Donna Janell Bowman is an award-winning central Texas author, speaker, and writing coach. She’s especially drawn to nonfiction because true stories are often like lightning bugs—too irresistible not to follow. Her books for young readers include Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness, illustrated by Daniel Minter; Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words, illustrated by S.D. Schindler; King of the Tightrope: When The Great Blondin Ruled Niagara, illustrated by Adam Gustavson; and the forthcoming Wings of an Eagle: The Gold Medal Dreams of Billy Mills, co-authored with Billy Mills, and illustrated by S.D. Nelson. Donna’s books have garnered such accolades as starred reviews, Junior Library Guild selection, NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommendation, a Carter G. Woodson Award Honor from NCSS, ALA/ALSC Notable lists, NCSS Notable lists, multiple best-of-the-year lists, and nominations to a dozen state book awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet Award. Donna has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Represented by: Erin Murphy—Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Donna’s Early Years
Donna grew up on a Quarter Horse ranch in central Texas, where the wide-open spaces ignited her imagination and creativity. At home, she was surrounded by two-legged and four-legged animals of all kinds. With no neighbors to play with, animals became her friends. When she wasn’t busy with ranch chores, or training for and competing in Quarter Horse shows, she was often in a tree writing poetry or stories in a notebook, or in her pink-and-purple bedroom writing on an electric typewriter that her parents gifted her when she was ten (much to the annoyance of her older brother in the room next door). She was also very crafty with macrame and yarn, antiquing foil, and her nifty Polaroid camera.
Even at six years old, after a bicycle accident left her with a broken jaw and her mouth wired shut for weeks, Donna was certain she would grow up to be a veterinarian, movie star, writer, and princess—all at the same time. Since she had to choose one vocation, she eventually embraced writing because stories allowed her to be, explore, and learn anything she wanted. Before writing books, she worked in insurance, and then as a writer for newspapers and children’s magazines.
She now splits her time between writing and editing for a large tech company and pursuing her absolute dream job—writing books for young readers, teaching writers, and speaking at schools and at writing and library conferences.
Today, she still lives in central Texas, not far from the wide-open spaces of her childhood, but not close enough to her two favorite (and only) grown sons. And she is surrounded by rescue animals, books, and ideas.
Random ramblings from a ranch kid
- Donna was allergic to horses. Yes, seriously! Yet she spent hours every day training for competitive western and English riding events.
- The childhood horse Donna was most bonded with was Dee Dee. Read about how Dee Dee inspired her to write Step Right Up.
- When she made a pet out of a calf, gave it the name Cola, and loved it like a dog, her parents eventually stopped referring to it as hamburger or t-bone.
- The only time her father took her on a hunting trip, Donna brought home a baby goat instead. He grew up to be a big-horned billy goat named Billy the Kid—a rascal of a soda thief!
- When her parents brought home a chick that someone in town abandoned after Easter, Donna taught him to sleep on the family collie and to follow her around the house.
- Lots of newborn and sick animals (including foals) were nursed to health in the house.
- When a guinea hen abandoned her eggs, the eggs were placed under a sitting duck that later taught the guinea babies to swim. Sort of!
- On Donna’s birthday, her new gerbils got loose in the station wagon and were impossible to find.
- Donna had a pet skunk named Stinky who lived in the house until he chewed all the electrical cords.
- Donna and her family took her cat, Chester, camping in the Colorado mountains. And let him out of the RV to explore every day! He always came back.
- Donna spent her 16th birthday competing at a cold and rainy horseshow. Yay, sweet 16!
- As a child, Donna’s favorite place to write stories was in a tree.
Interviews & articles of interest to writers
See each book’s page for more.
Article for NFFest: Choosing a structure for your picture book biography.
Interview: Melissa Stewart’s Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep series. (I get a little personal.) May 2019.
Article: Highlights Foundation: 10 Things to Consider when Writing a Picture Book Biography. July 2019.
Interview: Writing Barn. Rejecting Rejections. November 2014.
Interview—author profile: Austin SCBWI. July 30, 2015.