Judith Ann Jance was born in Watertown, South Dakota, on October 27, 1944, the third child of a large family. Because she was four years younger than the second child and four years older than the fourth, she was left alone for much of her childhood, making her an avid reader and a good student. In second grade, she read L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908) and knew she wanted to be a writer.
Raised in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance graduated from Bisbee High School in 1962. She attended the University of Arizona on an academic scholarship and became the first member of her family to attend a four-year college. She graduated in 1966 with a degree in English and secondary education, received her masters in education in library science in 1970, taught high school English at Pueblo High School in Tucson for two years, and was a librarian for five years at Indian Oasis School District in Sells, Arizona.
Jance had wanted to be a writer since she was in the second grade but became frustrated when University of Arizona officials told her that she could not enroll in the creative writing program because she was a woman. She married a man who was enrolled in the program, Jerry Jance, in 1967; however, he never published anything. Jance has stated that he imitated Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner by “drinking too much and writing too little.” When an editor in New York expressed interest in a children’s story that Jance had written, her husband told her he was the only writer in their family, and Jance let the matter drop.
While Jance was married, she secretly wrote poetry about the deterioration of her marriage to an alcoholic and her unintentional denial and codependence. The poems chronicle the defeat of a woman whose love was destroyed but found the strength and will to go on with her life. After the Fire (1984) was republished in 2004 with annotations by Jance about where she was...
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