Lisa Ann Sandell is the author of The Weight of the Sky, a novel in verse that was selected as one of the New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age and described by Kirkus as "lovely" and "poignant;" a story in 21 Proms, a young adultanthology, entitled "See Me;" and most recently, Song of the Sparrow, a novel in verse that retells the story of King Arthur and the Lady of Shalott. She is also a children's book editor.
Born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and West Virginia, Lisa was very shy and found refuge in reading. "I was forever buried in books; when we were little, my baby sister would beg me to play with her, to please put down my book and pay attention to her," says Lisa. She also began to write her own stories. "At first I wrote about a black-and-white cat named Alley Cat and his tough, junkyard friends, but as I got older, I realized I could use my writing to explore issues that really mattered to me."
Between her sophomore and junior years at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Lisa spent three months on a kibbutz in Israel. "To me, the kibbutz felt like a beautiful sanctuary," says Lisa. "I studied Hebrew and archaeology two days a week, and worked in various jobs around the kibbutz the rest of the days, with only Saturdays free. I fell in love with it." After returning to college that year, she started to write poems about Israel. That poetry formed the basis for The Weight of the Sky.
In contributing to 21 Proms, Lisa says she had "tons of fun writing about the prom experience." She particularly enjoyed writing about one so different from her own. "I remembered all the turmoil and angst and obsession with gowns and shoes and dates I felt at prom-time, and decided to free myself and my protagonist, Kate, from it all. I loved writing about a girl who very blithely decides to rebel against her friends' and mother's expectations by not to going to her prom, and instead, pours her energy into being creative."
Song of the Sparrow grew out of Lisa's passion for Arthurian legend. "I have devoured these stories my entire life - I even wrote my college thesis on Sir Lancelot," she states. "It was thrilling to have the opportunity to add to this canon, but I also wanted to change something," she continues. "Arthurian women were not always treated very kindly. At best, they were damsels in distress who needed a man to rescue them, and at worse, they were scheming, devious villains. So, I strove to give these young women strong, evocative voices, and a more meaningful story by retelling the legend from their point of view.
"I wanted to humanize all of the characters," Lisa adds. "I tried to imagine how these mythical heroes might really have related to each other, and how they worked together to give us one of the most enduring and beloved tales of friendship and equality, freedom and hope."