|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (January 2012)|
Rachel Simon (born 1959 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her six books include the 2011 novel The Story of Beautiful Girl, which was her first New York Times Bestseller, and the 2002 memoir Riding The Bus With My Sister, which was a national bestseller. Her work has been adapted for film, television, radio, and stage.
Rachel Simon was born in New Jersey and spent most of her first sixteen years in the New Jersey towns of Newark, Millburn, Irvington, and Succasunna. During that time, she began writing short stories and novels, which she shared widely with friends and teachers but never submitted to editors. When Rachel was eight, her parents split up. She and her three siblings remained with their mother for eight years, and then moved to Easton, Pennsylvania to live with their father, with Rachel also becoming a boarding student at Solebury School in New Hope, PA. Rachel studied anthropology at Bryn Mawr College and graduated in 1981. She then moved to the Philadelphia area and worked at a variety of jobs, including supervisor of researchers for a television study at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 1988. Just before graduating, she won the Writers At Work short story contest, and when she attended the Writers At Work conference that June in Park City, Utah, she decided to be more courageous than she’d been as a teenager. She brought multiple copies of a collection of short stories, Little Nightmares, Little Dreams, that she’d just completed and handed them to every agent and editor who was interested. An editor from Houghton Mifflin bought the manuscript six weeks later and published it to critical acclaim in 1990.
Until 2011, when The Story of Beautiful Girl (Grand Central Publishing) was published and became an almost instant New York Times Bestseller, Rachel Simon was best known for her memoir, Riding The Bus With My Sister (Houghton Mifflin, 2002; Plume paperback, 2003; Grand Central paperback, 2013). A national bestseller, it became a seminal book in the disability community and a frequent selection on high school reading lists. It was also adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, also titled Riding The Bus With My Sister, which originally aired on CBS on May 1, 2005, where it was watched by fifteen million viewers. Ever since, it has been rebroadcast frequently on the Hallmark Channel. The film stars Rosie O'Donnell as Rachel’s sister Beth and Andie MacDowell as Rachel, and was directed by Anjelica Huston. A special ten-year anniversary edition of Riding The Bus With My Sister, with essays by Rachel and her sister Beth, was published in March 2013.
The success of the book and adaptation of Riding The Bus With my Sister led to Rachel becoming a widely sought-after speaker around the country. The book has also received numerous awards, including a Secretary Tommy G. Thompson Recognition Award for Contributions to the Field of Disability from the US Department of Health and Human Services; a TASH Image Award for positive portrayals of people with disabilities; and a Media Access Award from California Governor's Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities.
Other adaptations of Rachel Simon’s work include the title story from Little Nightmares, Little Dreams (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), which has been adapted for both the National Public Radio program Selected Shorts, and the Lifetime program “The Hidden Room.” Another story from that collection, “Paint,” was adapted for the stage by the Arden Theatre Company (Philadelphia).
Rachel’s other titles are the novel The Magic Touch (Viking, 1994), the memoir The House on Teacher's Lane (2010); and an inspirational book for writers, The Writer's Survival Guide (1997).
Rachel Simon is one of the only authors to have been selected twice for the Barnes & Nobel Discover New Writers Award, once for the novel The Magic Touch, and again for the memoir, Riding the Bus with My Sister. She has received creative writing fellowships from the Delaware Division of the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, and the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation.
During the early years of Rachel’s writing career she ran author events for Barnes & Noble in Princeton, New Jersey and Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and she taught creative writing at Bryn Mawr College and Penn State Abington, both in Pennsylvania. Since 2007, Rachel has been writing full-time.
For more information about Rachel Simon's career and life, please see www.rachelsimon.com.
She is married to Hal Dean, an architect whom she met shortly after she graduated from college. Their highly unusual, nineteen-year-long path to marriage, is recounted in The House On Teacher’s Lane. They now live in Wilmington, Delaware. Rachel visits frequently with her sister Beth, whose love of bus riding is chronicled in Riding The Bus With My Sister, and who does still ride the buses.
- Little Nightmares, Little Dreams (1990) (ISBN 0-89919-952-6) (short story collection)
- The Magic Touch (1994) (ISBN 0-670-85262-7) (novel) (This book has no relation to the film of the same name)
- The Writer's Survival Guide (1997) (ISBN 1-884910-23-8)
- Riding the Bus with My Sister (2002) (ISBN 0-452-28455-4)
- The House On Teacher's Lane: A Memoir of Home, Healing, And Love's Hardest Questions (2010 paperback) (ISBN 978-0-452-29618-3) Hardback was published under the following title:
- Building A Home With My Husband: A Journey Through The Renovation of Love (2009) (ISBN 978-0-525-95120-9)
- The Story Of Beautiful Girl (May 2011) (ISBN 978-0-446-57446-4)
In 2005, Rachel Simon's book Riding the Bus with My Sister was adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie by the same name. The film starred Rosie O'Donnell as Rachel's sister Beth, and Andie MacDowell as Rachel. It was directed by Anjelica Huston.
- Interview in the literary magazine Wild River Review
- Interview in Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry
- IMDB entry