Every writer comes to know his or her calling in a different way; for Janet Hickman, the discovery was made quite by accident.
"…When I became a teacher one of the first assignments in my eighth graders' history book was to write a short story based on the information in the chapter they had just read. They complained so much that I promised I would do the assignment too, just to prove it wasn't so bad." Hickman ended up selling that very story to a magazine -- her first published work!
The daughter of a plumber, Hickman was born in Kilbourne and spent her entire childhood in Delaware County, Ohio, engrossed in books and making up stories. "When I was young, I wanted to write stories because reading gave me such pleasure." After high school, Hickman traveled to Columbus, where she earned a bachelor's of science degree in 1960. One year later, she married teacher John D. Hickman and took a job herself as a teacher in a junior high. While working, Hickman earned her master's degree in education from The Ohio State University as well.
Hickman continued her career in education from 1968 to 1973, when she worked part time as a children's literature instructor at Ohio State. One year after leaving that position, Hickman published her first juvenile novel, titled The Valley of the Shadow. She published two more books - The Stones and Zoar Blue, before earning a Ph.D. from Ohio State in 1979. In 1995, she received the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book award for Jericho.
She has written seven books in all; a recurrent theme in each is Hickman's incorporation of American history. Whether a Shaker village circa 1810 or a World War II-era Midwestern town, Hickman heavily researches her books' settings before she writes the stories. "My family shares the search for authentic backgrounds; they always serve as willing taste-testers for period recipes, and they seem to welcome the excuse for vacation when I need to see for myself what a particular mountain or battlefield looks like."
John and Janet Hickman have been living in the same home near Columbus, in Clintonville, since 1968. Janet Hickman has two children: John H. and Holly, and, though she is still actively writing -- her most recent book, Ravine, was published in 2002 -- "Grandchildren are very high on my list (of things to do for fun)."