and wrote a second draft based on the editors’ feedback. Soon after she sent out Draft #2, Margaret McElderry/Simon & Schuster offered to publish it. Whenever kids ask if it’s tough getting published, Barbara tells them yes…and that if she hadn’t embraced those (horrible, disappointing, ego-bruising!) rejections, she wouldn’t be in print now.
Today Barbara and her husband, Chris, live in Westchester County, New York with their sweet rescue dog, Ripley and their naughty cat, Luna. When Barbara isn’t reading or writing, she roots for her favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees, and listens to her favorite band, Radiohead.
Click here for Barbara’s press kit and images for download.
Do you base your characters on yourself?
To some extent. I write fiction, not autobiography. But there’s always a bit of me in all of my main characters. I think if you don’t explore the joy and pain in your own heart, you end up writing characters who seem flat and fake.
Why do you write about tough topics like sexual harassment, climate change and mental health?
I’ve faced some tough challenges in my life, and I know many kids have, too. Reading about characters who face similar challenges can be empowering. And for kids who haven’t personally faced those challenges, reading can open their heart, and help them to develop empathy.
Oh, and by the way: just because a book is about a serious subject doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or funny! My goal is to write about serious topics in a humorous, kid-friendly way.
What advice do you have for kids who want to be writers?
First, read constantly. Read what you love. Second, get comfortable sharing your work. Find readers who will give constructive advice, and try to listen with an open mind. Third, get to love revising! Think of it as a chance to make your work the best it can be. Fourth, and most important, don’t give up!