Jenn Bishop is the author of five novels for young readers, including the Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner Things You Can’t Say. Her books have been named Junior Library Guild selections and Bank Street College of Education best books and have been finalists for state book awards. She currently calls Cincinnati, Ohio, home. What team do you think she roots for?
I grew up in Sturbridge, a small town in central Massachusetts, with a little brother who was four years younger than me and who I probably bossed around more than I should have. (Sorry, Bryan!) As a kid, I loved being outdoors and playing sports, even if I wasn’t particularly good at them. But I also loved reading and drawing. One of my favorite things to do when a friend came over was to sit at the kitchen table and draw. I especially loved drawing families—I’d have a name and backstory for every single person. Looking back on it now, I think I was less interested in the drawing part and much more interested in the stories I was concocting.
Much of my earliest writing was drawn from my real life. And by real life, I mean that my first book was about my pet rock Christy. (What can I say? I was a child of the 80s!) Like many writers before me, I kept diaries as a kid and teen. Lots of them. I was fortunate that creative writing was a big part of my language arts classes in elementary and junior high, and even more fortunate that my mom saved all of my childhood writing.
When it came time for college, I knew I wouldn’t be staying close to home. My whole life, I’ve been drawn to traveling and exploring new places. The University of Chicago was basically heaven for someone who loves reading and talking about nerdy things. And it didn’t hurt that my favorite library on campus, Harper Library, could pass for Hogwarts.
Four years later and with a degree in English, I did what any book-lover would do: I went to graduate school and became a librarian. I loved working with teens and children in my role as a public librarian, but there was part of me that yearned to write and publish. For two years at Vermont College of Fine Arts, I learned from some of the very best writers in the business of children’s books (Rita Williams-Garcia! Elizabeth Partridge! A.S. King!) and not long after signed a contract for my first novel, The Distance to Home, which came out in 2016. 14 Hollow Road followed in 2017, Things You Can’t Say came out right before the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Where We Used to Roam was released in March 2021. My fifth novel, Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up will be published in October 2023.
These days, I write from my home in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I live with my husband (an astrophysicist) and our cat Lilly (not an astrophysicist, though wouldn’t that be amazing). In my spare time, I love running, gardening, and rooting for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats and the Cincinnati Reds.
- Growing up, some of my favorite authors were Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Beverly Cleary, Lois Lowry, and Judy Blume.
- Once upon a time, I had fourteen hamsters. It’s . . . a long story.
- I often get asked about the most famous person I’ve ever met. I don’t know if this counts because we didn’t exactly “meet,” but I did almost literally bump into Barack Obama before he was president when we both lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. What can I say? I’ve always been a little clumsy.
- I don’t type correctly. (Shhh! Don’t tell my 9th grade typing instructor.)
- My favorite baseball players are Elly De La Cruz and Matt McClain. My favorite pro basketball player is constantly changing depending on which former Bearcats are in the NBA.
- I hate mushrooms. Just, ew.
- My first job was working in the children’s room of my local public library.
- I have watched Gilmore Girls so many times I’ve lost count.
- As a child, I never had a favorite animal, but as an adult I sure do: the American bison, or as I fondly call them, “buffies.”