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She has held various positions in the field of literature, including journalist, teacher, translator, and, since 1998, literature specialist for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This spring, English graduate Amy Stolls ’87 added another title to her career: novelist.

Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in April, Palms to the Ground is a young adult novel about a neurotic, Pepto Bismol-dependent 13-year-old boy from Boston named Calman who sets out to Walla Walla, Wash., to visit his pen pal. Brash, rebellious, and outspoken, his pen pal is also — much to Calman’s surprise — a girl.

“Delightfully quirky, but thoroughly believable characters make this debut novel enjoyable and thought provoking,” writes School Library Journal.

Stolls began her novel more than 10 years ago when she was living in Seattle and flying up to Alaska to report on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and its aftermath. She returned east in 1996 to get her master’s of fine arts in creative writing at American University. Her novel was her master’s thesis.

“I put my manuscript in a drawer after graduation and forgot about it,” says Stolls. “A friend found it and encouraged me to send it out to an agent.”

Stolls was offered a two-book deal, but turned it down.

“I love my work at the NEA and wasn’t ready to commit to a deadline just yet,” she explains.

Stolls has been advising writers and literary organizations at the NEA since 1998. She also teaches a course on contemporary American literature at American University when she’s not working on her second novel, this time for adults.

“It’s funny … I started out at Lafayette College as a computer science major,” she says. “If the classes within the English department weren’t so interesting and the teachers so passionate and encouraging, I might still be into computers. Thanks, Lafayette.”

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles