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Nov 12, 2012

Before becoming a novelist, Frances O’Roark Dowell created an arts magazine called Dream/Girl for 9-to-14-year-olds who wanted to become writers and artists. “I thought there ought to be a magazine for smart, creative girls,” she explains. “There are tons of girls who fit this description, though you wouldn’t know it from reading [other magazines].” Dream/Girl provided an alternative to magazines that mainly focused on how girls should look and finding boyfriends.

Born in Berlin, Germany, to an American military family, Frances spent most of her upbringing moving to places like Virginia, Kansas, and Texas, requiring her to constantly make new friends. She calls her ability to strike up conversations with strangers a survival skill, and often includes military themes in her novels, especially Shooting the Moon and The Second Life of Abigail Walker. Frances also writes a lot about life in the South. “For the most part, I write books set in places where I’ve actually lived and know the people and the streets and the weather,” says Frances, who currently lives in North Carolina.

Most important, Frances writes powerful stories about friendship, personal growth, and standing up to bullies. “What matters at the end of the day: Were you true to yourself?” she asks. “Did you stick up for the kid being bullied? Did you help out a friend in need? Did you remember that you are more than your face or your hair, that you are an amazing collection of dreams and ideas and plans and jokes and poems and stardust? Did you remember you are a genius? Were you kind to yourself? Did you open your heart? Did you let someone in?”

Find out more about Frances, her books, and her helpful writing advice on The Studio.