Jill Barnett was born and raised in Southern California, in the kind of idyllic coastal town the Beach Boys made famous. But as a young girl she spent plenty of summers on her grandparents’ farm in Texas. Among her Southern family she was the lone native Californian. “My dad used to tease me and say I was the only prune picker in a family of cotton pickers.”
A gap in jobs in her mid-thirties sent Jill back to college and working toward her Masters degree. “I intended to finish school and teach, perhaps write college textbooks that wouldn’t bore all the enjoyment of history out of the average nineteen year old.” But the gift of a baby daughter (something Jill had been told she could never have) changed everything.
Soon she was juggling childcare and classes, motherhood, marriage and home, and found herself in the shoes of so many women, trying to be everything to everyone. “It was October and I took my daughter to a local pumpkin farm to pick a pumpkin. I stood there watching the absolute, pure delight on her two year-old face as she ran through the rows, finding each pumpkin more wonderful than the last. It was a seminal moment in my life. The ordinary world from your child’s eyes is a magical place. You see that joy in something you take for granted--if you notice at all--and suddenly you remember to stop and pay attention to life around you, to not pant through every day but pause to really take deep breaths. You find wonder all over again.”
Four days later Jill quit school to rethink her choices and concentrate on family, something she has never regretted. She was asked once if sacrificing her goals for her daughter and husband wasn’t traveling backwards. “It was never a sacrifice. It was and is enrichment. I am more of a woman for the experience.”
And Jill’s goals had only changed ‘not evaporated.’ Always an avid reader, she had been dabbling with a novel. “Writing is very intimidating. To dabble with an idea was safer, but was also how I found my way into my first book.” Soon she was writing during downtime and almost two years to the day she quit school, she sold her first book to Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster.
“We women walk such a fine line in our lives, often straddling motherhood and career, and feeling the push-pull between the two, when the truth is: we need both to be fulfilled and each one enriches the other. I discovered I had to redefine happiness away from my own expectations and guilt and especially my demands on myself. Family, love and relationships all feed my writing. My emotional response and experiences, the grittiness in life, give my work a sense of humanity.
In the years since, Jill has written thirteen novels and six short stories. There are nearly 7 million of her books in print. Her work has been published in 20 languages, audio, national and international book clubs, and large print editions, and has earned her a place on such national bestseller lists as the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Barnes and Noble and Waldenbooks —who presented Jill with the National Waldenbook Award.