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Roderick Townley, Kansas Author

Roderick Townley

The Door In The Forest, Book Cover, Roderick Townley

The Blue Shoe, Book Cover, Roderick Townley

The Red Thread, Book Cover, Roderick Townley

The Constellation Of Sylvie, Book Cover, Roderick Townley

Sky, Book Cover, Roderick Townley

Into The Labyrinth, Book Cover, Roderick Townley

The Great Good Thing, Book Cover, Roderick Townley


The author of fifteen books in five genres, Roderick Townley earned his Ph.D at Rutgers University. He has been honored with a Fulbright Fellowship, two first prizes from The Academy of American Poets, a Peregrine Prize for Short Fiction, the Thorpe Menn Award, the Kansas Arts Commission’s Master Artist Fellowship, and the Kansas Governor’s Arts Award. Two of his novels were named Kansas Notable Books.

While in New York, Townley worked as staff writer at TV Guide and senior editor at USmagazine, contributing hundreds of articles and ghostwriting for Joseph Heller, Robert Ludlum, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Luciano Pavarotti, Gloria Steinem, and many others.

He has published two books of criticism, The Early Poetry of William Carlos Williams (Cornell University Press) and Night Errands: How Poets Use Dreams (University of Pittsburgh Press), as well as several volumes of poetry; but he is best known for his novels for young readers. They include The Door in the Forest and The Blue Shoe (both published by Knopf), as well as The Red Thread, Sky, and the Sylvie Cycle trilogy: The Great Good Thing, Into the Labyrinth, and The Constellation of Sylvie (all published by Atheneum). His work appears in several foreign editions and has been optioned for film. In a starred review of The Great Good Thing, Kirkus Reviews declared, “Townley has created that most impossible thing: a book beloved from the first page.” Mr. Townley has two children and is married to poet Wyatt Townley. and  

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Bibliography ( - housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)  



Literary Criticism:

Adult Fiction:

Young Adult:

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Writing Samples  

The Red Thread

The space was narrow and dim and smelled of dead rat. Grit from the floor bit his forehead. Sticky warmth worked down his cheek.

He had a moment of panic when he realized he couldn't open his right eye. It was his own blood that sealed it. He ran his sleeve across his face. No good. He pried the lid open with his fingers. Was it night? Why was everything so dark?

He found himself panting as if he'd been running up a staircase. Then he realized it wasn't lack of air but fear that winded him.

Slow down. Breathe.

Still panting, he glanced around. Hemming him in were walls of unfinished wood, not the gleaming paneling of the great rooms and hallways. But light, faint as it was, reached him from somwhere. Then he saw it, a wedgelike opening four feet above the ground, where wood abruptly changed to stone rising in the gloom. If he could reach it!


Every School has them. The invisibles. Not liked, not disliked. How can you dislike what isn't there? It's a clue when you're standing in the lunch line trying to decide about a tuna sandwich and a girl runs right into you, spilling a glob of chocolate pudding on your shirt. This actually happened.

"What were you doing there?" she yelled, like he'd jumped out at her from behind a bush.


The place bustled up laughing. You'd think they'd be laughing at her, but he was such an easy target. From the jocks' table came whistles and applause. Sky's face reddened, and you could see the beads of sweat at the base of his dirty blond crew cut.

You wouldn't think life could get worse than that. Except Alec Schuyler had another problem, as bad as being invisible. He was inaudible.

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  • Peregrine Prize for Short Fiction
  • Thorpe Menn Award
  • Kansas Arts Commission Fellowship in Fiction
  • Kansas Governor's Arts Award
  • First prize in two contests sponsored by the Academy of American Poets
  • Top ten Best Children's Books--ABA's Book Sense 76
  • Scholastic "Literary Circle" Book Club Pick

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Roderick's Web Page
Roderick's Facebook Page
It's Our Community interview
The book trailer for The Door in the Forest

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