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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Words to Live By: Frances O’Roark Dowell

Words to Live By features exclusive interviews with authors, artists, and community members.

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling author of Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award; Where I’d Like to Be; The Secret Language of Girls and its sequels; Chicken Boy; Shooting the Moon; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling In; the critically acclaimed The Second Life of Abigail Walker; the non-fiction guide for young writers titled How to Build a StoryOr, The Big What If; and many others. Since 2010 she has hosted a popular podcast about her life as a quilter, and in 2016 established a small publishing company to bring out a line of stories and novels especially for quiltmakers and quilt lovers. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband, two sons, and a dog named Travis.


July 1, 2023

Is there a book or genre that stands out in your memory from your youth?

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, The Changeling by Zilpha Keatly Snyder and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg. Those were three of my very favorites.

What kind of reader were you as a child?


What are three children’s books you think should be on every child’s bookshelf?

The Story of Ferdinand, Charlotte’s Web, and The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963

Book Harvest is proud to practice Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s theory of “Mirrors, Windows, Sliding Glass Doors,” which states that in order to become avid readers and reap the full benefits of lifelong literacy, children have to see both themselves and worlds beyond their own in the stories they read. Is there a book that you saw yourself reflected in as a child? Or one that opened new worlds for you?

Harriet the Spy was a mirror book (Harriet was a writer and she had trouble

with her friends, same as me); Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe by Bette Greene was a window book. Set in rural Pocahantas, Arkansas, it was about the everyday life of a black girl my age.

What kind of books are on your bookshelf?

Novels, essay collections, poetry, books about quilting, photography and art, and favorite children’s books from my childhood that I’ve collected over the years.

What are you reading currently?

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan.

What is your favorite place to read?

On my screened porch, with my dog Travis by my side.

Who is your favorite all-time character from a book?

Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird

If you could have dinner with three authors from any period in time, who would you pick?

James Baldwin, Walt Whitman and Nora Ephron

What are the children in your life currently reading?

Harry Potter, always!

Do you have a favorite quote from literature? If so, what is it?

It’s from William Carlos William’s poem, “The Descent”:

“No defeat is made up entirely of defeat—since the world it opens is always a place formerly unsuspected.”

We are grateful to Frances for answering our questions! You can learn more about her here.


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