Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Author. Poet. Memoirist.

Welcome

About Me

“When I was a child, reading saved my life. As an adult, I’ve found my way writing childhood.”

I’ve been writing books for children and young adults since 1989. My writing career is part of a personal quest for understanding that began as early as the age of three when I asked my babysitter (Mrs. Fisher) the following question:

“What is me?

“Me is you,” Mrs. Fisher replied.

It wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I really wanted to know “who” I was.

So I began to collect family stories and pore over the photograph albums. I somehow sensed that an important part of “me” was embedded in my family’s history. But when I asked my grandparents what life had been like for them as children, their stories came in drips and drabs. It would be a long time before I found out what their lives had really been like. They were trying to protect me. As the descendants of enslaved West Africans (from Cameroon) and European colonists (from the British Isles), my family’s identity had been defined by strict racial codes. They had faced discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives.

Surviving racism was a big part of my family’s history. But it wasn’t all that defined them. They were also farmers and teachers and horse lovers and preachers. They played the guitar and the accordion and the piano. They were store owners and soldiers and post masters and amazing cooks. There was a pastry chef and a fire fighter and a school bus driver and an engineer and one of them (my mother) helped put a man on the moon. And like me, some loved to sing. They also respected nature and they were big story tellers. Most of all, they took good care of the children.

When my mother and father taught me to read, it was one of the greatest gifts I ever received. Since I moved around a lot when I was younger, it was hard to keep friends. But when I went to the library, I was never lonely. A good book is a great companion! And when I got older, the reading I did for research helped me to better understand the story of my own family and how our story fits into the story of our country and our various countries and cultures of origin. The gift of reading is what helped me put all the stories together, the ones I collected and the ones I thought of and the ones I’m dreaming about now.

My latest publication EVETTE: THE RIVER AND ME, an American Girl book, introduces a girl on a quest to restore health to a river while healing a rift in her racially divided family.


Themes and Characters

Readers of the picture books and contemporary and historical fiction I’ve written will encounter the themes that preoccupy me:

literacy, racial harmony, identity, poverty, contemporary families, bullying, resilience, African American history, American history, the search for beauty and the strength found in community

My characters are ordinary children who demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity. I believe in cultivating optimism. I believe in the positive power of story.


Awards, Honors, Etc.

Book Awards: Children’s Book Council Notable Book, Best Books of the Year Parents Magazine, New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, New York Public Library One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing, “Reading Rainbow” Book, LAMBDA Literary Award Finalist

Other Honors: Shuster Award (Hunter College), Cave Canem Poetry Fellowship, Stephen Crane Literary Award (Newark Public Library), Lucille Clifton Poetry Fellowship (Squaw Valley Community of Poets), Mid Atlantic Arts Fellowship, Geraldine R. Dodge Fellowship (VCCA), Rockefeller Foundation grant

Faculty: Visiting Associate Professor, Hollins University Graduate Dept. Children’s Literature

Speaker Appearances: International Reading Association, American Library Association; conferences, universities and schools in the U.S., and abroad


Bio

Sharon Dennis Wyeth is an African American writer with a multi-generational mixed-race legacy–the descendant of enslaved West Africans. free people of color, European colonists and indentured servants. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she is the author of numerous award-winning books for children and young adults.

Ms. Wyeth attended public schools and graduated from Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C.. She received an A.B. with honors in a combined discipline of sociology, psychology and anthropology from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Hunter College in New York, New York.

She is the recipient of a Cave Canem Fellowship for African American poets. She is a Visiting Associate Professor in the Graduate Department of Children’s Literature at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

An accomplished public speaker with a background in theater and speech coaching, she has been a keynote speaker at the national conference of the International Reading Association and other conferences.

At home with audiences of all ages, Ms. Wyeth has visited numerous schools throughout the United States and abroad sharing her work, her writing process and her personal story, motivating students to become avid readers and fearless writers.

Her themes include literacy, racial harmony, identity, poverty, contemporary families, bullying, resilience, African American history, American history, the search for beauty and the strength found in community.

Sharon has a new book, The River and Me. Learn more at American Girl about Evette and her passion for nature!