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Joyce A. Stengel Biography (1938-)


New England-based author Joyce A. Stengel was inspired to write through her love of storytelling and reading, both cultivated during childhood. "Of course, life experience is a great influence," she added on her Web site. "I find situations from my childhood, from my children's childhoods, and people—friends and relatives, beloved and otherwise—appearing in my books." Stengel's books, most of which were originally published in Ireland, include the coming-of-age novels Letting Go and Sarah Takes Charge, as well as Mystery at Kittiwake Bay and The Caribbean Jewels Mystery, the last published in the United States as Mystery of the Island Jewels. In Mystery of the Island Jewels, which finds a vacationing fourteen year old hot on the trail of a 1902 theft that also involved murder, Stengel "has fused a modern theme with the traditional" whodunit while also weaving in "the confused and very real feelings of a teenaged girl," according to a Books in Ireland reviewer.

In Letting Go Stengel introduces readers to ten-year-old Kathy, an abandoned child who thinks she has found a stable home with a new foster family until she encounters difficulties at school due to her acting talent and begins to second-guess the feelings of her foster mother. Praising the novel for avoiding easy answers to Kathy's problems, Irish Times contributor Gordon Snell added that interpersonal "relationships are subtly and tenderly described." The protagonist of Sarah Takes Charge is slightly older, yet she too is motherless. While Sarah still lives with her own family, her father is preoccupied over his wife's death and her younger brother Davey is exhibiting emotional problems. While Sarah does her best to keep things together at home, a new friendship at school creates new problems and confusion, in a novel that Children's Books in Ireland reviewer Ro Aitken praised as a "well-crafted, moving story which deals sensitively with the difficult journey of growing up."

Stengel told Something about the Author: "My love of stories began with my mother. She used to spin yarns for my sister, brother, and me. She'd stand at the sink, her hands immersed in soapy dishwater, and transport us back to when she was a child. She was a great story teller. I could feel her fear the night she got lost in a park, and her heartbreak when her little sister broke her china doll. It was my love of story that eventually led to my writing career.

"Once I learned to read, I was off to story land and I read, read, and read. Though a high school English teacher once told me I 'had a way with words,' it was many years before I began to write. After high school, I attended nursing school. While working as a registered nurse, I started taking English classes that led to a B.A. in English with a concentration in writing. During those years I married and had children. I later became writing center coordinator at Central Connecticut State University. While working there, I took more English classes and earned my M.A. in English.

"For a time I wrote freelance articles about medicine, art and culture, business, and travel. I enjoyed interviewing people and traveling, but my first love was for writing for children. That love led to the creation of Mystery at Kittiwake Bay. When I write, I write to tell a story—to create a fictional world—to share with young readers.

"Quiet and solitude are a must when writing. I find it important to maintain a regular writing schedule. Ideas are abundant, but more important is the day-to-day commitment of working at the computer and developing the idea into a story. And it's that day-to-day involvement that generates new ideas. If I let a project go cold, it takes a while to get back into it, to connect with my characters again.

"I recommend that aspiring writers keep a journal. It helps to generate ideas. A first draft will lead to a second, then a third, and so on. Revising is part of the writing process. Stay with it. Tell your own stories. And read!"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Books in Ireland, October, 1997, review of The Caribbean Jewels Mystery, pp. 257-258.

Children's Books in Ireland, number 19, Ro Aitken, review of Sara Takes Charge, p. 16.

Irish Times, May 24, 1997, Gordon Snell, review of Letting Go.

School Library Journal, June, 2002, Susan Geye, review of Mystery of the Island Jewels, p. 146.


Joyce A. Stengel Web site, http://www.joyceastengel.com (March 7, 2005).

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Nate Smith Biography - Fought His Way into the Union to Theodosius II BiographyJoyce A. Stengel (1938-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights