Patricia Windsor was born in the Bronx, New York, on September 21, 1938, and began writing at about age ten, accumulating no fewer than thirty-five rejection slips from Seventeen magazine by the time she graduated from high school. Abandoning the idea of writing as a career, she studied modern dance at Bennington College and at Westchester Community College (her associate's degree is from New York University), only to have her writing skills land her post-college employment as an editor and copywriter— including a stint on the staff of Mademoiselle magazine and as a senior editor at Harper and Row. In the early 1970s, she worked in London, England, as a counselor at a family planning association and at the National Council of Social Services, bringing her into direct contact with the special challenges commonly faced by the young. More recently, she has taught creative writing at the University of Maryland's Writer's Institute. She resides in New Jersey.
Windsor turned to writing books for young audiences only after marrying and having two children of her own. A friend gave her a copy of Paul Zindel's My Darling, My Hamburger, a work which convinced her that books for young adults could address authentic problems and issues, in stark and telling contrast, she says, to "the goody-goody Nancy Drews I had read as a kid." The result of this discovery was her first novel, the award-winning The Summer Before, about the emotional breakdown of a young girl following the accidental death of her boyfriend. The Summer Before remains Windsor's best-selling book.
The Summer Before was cited in 1973 as a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association; in a German-language translation, it was honored with the Austrian State Award for Books for Youth in 1981. In 1976, Diving for Roses was named by the New York Times as an Outstanding Book for Young Adults, while in 1985 Windsor's The Sandman's Eyes won the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America.