Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling author of over twenty books for young readers, including Dovey Coe (winner of a 2001 Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award); The Secret Language of Girls trilogy, Chicken Boy (an ALA Notable Book and an NCTE Notable Book), Shooting the Moon (winner of the Christopher Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award honor book), and most recently, the Sam the Man books, a chapter book series for early readers. She has also published fiction for adult readers, including Stars Upon Stars, a novel, and the story collection, Margaret Goes Modern and Other Stories.
Dowell, an Army brat, was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1964, and spent much of her childhood in transit, touching down in Virginia, Texas, Kansas, and again in Germany as a teen. She attended three elementary schools, one middle school, and three high schools, graduating from Killeen High School (TX), home of the Fightin’ Kangaroos, in 1982. The world’s worst English major (she should have majored in Anthropology; that much is clear now) and a fairly subpar student in general, Dowell nonetheless graduated Wake Forest University in 1986. She received her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1990 and promptly moved back to North Carolina, mostly for the weather, but also for the barbecue (eastern-style), and the usefulness of y’all as both a singular and plural pronoun.
Dowell was joined in holy matrimony to Clifton P. Dowell in 1994, in the living room of their east Tennessee rental home by a Baptist preacher who was rumored to moonlight as an Elvis impersonator. Their union has produced two sons, Jack Dulaney Dowell (b. 1999) and William Cole Dowell (born 2002). The Dowells have made their home in Durham, NC, since 2002.
Along with writing and molding her sons into men of distinction (or at the very least high school graduates—one down, one to go), quiltmaking occupies much of Dowell’s time. She began making quilts in 2007 and started a quilting podcast, “The Off-Kilter Quilt,” in 2010. Dowell has a deep interest in quilt history and the documention of quilts and the quilting community. In 2015, she and her husband made a short documentary on Uncle Eli’s Quilting Party, an annual quilting event that began in 1931, in Alamance County, NC.