A Field Guide to Northeast Ohio YA Authors

A Field Guide to Northeast Ohio YA Authors


As we move into the holiday gift giving season, no gift is more elusive than that for the tweener or teenager in your life. You want to get them something cool, something thoughtful, something that hints you might even understand them. While you could just go the lazy route and get them an iTunes gift card, you could also get them a book written by one of the many young adult authors living and working in Northeast Ohio. There are more of them than you might think, and they’re working across all genres. You’re sure to find a title or two that will satisfy the young adult in your life (and make you look pretty hip in the process).

However, it can be difficult to identify these writers if you don’t know what you’re looking for. To help you, Cool Cleveland offers a Field Guide to Northeast Ohio Young Adult Authors.


Name: Cinda Williams Chima
Alternate names: none
Best known for: The Heir Chronicles (The Warrior Heir, The Wizard Heir, The Dragon Heir) and the Seven Realms series (The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, with two more to come).
Identifying characteristics: All of my books so far have been fantasy fiction; my first series was set in Ohio; the new series in a high fantasy world called The Seven Realms. All of my books are about transformation, since that is the business of adolescents.
Habitat: Currently living in Strongsville. My website is http://CindaChima.com.
Migratory patterns: I didn’t travel far; I was born in Springfield, OH, and save for a brief sojourn in Little Rock, Arkansas, in junior high school, have lived in Ohio all my life.
What makes Northeast Ohio such a fertile breeding ground for writers?: We have fabulous libraries in Ohio—as Neil Gaiman says, I was a feral child, raised in libraries. Also, we are a land of contrasts. We have beautiful, golden days to inspire us, and bad weather days that keep us indoors and at our work.


Name: J. T. (Jen) Dutton [pictured, right]
Alternate names: My real name is Jeanne. Everyone calls me Jen. I invented J. T. just as a way of keeping my writing and my day-to-day separate.
Best known for: Freaked (HarperTeen 2009), Stranded (HarperTeen 2010)
Identifying characteristics: Freaked and Stranded are both about teenagers at risk, kids who aren’t necessarily getting good guidance or making socially approved decisions about their lives. I focus on these kinds of stories because I admire people who chart their own course to adulthood, who draw their own moral conclusions.
Habitat: I live in Garrettsville, Ohio and teach at Hiram College. Here are some of my online addresses: http://www.JTDutton.com, http://Facebook.com/j.t.dutton, http://Twitter.com/jtdutton and http://www.GoodReads.com/author/show/1761980.J_T_Dutton. I blog about my son’s Aspergers at: http://JTDutton.livejournal.com.
Migratory patterns: I’m from Connecticut, my husband, Jeff, is from Minnesota. We met in Alaska while we were both earning master’s degrees. Jeff received a Ph.D from the University of Iowa and was recruited by Hiram College. I came along for the ride.
What makes Northeast Ohio such a fertile breeding ground for writers?: I’ve only lived in the area for three years, but I’m impressed by the writing programs and writers’ resources I’ve encountered here. At Hiram, undergraduates can take a writing major that is taught as seriously and with as close an eye to professionalism as a nursing major. Ohio itself is a dramatic and interesting setting. Stories seem to be falling out of the woodwork here.


Name: Linda Gerber
Alternate Names: None
Best known for: The Death by Bikini Mysteries (Death by Bikini, Death by Latte, and Death by Denim), and my new release, Trance.
Identifying characteristics: I enjoy reading mysteries, so all my books have elements of mystery and suspense in them.
Habitat: I currently live in Dublin, Ohio, and can be found online at http://LindaGerber.com, http://LindaGerber.blogspot.com, and on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/gerbsan.
Migratory patterns: My husband and I moved to Ohio after college *mumble* years ago. Jobs took us to Arizona, Michigan (I know, I know), and Japan, then back home to Ohio.
What makes Northeast Ohio such a fertile breeding ground for writers?: For me, a supportive writing community.


Name: Angela Johnson
Alternate names: I have no alternate name, although sometimes I wish my parents had named me Victoria. When I ask them why they didn’t, they look confused and refuse to comment.
Best known for: My most best-selling book is the novel The First Part Last; although I don’t believe I’m personally known for writing it. I don’t go out much.
Identifying characteristics: My writing for young children tends to focus on family themes: siblings, relatives, and family life takes precedence in my work for the little ones. I do gravitate from those themes occasionally with humor. Wild pigs (Julius), music playing toddlers (Violet’s Music) and radical runaway balloons (The Day Ray Got Away) are a great departure from my usual writing style. I also try to use Northeastern Ohio as a setting for my teen novels every time I can. It is so much easier to write what you know and where you know it. Northeastern Ohio–I know and am comfortable in it.
Habitat: I live in Kent in an old Victorian house that is lovely but cranky. It seems to turn on modern conveniences like plumbing and electric lights. I can be found at http://VisitingAuthors.com (website for information on my author appearances). I’ve been nudged by my agent to get my own website. Well… nudged, bullied whatever. Maybe I will.
Migratory patterns: My parents moved to Northeastern Ohio when I was around one years old. I stayed here as I was not asked to leave the area by any legal authority or villagers with torches. Plus I love it here. I attended Kent State, moved to Cleveland Heights to have fun for a year with all my friends who were done with school. After most of them got real jobs I moved back to Kent. I still don’t have one of those “real” jobs. But it’s a job I love.
What makes Northeast Ohio such a fertile breeding ground for writers?: I really don’t know why writers breed here. Or was the question why we stay here? Sorry. Seriously though, I think that you can make a living easier as a writer in Ohio. The cost of living is lower than on the east or west coasts. And maybe there is just an aura of storytelling that hangs over Ohio. People pass through going other places but sometimes just stop and stay. Personally, I am very close to my family, who are local. Also it helps that I am inspired by the extremes of weather we get in Ohio. One day it’s in the 70s, the next day there could be a snowstorm that might trap you inside your home. It’s great for my creativity.


