THE SHORT BIO: A.B. Westrick is the author of Brotherhood (Penguin Random House 2013), a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, and winner of the Jefferson Cup, Housatonic, Jane Addams Honor, and NCSS Notable Trade Book Awards. She teaches in Western Connecticut State University’s low-residency MFA program in writing, blogs monthly about the craft of writing, and lives near Richmond, VA.
THE MEDIUM BIO: A. B. (Anne Bryan) Westrick grew up in Pennsylvania and later moved with her husband to Virginia where she spent hours walking Richmond’s brick streets, wondering how her Southern ancestors had fared during and after the Civil War. Her debut novel Brotherhood (Viking/Penguin Young Readers 2013) grew from those wonderings. Brotherhood received the Virginia Library Association’s 2014 Jefferson Cup Award, won the Housatonic Book Award for Writing for Middle Grades and YA, and was named an American Library Association 2014 Best Book for Young Adults, a National Council for the Social Studies 2014 Notable Trade Book, a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award 2014 honor book for older readers, and a Junior Library Guild selection. Westrick has been a teacher, paralegal, literacy volunteer, administrator, and coach for teams from Odyssey of the Mind to the Reading Olympics. A graduate of Stanford University and Yale Divinity School, she received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2011 and now teaches in Western Connecticut State University’s low-residency MFA program in writing. She and her family live near Richmond, VA.
THE LONG BIO: When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, my neighbor, Teri Collins, would phone on Saturday mornings, inviting me over to play. Often I’d go. But just as often, I was in the middle of a great book and couldn’t put it down. So I’d send my little sister as a substitute. Teri understood. Maybe. At least, I hope she did. I was such a bookworm.
I grew tall and skinny like my dad, and I loved to run and climb trees. I was pretty fast, and by third grade, Carmella Byrd was the only girl who could beat me. It was fun to race her. In high school I got involved with the drama group and took to sewing, making lots of my clothes, including the green and orange striped shirt I wore in my eleventh grade yearbook photo. We often played cards and board games, and had a houseful of gray cats, and for a short time, even a pet squirrel. Almost every summer, we drove south to visit our relatives and camp in state parks, including North Carolina’s Pea Island where we thought somebody should change the spelling since they didn’t have flush toilets.
I liked to write stories, but early-on it was clear that the gap between the quality of what I could write and what I loved to read (especially Newbery Award-winning books at first, and later the early novels of Ken Follett and everything by John Fowles) was so great that I couldn’t imagine how to close it. I had no understanding of process or perseverance, not to mention editing, and for a long time I stopped writing.
Math seemed easier—straight-forward answers, black or white, right or wrong—and although I loved to write, it was hard—never straight-forward but all over the place. So I went to college as a math major. But I wasn’t happy, and eventually I switched to psychology, then religious studies. I was fascinated by faith and by people and how they found meaning in their lives. I now understand that I was looking for story, but at the time I simply thought I hadn’t found my calling.
After studying theology, I got married, had four kids, and became a mega-volunteer, coaching everything from the Reading Olympics to an Odyssey of the Mind team. As the children grew, my husband and I encouraged them to pursue what they loved, and one day I asked myself, what do you love? I signed up for a creative writing class. That was over ten years ago. I cringe when I read the stories I wrote for that class. But I haven’t stopped writing. The more I write, the more I need to write, and the more time I set aside to write.
In 2006 James River Writers, a non-profit dedicated to connecting and inspiring writers and readers, hired me as their Administrative Director. For seven years, I helped run educational programs, including an annual writers conference. Working with writers was great, but it wasn’t the same as writing. I tried to write for a few hours every day before I went to the office, and now I write full time. I appreciate that writing doesn’t necessarily come easily. Writing is hard work. It takes a lot of time. But it’s my time, and it’s the best time of each day.