About Joan

Joan Seliger Sidney

Where did you grow up and go to school?

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Brooklyn College for three semesters until my parents moved to the Bronx and I transferred to City College, where I met a much more diverse and exciting group of students. For graduate work, I received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Harvard, a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut (UConn) and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing as well as a Picture Book Certificate from Vermont College.

Why so many years in school?

Because I’m a life-long learner and can never get enough. For the past several years I’ve been auditing courses at UConn, mostly in the English Department, mostly in creative writing. I love being in class with these amazing students and teachers, who stimulate my thinking and writing and help me stay young.

What do you write about?

As a second-generation Holocaust survivor, it’s important to bear witness to all that was lost, including Jewish life in my parents’ hometown of Zurawno, Poland. How to make peace and live well with chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis has been another recurrent and sometimes interwoven theme. Lastly, as a wife of nearly forty-nine years and the parent of four adult children with five daughters, family sneaks in, too. Actually, it was a visit to the zoo with my first granddaughter that inspired me to study and write picture books.

How else do you spend your time?

In my professional life, I’m Writer-in-Residence at UConn’s Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life. I also facilitate Writing for Your Life, an adult workshop. But it’s my athletic life that keeps me moving way beyond my wheelchair. I swim up to half a mile (18 round-trip-laps) almost every day and I go therapeutic horseback riding once a week. In winter, I love to adaptive ski and in summer, I occasionally adaptive sail. Wish I had time for adaptive rowing, too.

See Joan's adaptive skiing on video »

Joan's adaptive ski rig Joan's weekly horseback ride

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

I tell all writers: Read as much as you can by outstanding writers, both the classics and contemporary works. Write regularly, even if only an hour at a sitting. Keep journals and writing notebooks, where you jot down notes, copy lines and images from others. Leave email for last, after your important writing is done—advice I need to follow!

Selected Publications

  • Fast Funny Women (anthology, forthcoming)
  • The Louisville Review
  • The Massachusetts Review
  • Michigan Quarterly Review
  • Jewish Currents
  • Caduceus
  • Theodate
  • Beyond Lament (anthology)
  • Her Face in the Mirror (anthology)
  • Bubbe Meisehs by Shayna Maideles (anthology)
  • Points of Contact (anthology)
  • Touching MS (anthology)
  • Moments in Time (anthology)
  • Range of Motion (anthology)
  • Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook
    of American Poetry

Poetry Translations

  • Translations of Mireille Gansel's poems "to inhabit beauty," "a house over there," nomadic house," and "leave no traces" are forthcoming in New Poetry in Translation
  • Translations of Jacques Alvarez-Pèreyre's poems, "I Look Back," "Letters from Spain," appeared in the Connecticut Review

Awards and Fellowships


  • Connecticut Jewish Ledger, August 2014
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