Gloria Skurzinski

American author Gloria Joan Skurzynski was born on July 6, 1930, in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. Her father, Aylmer Kearney Flister, worked at a local steel mill, while her mother, Serena Decker Flister, worked as a telegraph operator. Since the steel industry held steady, Skurzynski’s family managed to ease through the Great Depression, but Skurzynski still saw neighbors and relative suffer from the recession while she was growing up. Skurzynski initially attended Carlow University (then Mount Mercy College, a Catholic women’s school), but dropped out in 1950 due to the restrictive environment and went to work as a statistical clerk for U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh instead. While working there, she met Edward Joseph Skurzynski, and they were married in 1951, had five children together, and moved first to Salt Lake City, Utah, then later to Boise, Idaho. 

Skurzynski began writing with the encouragement of Pulitzer-winning poet Phyllis McGinley, a friend whose correspondence convinced Skurzynski that her work deserved attention and publication. However, Skurzynski’s first attempt at professional writing was rejected 58 times before it was eventually accepted for publication in Teen Magazine. Following this experience, Skurzynski shifted to freelance writing in 1966 – possibly inspired by a poem her daughter Alane had written – and became a full-time professional writer in 1979, at which time she also switched from writing poetry and shorter pieces to full-length nonfiction and children’ novels. 

Skurzynski’s fiction tends to draw heavily on her own life experiences, from her childhood growing up around the steel industry in Pittsburgh to the stories her father told about labor unions and more. Meanwhile, Skurzynski’s nonfiction reflects her avid interest in science and technology. From the 1990s through the early 2010s, Skurzynski authored several children’s books for National Geographic on new technologies of the time, from early robotics and advanced rocket science to multi-player videogames, the advent of email, and other mass communication devices. Skurzynski took particular care to make these works interesting and accessible to younger readers, so that knowledge of these new topics would not be restricted to adults alone. 

Skurzynski has also collaborated with her daughter, Alane Ferguson, on a series of children's mysteries set in the US national parks. In these books, Skurzynski and Ferguson’s characters encounter the natural world as a setting to both enjoy and respect, all the while solving mysteries or overcoming challenges set by other human beings. For this series, Skurzynski usually conducted the research on their scientific subjects and handled the more technical writing, while Ferguson focused on the character dialogue that their books used to make this content accessible to younger readers. 

Skurzynski's work has garnered several awards over the course of her career, including an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children award from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) in 1991, a Best Book of the Year by the School Library Journal in 1992, two Golden Spur Awards in 2002, and a lifetime Science Writing Award from the American Institute of Physics, among others.

Skurzynski has recently retired from writing full-time, and she currently lives in Boise, Idaho, with her husband Edward. 

Bibliography

Fiction, novels

  • Afterwar, Atheneum, 2011
  • Devastation, Atheneum, 2010
  • Rockbuster, Atheneum, 2001
  • Spider's Voice, Atheneum, 1999
  • Caitlin's Big Idea, Troll Communications, 1995
  • Cyberstorm, Simon & Schuster, 1995
  • Good Bye, Billy Radish, Simon & Schuster, 1992
  • Dangerous Ground, Simon & Schuster, 1989
  • The Minstrel In The Tower, Random House, 1988
  • Swept in the Wave of Terror, William Morrow & Co., 1985
  • Caught in the Moving Mountains, William Morrow & Co., 1984
  • Trapped in the Slickrock Canyon, Harper Collins, 1984
  • The Tempering, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1983
  • Lost in the Devil's Desert, William Morrow & Co., 1982
  • Manwolf, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1981
  • Honest Andrew, Harcourt, 1980
  • Martin by Himself, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1979
  • What Happened in Hamelin, Peter Smith Publishers Inc., 1979
  • In a Bottle with a Cork on Top, Dodd & Mead, 1976
  • The Poltergeist of Jason Morey, Dodd & Mead, 1975
  • The Remarkable Journey of Gustavus Bell, Abingdon Press, 1973
  • The Magic Pumpkin, Four Winds Press, 1971

Fiction, series 

  • Mysteries in Our National Parks series, National Geographic Children's Books, 1997-2007 (co-written with Alane Ferguson)
    • #13: Night of the Black Bear, 2007
    • #12: Buried Alive, 2002
    • #11: Running Scared, 2002
    • #10: Out of the Deep, 2002
    • #9: Escape from Fear, 2002
    • #8: Valley of Death, 2002
    • #7: Over the Edge, 2002
    • #6: Ghost Horses, 2000
    • #5: The Hunted, 2000
    • #4: Deadly Waters, 1999
    • #3: Cliff-Hanger, 1998
    • #2: Rage of Fire, 1998
    • #1: Wolf Stalker, 1997
  • The Virtual War Chronologsseries, Atheneum and Simon & Schuster, 1997-2006
    • The Choice, Atheneum, 2006
    • The Revolt, Atheneum, 2005
    • The Clones, Atheneum, 2002
    • Virtual War, Simon & Schuster, 1997
  • Mystery Solversseries, Troll Communications, 1997 (co-written with Alane Ferguson)
    • The Mystery of the Fire in the Sky,1997
    • The Mystery of the Haunted Silver Mine, 1997
    • The Mystery of the Spooky Shadow, 1997
    • The Mystery of the Vanishing Creatures, 1997

Collections 

  • Two Fools and a Faker: Three Lebanese Folk Tales, William Morrow & Co., 1977

Nonfiction

  • This Is Rocket Science: True Stories of the Risk-taking Scientists Who Figure Out Ways to Explore Beyond Earth, National Geographic Children's Books, 2010
  • Sweat and Blood: A History of U.S. Labor Unions, Twenty-First Century Books, 2008
  • Are We Alone? Scientists Search for Life in Space, National Geographic Children's Books, 2004
  • On Time: From Seasons to Split Seconds, National Geographic Children's Books, 2000
  • Discover Mars, National Geographic Children's Books, 1998
  • Waves: The Electromagnetic Universe, National Geographic Children's Books, 1996
  • Know the Score: Video Games in Your High-Tech World, Simon & Schuster, 1994
  • Zero Gravity, Simon & Schuster, 1994
  • Get the Message: Telecommunications in Your High-Tech World, Simon & Schuster, 1993
  • Here Comes the Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1992
  • Almost the Real Thing: Simulation in Your High-Tech World, Simon & Schuster, 1991
  • Robots: Your High-Tech World, Simon & Schuster, 1990
  • Safeguarding the Land: Women at Work in Parks, Forests, and Rangelands, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981
  • Bionic Parts for People: The Real Story of Artificial Organs and Replacement Parts, Atheneum, 1978

Links

ALA Interview

BYU Papers

Archives West

University of Pittsburgh Papers

Book Connection Interview