The summer before Ona Gritz entered the frightening new world of intermediate school, in 1973, she read her first middle grade novel, Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. It wasn’t the story that most captivated her. It was the voice, which sounded exactly like the voice in her head. Ona found it amazing that a book could make a person feel understood, much the way a good friend can. I want to do that, she thought. I want to write books for kids like me.
Soon after, Ona bought a floral covered notebook with lavender pages and began filling it with stories and poems. While those first attempts were as flowery and purple as the notebook they were in, she kept at it, kept reading good books, and went on to study literature in college and earn a Master of Arts in poetry from the creative writing program at New York University.
Keeping a promise to her ten-year-old self, Ona wrote Starfish Summer, a middle grade novel and her first published book. Her second book for children, Tangerines and Tea, My Grandparents and Me, was named Best Alphabet Book of 2005 by Nick Jr. Family Magazine and one of six Best Books of the Year by Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine. She has also written books for adults, including Geode, a finalist for the 2013 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and Present Imperfect, a collection of essays.
Ona’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Utne Reader, Ploughshares, Brevity, and River Teeth, and has been widely anthologized. Her recent honors include two Notable mentions in Best American Essays, a Best Life Story in Salon, and a winning entry in The Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2020 project.
In addition to writing, Ona likes to play matchmaker between kids and books, and to read aloud to children. She was lucky enough to get paid for indulging in these hobbies by working as a children’s and young adult librarian before she left to write full time. For many years, her favorite kid to read to was her son, Ethan. She also loved to write about him, and did so in “Doing It Differently,” Literary Mama’s longest running column. Eventually, Ethan grew too old and busy for their nightly story-time. (These days, he’s in law school, so when they do read together, it’s mostly things like book contracts.) Ona is married to fellow writer Daniel Simpson, who promises to never grow too old or busy to cuddle up and listen to a good story. She is delighted to join the Regal House Publishing/Fitzroy Books family with her new middle grade novel, August Or Forever.