Name: Mara Purnhagen
Best known for: Tagged (Harlequin Teen, March 2010); Past Midnight series (Harlequin Teen), Past Midnight (September 2010), Raising the Dead (novella, January 2011), One Hundred Candles (March 2011), Beyond the Grave, Italic (September 2011)
Identifying characteristics: Quirky mysteries and a coming-of age theme pop up in most of my books. So far, my novels have been set in South Carolina, where I lived for nearly ten years. After I finish the Past Midnight series, my books will be set in Ohio.
Habitat: I live outside Cleveland.
Website: http://www.MaraPurnhagen.com
LiveJournal: http://MaraPurn.livejournal.com
Facebook: http://Facebook.com/mara.purnhagen
Migratory patterns: I was raised in Michigan, attended college at the University of Dayton, and moved to South Carolina in 1999. I returned to Ohio in 2008, and while I’m still readjusting to the long winters, I absolutely love autumn here!
What makes Northeast Ohio such a fertile breeding ground for writers?: I suspect the cold months are a factor. I tend to read more during the winter, which in turn leads me to writing more. Also, this truly is a beautiful state. The park system in the Cleveland area is the best, and a walk outside is often a great source of inspiration.


Name: Lisa and Laura Roecker
Alternate names: Lila (get it? LIsa+LAura). We write under our maiden name, Roecker.
Best known for: The Liar Society (Sourcebooks Fire, March 2011)
Identifying characteristics: The Liar Society (Sourcebooks, 2011) mystery series is set in a fictional private school in Shaker Heights called Pemberly Brown. Kate Lowry, our main character, receives an email from her dead best friend. The emails keep coming, and she sets out to solve the mystery behind her friend’s mysterious death.
Habitat: Lisa lives in University Heights, and Laura lives in Hudson. Can be found online at: http://www.LisaAndLauraRoecker.com and http://Lisa-Laura.blogspot.com.
Migratory patterns: Lisa lived in Chicago with her husband for a few years. When she got pregnant, she moved back to Cleveland to be near her family with the added benefit of free babysitting. Laura lived in Baltimore with her husband for a few years. She’s a total follower, so she moved back to Cleveland after she got pregnant too.
What makes Northeast Ohio such a fertile breeding ground for writers?: The writing community in general is super-supportive. Once we connected with other Cleveland-based writers online, it was only a matter of time before we met in real life! We now have a Young Adult book club we started through Joseph Beth where we meet once a month to discuss all things Young Adult. We’ve loved getting to know writers in the area!


Name: Tricia Springstubb
Alternate Names: I only go by Tricia Springstubb–it’s wild enough!
Best known for: I’ve written for all ages, really–from picture books to adult fiction. I guess I’m best known for my books for middle grade, kids ages 9 to 12, also called “tweens.” My most recent novel, What Happened on Fox Street, is for that age, though I hope any reader can enjoy it.
Identifying characteristics: I write a lot about family, whether it’s husbands and wives, fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers. All the drama and nuance I want is right there on the domestic stage. I set a lot of things in Cleveland–it’s an under-used place!
Habitat: I’ve lived in Cleveland Heights for over 20 years. You can also find me at http://TriciaSpringstubb.com.
Migratory patterns: I grew up in New York, and met my husband while living in Boston. He persuaded me to move to Cleveland “just to try it out.” That was the best gamble I ever took.
What makes Northeast Ohio such a fertile breeding ground for writers?: I’ve never been part of another writing community, but how could there ever be one more nurturing than Cleveland’s? We’re all in this together here. The city’s cheap, it’s laid back, we have terrific libraries, the Lit, great reading series… What more could a writer want?


Name: Megan Whalen Turner
Alternate names: None
Best known for: The series of books that began with The Thief, Newbery Honor winner in 1997 and continued with The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and the recently released A Conspiracy of Kings.
Identifying characteristics: Turner is easily recognized by her twisty plots, the Mediterranean coloration of her preferred setting, her pantheons of Gods and Goddesses and the snark-like vocalizations from her main character.
Habitat: She is often sighted near the Nature Center of Shaker Lakes or in the woods of Southerly Park and can be found online at http://MeganWhalenTurner.org.
Migratory patterns: Turner has been known to fly off to other nesting sites for more than a year at a time. She has recently returned from California and will be settling for a year in Norway in 2011.
What makes Northeast Ohio such a fertile breeding ground for writers?: Turner is no doubt drawn to the area by the congeniality of its other residents and by the opportunities it affords for the care and feeding of the young. That and the beautiful fall colors.


Unconfirmed sightings: Rhonda Stapleton (Stupid Cupid series, Simon Pulse); Scott Tracey (Witch Eyes, Flux, Fall 2011), and Leah Clifford (A Touch Mortal, Greenwillow Books, February 2011).


When Cool Cleveland contributor Susan Petrone is not writing an arts or culture article for Cool Cleveland, she writes fiction. Her first novel, A Body at Rest, was published in early 2009 by Drinian Press. An excerpt from the novel and some of her published short fiction are available at http://www.SusanPetrone.com.

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