Here is a letter from Donna Jo to her readers, which answers many of the questions that she gets. After the letter you can find her biography.
I love to write. I didn't grow up wanting to be a writer, but I'm so lucky that I stumbled across writing. Writing allows me to find out about the world. If I write a story about soccer, I get to go to soccer games for a while. If I write a story about lions, I get to visit the zoo and read about lions for a while and, if I'm extra super lucky, I get to go to Africa (which is what I did when I researched for the book BEAST). Writing is wonderful that way.
People often ask me what my favorite books are by me and by others. In a sense, I love all the books I've written. But some of my books have been very hard to write -- even terrifying at times, while others are a joy to write. I find animal stories really fun to dig into. And I find most historical fairy tales really disturbing to work on. But I do love them all. My favorite book for children that someone else wrote is A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. My favorite adult authors are Laurie Colwin, Anne Enright, Anne Tyler, and Toni Morrison, but really I love so many authors' works. And I have lots and lots of favorite children's authors.
None of my books are autobiographical. But I often do get my ideas from real life. Something will happen and I will simply elaborate on it and change it and mold it until I have a story that feels new and exciting to me.
If you want to be a writer, I have advice for you. Write a lot. And write all kinds of things: poems, stories, essays, recipes, e-mails, letters, journals, anything. The more you write, the better you'll get at it.
Thank you for reading my books. You are the reason why I write.
Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's fiction.
She is married to a professor of Health Law. Here he is below in the west, just before throwing that beauty back into the river. And here he is to the right, in the glory of a national park. And below that waiting for Donna Jo at her office.
Below is a hedgehog and a donkey that Barry and Donna Jo met in Geneva, Switzerland.
Donna Jo has five children and eight grandchildren. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden, bake bread, dance, and make pottery.
At various times her house and yard have been filled with dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. For thirteen years she had a cat named Taxi, and liked to go outside and call, "Taxi!" to make the neighbors wonder. But dear dear Taxi died in 2009.
Taxi lives on, however, as a character in the SLY THE SLEUTH series. Above is a picture of the old, real Taxi.
Below are foxes that have lived in Barry and Donna Jo's yard at various times. Someday Donna Jo hopes to write a fox book.
Donna Jo's novel BEAST (2000) took place in Persia in 1500. It was translated into Farsi, the language of Iran (the land we used to call Persia). Because of this, in February and March, 2005, Donna Jo got invited to Iran, to give a talk at a children's literature festival. You can read about that visit by clicking here.