The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Robert S. Cox Special Collections & University Archives Research Center
CredoResearch digital collections in Credo

Picoult, Jodi, 1966-

Jodi Picoult Papers

53 boxes 40 linear feet
Call no.: MS 791
Depiction of Jodi Picoult in Botswana, January 2013
Jodi Picoult in Botswana, January 2013

Novelist Jodi Picoult is known for taking on compelling social and ethical issues and weaving them into the works of fiction that have won her a devoted readership. From her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992), to her recent bestseller The Storyteller (2013), Picoult has grappled with a range of topics: fractured families, eugenics, school violence, teen suicide, spouse abuse, a child’s legal rights, childhood cancer, gay rights, the death penalty, war criminals, vengeance, justice, faith, the value of life. To Picoult, a passionate researcher, no issue is simple. Through her characters and her stories she engages the complications, considering provocative questions from different angles. Born in 1966, Picoult graduated from Princeton, where she majored in creative writing, and Harvard, where she earned her M.Ed. She and her husband have three grown children and live in Hanover, N.H.

The Jodi Picoult Papers, richly documenting the author’s work process, include research files for Picoult’s novels—correspondence, notes, manuscript pages, and other background material—as well as some drafts, editorial correspondence, clippings, publicity material, early stories, and student material. Also in Special Collections is a comprehensive collection of Picoult’s publications, including the novels in American and foreign-language editions.

Background on Jodi Picoult

Born in 1966, Picoult grew up in the Long Island town of Nesconset, New York, knowing from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. The older of two children of a Wall Street analyst and a schoolteacher, she attended public school. She graduated with high honors from Princeton University, where she majored in English and creative writing, in 1987, and from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she earned a master’s degree, in 1990. Before becoming a full-time writer, Picoult worked as a technical writer for a Wall Street brokerage firm, a copywriter at an advertising agency, a textbook editor, and an 8th grade English teacher who also directed school plays. New England has been her home for most of her adult life and frequently provides the backdrop for her fiction.

At Princeton, Picoult found a mentor in the travel and fiction writer Mary Morris, with whom she took several creative writing classes (she also studied with visiting professor Robert Stone). