LEARNING ABOUT
NICOLE ST. JOHN/NORMA JOHNSON

Kay E. Vandergrift


BIOGRAPHY

"Who am I? I'm Nicole St.John, Norma Johnston, Lavinia Harris, Kate Chambers, Pamela Dryden, Catherine E. Chambers, Pamela Dryden, Elizabeth Bolton, and Adrian Robert. I've written about ninety books so far. I'm an author, editor, ghostwriter, entrepreneur, actress, director, designer, stylist, retailer, teacher, counselor, and (as some critics have said, and I'm proud of it) preacher. Those aren't just job labels; they're who I am, how I use the talents I've been given--because that we all do have talents of one kind or another, and a responsibility to use them for the common good, is one of the things I most surely believe."

"All the pieces of my life have overlapped; everything comes round, not full circle, but in spirals. Everything hooks back onto the center, then spins out again. The circle of rock on which my life is built are these: my grandmother, and the family heritage I was born into; books I've read or written; plays I've seen or been in or directed. Also my faith, and the church I became deeply involved in as a teenager--and my theatre training, for in a weird and wonderful way these two interpreted and illumined each other and all the rest."

"The roots of my family tree stretch on my mother's side back to the Dutch Metselaars and Van Zandts who colonized New Amsterdam in 1632, and to the English Pierces who migrated to Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1630 and from there to New York some hundred years later. On my father's side I come from English and Scottish families who also settled the Middle Atlantic colonies before the American Revolution. All these strong-willed, Calvinist, fiercely independent (my grandmother called it "pigheaded") men and women have been a major influence on me, and on my writing, through the anecdotes, customs, and values that were passed down through the generations."

"I was born into a family living in Ridgewood, New Jersey (in the house described in Shadow of Unicorn and Ready or Not), and (with side excursions to Boston, New York and elsewhere) have lived in the Ridgewood area ever since. An only child, I was dragged to many family reunions of my grandparents' generation--that's where I picked up the family stories I used as a basis of my Keeping Days series. I was graduated from high school when I was barely sixteen, later studied acting at the American Theatre Wing and elsewhere, and received a teaching certificate from Montclair College (where I went when I was thirty-something). I worked in fashion publishing and retailing, which is where I learned about the "image game." I read voraciously--especially mysteries, to which my family was addicted. In between all my other careers I wrote, and ever since The Keeping Days was published writing has been my full-time vocation."

"I write in a romantic, often gothic style because I know from experience and from theatre that when you draw people into the circle of a rosy glow, they become more open to the thrust of truth. I write about young people facing today's realities without flinching. I write mysteries, detective stories, and suspense stories because they deal with the universal struggle between good and evil--and besides, they're fun! I am a "daughter of the Puritans," which led me to write about Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe. I write about love--in all the different meanings of the word--and about family, and all of that word's different meanings. I write a great deal about broken and blended and nonrelated families, because I see so much of that about me, plus I've had them in my own extended family and know they aren't the end of the world. Above all, I write ofKeeping Days that remain in our memories forever: of turning points in which we go from innocence to knowledge; of abstract truths I believe to be unchanging in a changing world. And of facing change without feeling threatened by it. My grandmother used to say, "This world's going to keep turning whether you want it to or not, and you'd better go forward with it or you'll find yourself going backward!"

"I still believe ("in spite of everything," as Anne Frank wrote) that mankind has at heart the potential for good as well as evil; that life is no mere accident or dirty joke, but has patterns and meaning and purpose. To me, that's realism. And it's why I write."

Adapted by the author from her essay in Speaking for Ourselves: Autobiographical Sketches by Notable Authors of Books for Young Adults. Donald R. Gallo, Ed., National Council of Teachers of English, 1990. All rights reserved by the author.

Permission granted from the author to Kay E. Vandergrift for use in this website.


ADDITIONAL ASPECTS OF HER WRITING

In the crime-writing field, Nicole St.John was organizer and first president of the Midlantic Chapter of Sisters in Crime and organizer of its "Left Bank of the Hudson" group, organizer of Sisters in Crime's Mysteries for Minors group, Middle Atlantic Region correspondent for the Sisters in Crime Newsletter, and a member of Sisters in Crime (international). She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Authors Guild, and is founding chair of The Ngaio Marsh Society International. She is past council chair of Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature and past chair of its noted "One-on-One" writers conference. In regional theatre, she was an Advisory Board member of Stepping Stone Theatre, founder/producer of Bandbox Theatre, and co-founder and director of the Geneva Players. As a businesswoman she is owner and president of Dryden Harris St.John, Inc. and St.John Enterprises. Her wide-ranging professional and volunteer experiences have, according to critics, "contributed immeasurably to her enormous rapport with the young in spirit of any age."


