Terry Farish was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the second daughter in her family. She grew up in a neighboring town, Watertown. Then her family moved to Houston, Texas, where her father was in the trades, maintaining electrical instruments used in the oil drilling business. She read widely as a child. She was not allowed to have a dog, so she read many, many dog stories. Her first poem was published when she was 10 in the American SPCA Magazine. It was about the horse she dreamed of owning, but couldn't have: “I Wish I Had a Big Black Horse.”
“So much of writing and so much of the power of a story comes from wanting something very much, and the story is driven by that desire,” says Terry.
Her first job after graduating from college was working for the American Red Cross in Vietnam during the last years of the war. When she returned to the U.S., she began to meet Vietnamese people who had escaped from that war and were seeking refugee status so that their families could be safe and their children could go to school. Her first job shaped her interest in immigrants and her focus as a writer.
If she hadn’t had the models of wonderful books that she loved as a child and as an adult, she probably would not have wanted to write her own. “Reading is my muse and it sustains my life as well,” she says.
While she was researching The Good Braider, her young adult novel about a girl from South Sudan, she met many teens, elders, and a lot of children. They were experiencing brand new lives in American cities. Then she visited Kakuma refugee camp on the Kenyan/South Sudanese border, where she saw a teenage boy on a bicycle. She began to imagine a South Sudanese immigrant boy in the U.S. who wants nothing more than to ride a bike the way an older boy did in the refugee camp where he used to live. The bike he wants to ride belongs to a girl who happens to be Dominican-American. In the picture book Joseph’s Big Ride (Spring 2016), the boy uses the skill he picked up in the refugee camp—how to repair a bike—to help him make a friend in his new home.
Her advice to young people is “if you want to write, let yourself be spellbound by books and the ways writers conjure up characters.”
Terry has a grown daughter and lives with her dog named Clara. In order to write this story, she learned more about fixing bikes than she had ever known before. She loves to do research for her books. Sometimes that means travel; she’s recently returned from Nepal where she began research on a new book about a Nepali-speaking boy, a refugee from Bhutan.