Patricia C. McKissack

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Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Patricia L'Ann Carwell was born on August 9, 1944 in Smyrna, Tennessee, to Robert and Erma Carwell, both civil servants.

At the age of three, Patricia moved to St. Louis, Missouri, with her parents. When they divorced, Patricia stayed in St. Louis with her paternal grandparents; her mother and siblings returned to Tennessee. After spending these formative years with her father's parents, Patricia returned to her mother and siblings.

Patricia loved writing as a young child. She enjoyed taking control of the words and creating her own stories. Her grandfather, teachers, parents and friends influenced her creativity. She fondly remembers hanging a poem she wrote on her third grade bulletin board.

Patricia received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964 from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State University, now Tennessee State University. She married Fredrick L. McKissack on December 12, 1964. They raised three children: Fredrick L., Jr., and twins Robert and John.

Patricia taught junior high school English in Kirkwood, Missouri, from 1968 to 1975. In 1975, she worked as a part-time instructor in English at Forest Park College in St. Louis, Missouri. Patricia earned a Masters of Arts degree from Webster University in 1975. From 1976 to 1981, she worked as a children's book editor at Concordia Publishing House. She became an instructor at the University of Missouri in St. Louis in 1978 and a co-owner of All-Writing Services. In 1984, she joined the Institute of Children's Literature. Patricia is an educational consultant.

Patricia and Fredrick began collaborating in 1982 when they both faced turning points in their careers. When Fredrick asked her, "If you could do anything you want to do in this whole wide world for the rest of your life, what would you do?" Patricia responded, "Write books." Her husband said he'd like to join her. With their children, they began making that dream a reality. They published their first book in 1984.

It is hard to separate the lives of Patricia and Fredrick. As childhood friends and sweethearts, they share their experiences of growing up and write as if they were one person.

As children maturing in the 1960s, the McKissacks experienced a time of violent sit-ins, protests, and the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. These events shaped their lives. Much of their optimism comes from the Kennedy era when people sought to end segregation and discrimination. For Patricia, the harsh events tempered her positive attitude and combined to produce the variety and depth she generates in her books.

Over 100 books and nearly twenty years later, the McKissacks keep writing. Most of the books they write are biographies and nonfiction works about the history of African Americans. Fredrick likes researching the books, and Patricia puts the words to paper.

As well as collaborations with Fredrick, Patricia writes books using her own name. Writing historical fiction and biographies for children, she focuses on religious as well as African-American themes. Her love of writing is partly inspired by her work as an English instructor for junior high and college students.

The author is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Patricia encourages would-be writers, particularly African Americans, to earn a living in writing. "It's hard work, but you can make a living. And we need more black voices; we need different points of view."

Patricia enjoys traveling the world, entertaining, and touring old houses. She lives in Chesterfield, Missouri, with Fredrick.

Fredrick Lemuel McKissack was born to Lewis Winter, an architect, and Bessye (Fizer) McKissack, on August 12, 1939 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Fredrick served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1957 to 1960. He returned to Tennessee and graduated with a bachelor of science degree from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State University in 1964. He married his childhood sweetheart and friend Patricia L'Ann Carwell on...

(The entire section is 1,050 words.)