Updated at 12:45 p.m. Nov. 16, 2015
San Diego’s Jean S. Ferris, an award-winning writer of over 20 novels for young adults, was being mourned Monday as news spread of her recent death.
She died Oct. 30 from complications of acute myloid leukemia, said the U-T San Diego notice published Sunday.
Ferris, who was 76 and lived in San Diego five decades, was passionate about writing stories for young adults and the challenges they face as they develop and grow.
“She wrote her first novel for young adults when her own children were in junior and senior high school and she learned of a teen who tried to commit suicide,” said the notice. “Ferris explained that she wanted to understand how a teen could decide, at age fourteen with so many years ahead, that there would never, ever again be anything worth living for.”
Stephen Mooser, president and co-founder of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, recalled Ferris as one of the group’s earliest members.
“As such, she was an important and thoughtful mentor to many of our members in the San Diego area,” he told Times of San Diego. “Additionally, she contributed in many ways as a longtime member of the chapter, but her greatest legacy is to those thousands of readers who she touched who benefited from her strong, always honest writing.”
On her website, Ferris said, “I had what I now realize was the perfect childhood for a writer — a somewhat lonely one because we moved a lot; one in which books were always friends and comfort.”
She described her life as one of constant travels that allowed her to develop a natural curiosity about other people. “These three things were the basis of the stories I began to write for myself: what I heard, saw and felt. I’m still eavesdropping, peeping and keeping a journal. And writing stories, too.”
Ferris received a B.A. and an M.A. in Speech Pathology at Stanford University. According to her bio, she realized this was a mistake later, when she wasn’t well-suited to the work and didn’t enjoy it. She began publishing in her mid-thirties when her husband pointed out that too many boxes of stories had piled up beneath their bed.
Her award-winning books included “An Invincible Summer,” “Across the Grain,” “Looking for Home,” “All that Glitters,” “Love Among the Walnuts,” “Bad,” “Eight Seconds,” “Of Sound Mind” and “Once Upon a Marigold.”
Many of her books explore topics such as young love, loneliness and the challenges of adolescence.
“I love books. Reading them and writing them. I especially love writing for young adults,” Ferris said on her website. “They are on the threshold of many important changes and decisions, and I want to write the kind of books I wish I’d been able to read when I was trying to make those same decisions.”
According to the U-T notice, she often spent free time volunteering for charitable causes such as libraries, juvenile offenders, battered spouses, the blood bank and the visually impaired.
Survivors include her husband, Al; daughters Kerry and Gillian; grandson Eliot; and brother William.
A celebration of life was set Jan. 19 in the Shiley Special Events Suite on the ninth floor of the San Diego Central Library, the notice said.
— Ken Stone contributed to this report.