BIBLIOGRAPHY


FICTION AND NON-FICTION FOR ADULTS AND YOUNG ADULTS

BIOGRAPHY AND HISTORY

Norma Johnston. Harriet: The Life and World of Harriet Beecher Stowe. New York: Four Winds, 1994/BeechTree 1996.
Norma Johnston. Louisa May: The World and Works of Louisa May Alcott. New York: Four Winds, 1992/BeechTree,1996.
Norma Johnson. Remember the Ladies: The First Women's Rights Convention. New York: Scholastic, 1995.

HISTORICAL FICTION FOR MIDDLE-SCHOOL READERS

Norma Johnston. Lotta's Progress. New York: Avon, 1997.
Norma Johnston. Over Jordan. New York: Avon, 1997.

FICTION AND FICTION SERIES FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Norma Johnston. The Image Game. New York: BridgeWater Books, 1994/WestWind, 1995.
Norma Johnston. The Potter's Wheel. New York: Morrow, 1988.
Norma Johnston. Timewarp Summer. New York: Atheneum, 1982.
Norma Johnston. The Crucible Year. New York: Atheneum, 1979.
Norma Johnston. The Swallow's Song. New York: Atheneum, 1978.
Norma Johnston. If You Love Me, Let Me Go. New York: Atheneum, 1978.
m Norma Johnston. Of Time and of Seasons. New York: Atheneum, 1975.
Norma Johnston. A Striving After Wind. New York: Atheneum, 1976.
Norma Johnston. The Bridge Between. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1966.
Norma Johnston. Ready or Not. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1965.
Norma Johnston. The Wider Heart. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1964.
Norma Johnston. The Wishing Star. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1963.
Pamela Dryden. Mask for My Heart. New York: New American Library, 1982.
Lavinia Harris. New World for Kristin. New York: Avon, 1997.

The Keeping Days Series(Young Adults & Adults)

Titles are in series order.
Norma Johnston. The Keeping Days. New York: Atheneum, 1974/Penguin, 1990.
Norma Johnston. Glory in the Flower. New York: Atheneum, 1974/Penguin, 1990.
Norma Johnston. The Sanctuary Tree. New York: Atheneum, 1977.
Norma Johnston. A Mustard Seed of Magic. New York: Atheneum, 1977.
Norma Johnston. A Nice Girl Like You. New York: Atheneum, 1980.
Norma Johnston. Myself and I. New York: Atheneum, 1981.

The Carlisle Chronicles Series (Young Adults)

Titles are in series order.
Norma Johnston. Carlisle's Hope. New York: Bantam, 1986.
Norma Johnson. To Jess, With Love and Memories. New York: Bantam, 1986.
Norma Johnston. Carlisles All. New York: Bantam, 1986.

MYSTERY, SUSPENSE AND MYSTERY SERIES FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Norma Johnston. The Dragon's Eye. New York: Four Winds/Macmillan, 1990.
Norma Johnston. The Time of the Cranes. New York: Four Winds/Macmillan, 1990.
Norma Johnston. The Delphic Choice. New York: Four Winds/Macmillan, 1989.
Norma Johnston. Return to Morocco. New York: Four Winds/Macmillan, 1988.
Norma Johnston. Whisper of the Cat. New York: Bantam, 1988.
Norma Johnston. Shadow of a Unicorn. New York: Bantam, 1987.
Norma Johnston. Watcher in the Mist. New York: Bantam, 1986.
Norma Johnston. Gabriel's Girl. New York: Macmillan, 1983; Fawcett/Juniper, 1984.
Lavinia Harris. Dreams and Memories. New York: Scholastic, 1982.

The Computer Detectives Series (Young Adults)

Lavinia Harris. The Great Rip-Off. New York: Scholastic, 1984.
Lavinia Harris. Soaps in the Afternoon. New York: Scholastic, 1985.
Lavinia Harris. A Touch of Madness New York: Scholastic, 1985.
Lavinia Harris. Cover-Up! New York: Scholastic, 1986.
Lavinia Harris. The Packaging of Hank and Cecilia. New York: Scholastic, 1986.

