Brenda Ferber grew up in Highland Park, Illinois, the third of four children. Her dad is a doctor, and her mom is an artist. Even though her family had its share of fights, she thought it was the greatest family in the world. She always felt loved and knew she could accomplish whatever she set her mind to. Brenda's mom says she was a natural born leader, but her brother and sisters say she liked to boss people around. Guess it goes to show you how important point-of-view can be!
Dad & Mom, Lisa, Larry
Brenda is close with all her siblings. Her sister Lisa has lived in Israel, New York, and California, but finally settled down with her family in Chicago. Her brother Larry and his family live just two blocks away from Brenda. And her younger sister Micky lives nearby, too. Brenda and Micky look so much alike that people often ask if they're twins. Sometimes they say yes! When they were kids, Brenda and Micky shared a bedroom, and Brenda used to make up stories for Micky at bedtime. Brenda was never very good at figuring out the endings to her stories, so she'd tell Micky to go to sleep and dream the end. When she wasn't making up stories, she was reading to Micky or to herself.
Brenda & Micky
Brenda didn't always have her nose in a book, though. She played with friends (four-square and anything make-believe were her favorite games), went to Hebrew school, took tennis lessons and theatre classes, wrote in her diary, and best of all went to summer camp at Camp Birch Knoll in Northern Wisconsin (the basis for her novel, Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire).
Camp Birch Knoll!
In elementary school Brenda discovered Judy Blume's books. She was astonished by how they seemed to be written about her! Judy captured her heart and soul in the pages of her books. Brenda decided right then to become a children's book author.
As a teen, Brenda's dreams of becoming an author drifted away. She focused her energy instead on fitting in with the crowd. Who had time to write stories when there were parties, sleepovers, homework, report cards, permanent records, SATs, and such? And an even bigger question: Who was she to think she had the talent to become an author? Her confidence had gone into hiding.
Thankfully, Brenda rediscovered her confidence and happiness at the University of Michigan, even though she kept her author dream safely filed under, "outlandish childhood aspirations that will only come true if all the planets align properly, I find a four leaf clover, and a guardian angel puts in a good word for me." Brenda loved everything about college, from the classes, to the people to the football team. She made life-long friends, and best of all, she met Alan, a cute, smart, funny guy who eventually became her husband!
After graduation, Brenda and Alan moved to Chicago. Brenda worked at an advertising agency but quit when she gave birth to twins. A year and a half later, they had a third child. Brenda was up to her eyeballs in diapers and babies who all needed her attention. Not quite the perfect time to try to write, but being around kids and books reignited her old writing fantasy. She was determined to give it a shot no matter how bad the odds of success were. She hired a babysitter for three hours each week, and that became her writing time. It wasn't much, but it was wonderful, refreshing, and hers.
Brenda started out writing stories that were accepted by Ladybug magazine. She also wrote several picture book manuscripts that collected 130 rejection letters over the course of three years! She immersed herself in children's fiction at her library. Wow! What amazing authors she found...Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech, Patricia MacLachlan, Linda Sue Park, Jack Gantos, Lois Lowry... Brenda wanted to do what they did. She wanted to write novels that could touch a child's heart and soul. Eventually she found the courage to try.
Brenda worked on JULIA'S KITCHEN for a year and a half while her kids were in school. She had no idea if anyone outside of her family or her critique group would like it, but she submitted it to the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Competition, and it won! And then, joy of joys, Farrar Straus & Giroux decided to publish it! JULIA'S KITCHEN received rave reviews, and Brenda soon sold her next novel, JEMMA HARTMAN, CAMPER EXTRAORDINAIRE, and a picture book, THE YUCKIEST, STINKIEST, BEST VALENTINE EVER (illustrated by Tedd Arnold, published by Dial, 2012).
Brenda doesn't know much about planets, clovers, or guardian angels, but she feels like the luckiest person in the world. She has a healthy, loving family, and she's made her childhood dream come true. What more could a person want?
Check out these interviews with Brenda!
Birthday: April 23, 1967
Astrological Sign: Taurus (That stubborn streak got her past 130 rejection letters!)
Favorite Book: As a child, Brenda's favorite books were BLUBBER by Judy Blume and BEAT THE TURTLE DRUM by Constance Greene. Now, she has too many favorites to list, but you can click here to read more about her favorite books and authors.
Middle Name: The "A" in Brenda A. Ferber stands for her maiden name, Aaronson. But her middle name is actually Gail. And for reasons she can't explain, her sister calls her Brenda Sue.
Family: Husband: Alan. Kids: Jacob, Faith, and Sammy.
Dog: A Mini Whoodle named Ozzy.
Hobbies: Karate, Scrapbooking, and Baking
Unusual Talent: Interpreting dreams.
Talent She Wishes She Had: Singing without everyone running for cover.
Things She Loves: (In no particular order) Homemade chocolate chip cookies, Camp Birch Knoll, changing seasons, family get-togethers, grande vanilla skim lattes, University of Michigan, reading a fabulous book, mail from an old friend, Chicago, optimism, falling asleep on the beach, friendly people, acceptance letters, and pedicures.
Things She Hates: Rudeness, grocery shopping, figuring out what's for dinner, and raisins.
Favorite Quote: This quote, by Walt Disney, was told to Brenda by Gary Baier, the director of Camp Birch Knoll. Brenda was only 15 years old at the time, but it stuck in her head and has guided her ever since.
"Think about the person you'd like to become. Believe in yourself based on the thinking you've done. Dream big dreams based on your belief in yourself. Dare to make your dreams come true. Think...Believe...Dream...Dare...Become the person you know you can be."