The Diana Winthrop Detective Series (Young Adults)

Titles are in series order.
Kate Chambers. The Secret of the Singing Strings. New York: New American Library, 1983.
Kate Chambers. Danger in the Old Fort. New York: New American Library, 1983.
Kate Chambers. The Case of the Dog-Lover's Legacy. New American Library, 1983.
Kate Chambers. Secrets on Beacon Hill. New York: New American Library, 1984.
Kate Chambers. The Legacy of Lucian Van Zandt. New American Library, 1984.
Kate Chambers. The Threat of the Pirate Ship. New York: New American Library, 1984.

MYTHOLOGY NOVELS (Young Adults & Adults)

Norma Johnston. The Days of the Dragon's Seed. New York: Atheneum, 1982.
Norma Johnston. Pride of Lions: The Story of the House of Atreus. New York: Atheneum, 1979.
Norma Johnston. Strangers Dark and Gold. New York: Atheneum, 1975.

FOR MIDDLE-SCHOOL READERS

Norma Johnston. Lotta's Progress. New York: Avon, 1997.
Pamela Dryden. Riding Home. New York: Bantam, 1988.

Pioneer Living Series

Catherine E. Chambers. California Gold Rush: Search for Treasure. Troll Books, 1984.
Catherine E. Chambers. Frontier Village: A Town Is Born. Troll Books, 1984.
Catherine E. Chambers. Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Road. Troll Books, 1984.
Catherine E. Chambers. Indian Days: Life in a Frontier Town. Troll Books, 1984.
Catherine E. Chambers. Flatboats on the Ohio: Westward Bound. Troll Books, 1984.
Catherine E. Chambers. Log-Cabin Home: Pioneers in the Wilderness. Troll Books, 1984.
Catherine E. Chambers. Frontier Dream: Life on the Great Plains. Troll Books, 1984.
Catherine E. Chambers. Texas Roundup: Life on the Range. Troll Books, 1984.
Catherine E. Chambers. Frontier Farmer: Kansas Adventures. Troll Books, 1984.
Catherine E. Chambers. Wagons West: Off to Oregon. Troll Books, 1984.

FOR YOUNGER READERS: Easy-Reader Mysteries

Elizabeth Bolton. Ghost in the House. Troll Books, 1985.
Elizabeth Bolton. The Secret of the Ghost Piano. Troll Books, 1985.
Elizabeth Bolton. The Tree House Detective Club. Troll Books, 1985.
Elizabeth Bolton. The Case of the Wacky Cat. Troll Books, 1985.
Elizabeth Bolton. The Secret of the Magic Potion. Troll Books, 1985.
Adrian Robert. The Awful Mess Mystery. Troll Books, 1985.
Adrian Robert. Ellen Ross, Private Detective. Troll Books, 1985.
Adrian Robert. My Grandma, the Witch. Troll Books, 1985.
Adrian Robert. The Secret of the Haunted Chimney. Troll Books, 1985.
Adrian Robert. The Secret of the Old Barn. Troll Books, 1985.

SUSPENSE NOVELS FOR ADULTS

Nicole St. John. Guinever's Gift. New York: Random House, 1977.
Nicole St.John.Wychwood. New York: Random House, 1976.
Nicole St.John. The Medici Ring. New York: Random House, 1975.

ESSAYS, AUTOBIOGRAPHY, COOKING/ENTERTAINMENT

Nicole St.John "A Mysterious London Edwardian Dinner"; "Nicole St.John's Tudor Feast"; in Cooking with Malice Domestic. Jean McMillen and Ron McMillen, Eds. Bethesda, MD: Mystery Bookshop, 1991.
Nicole St.John "Who Am I?"; in Speaking for Ourselves: Autobiographical Sketches by Notable Books for Young Adults. Donald R. Gallo, Ed. NCTE, 1990.
Nicole St.John "Young Adult Novel--Quo Vadis?"; in Library Education & Leadership: Essays in Honor of Jane Anne Hannigan. Sheila S. Intner & Kay E. Vandergrift, Eds. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1990.
Nicole St.John "The Keeping Days of My Life"; in Something About the Author Autobiography Series. Vol. 7, Joyce Nakamura, Ed. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc., 1989, pp.267-283.

Also: Ghostwritten fiction, mystery, biography, cookbook, reference, religion, pattern-making, popular culture. Unreleased manuscripts: poetry & prayers, drama. Columns about writing; cooking/entertaining column.



WORKS IN PROGRESS

Biography, history, modern-day and Victorian detective series for adults; humorous and Victorian mystery series for middle-school readers; screenplays; cooking/entertaining books for adults.


NICOLE ST. JOHN ON HERSELF AND HER BOOKS


"Who am I? I'm a Victorian. A cat curled by the fire (but I'm allergic to cats). The colors royal blue, peacock, amethyst, ruby red. Old houses with low-ceilinged rooms, candlelight and crystal, silver and English porcelain and Chinese rugs. Hats, caftans, antique rings and earrings, crosses on silver chains. Antique furniture. Shakespeare, mythology, John Donne, mysticism. A winter garden full of out-of-season flowers, and a kitchen hung with copper pots and fragrant with cinnamon, sage and thyme. Somebody once described me as a total environment!

"Why do I write? Because I have things that I must say, and I can no more hold back from saying them than I can cease to breathe. Because I believe, as Tennessee Williams put it, that as a writer of fiction 'I give you truth, in the pleasant disguise of illusion. . .'

"All of us, whether we realize it or not, grow in wisdom and compassion through 'walking in the moccasins' of characters whom (in books, plays, TV, films) we listen with our hearts. And so I write of the 'Keeping Days' that remain in our memory forever; of the turning points in which we go from innocence to knowledge; of the truths I believe to be unchanging in a changing world.

"Call me a romanticist, but I still believe, in spite of everything, that we all have the potential for good as well as evil; that life is no mere accident but has reason and purpose. To me, that's realism. And it's why I write!"


REVIEWS AND COMMENTS

Louisa May: The World and Works of Louisa May Alcott

"Johnston, bless her, succeeds in reconciling the loving family in Little Women with the facts of Alcott's rich but extraordinary demanding life. She posits that, though Bronson Alcott was indeed a remarkably innovative educator as well as eminent scholar, it was her mother, Abba May Alcott, who most profoundly influenced Louisa. Pioneer social worker and sometimes, of necessity, family breadwinner, she was, like Louisa, and outstandingly courageous, independent, yet nurturing woman, deeply loved though not so unrealistically patient as "Marmee." From Review in Kirkus, October 31, 1991.

The Keeping Days

"The Sterlings care about each other, and the narrator (who takes herself and her own teen concerns seriously but not tragically) convinces readers to care, too. Although it lacks contemporaneity, current teen novels, relentlessly concentrating on one given problem, could take a lesson from this book; the Sterlings and their concerns didn't cease to exist with W.W.I." From a review by Lillian N. Gerhardt, School Library Journal, October 15, 1973.
"Given vitality by the naturalness of its fourteen-year-old narrator Tish Sterling, whose maturing is evident during the seven-month period of the story, this is a warm turn-of-the-century family tale. . .Characterizations are especially good and interrelationships well developed." From a review in Booklist, December 15, 1973.
"Nostalgic but not sentimental, flavored generously with romance, the novel captures the anxieties of adolescence with its naiveté and awareness. . . .A fresh, compelling story told with perception and spontaneity." From a review of Mary Burns in Horn Book, December 1973.

TO CONTACT NICOLE ST. JOHN

Dryden Harris St.John, Inc., 103 Godwin Avenue, Midland Park, NJ 07432
McIntosh & Otis, Inc. (agents), 310 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Dryden Harris St.John, Inc. holds copyrights and licensing rights to books by Nicole St.John and creates book and series concepts for publishers. It also conducts workshops, seminars and institutes on genre literature and literature for young readers, offered through schools, colleges and professional associations. St.John Enterprises offers editorial services from text editing to ghostwriting, both fiction and non-fiction, and books Ms. St.John's speaking and autographing engagements.

LOCATING BOOKS BY NICOLE ST.JOHN

Recent and forthcoming books, if not in local bookstores, can usually be ordered through them or by writing directly to the publisher. Your local library can requisition books from other libraries and can provide publishers' addresses. Out-of-print books can often be found in libraries, or for purchase at secondhand bookstores, garage sales, etc.

The author herself is unable to direct readers to such sources.

Research and speaking engagements have taken her from Canada to Mexico; from England to Istanbul; from the U.S. Department of Health and the Library of Congress to hospitals and factories and the morgue. She is proud that experts have found her research impeccable and readers have found it enthralling.


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Created September 20, 1996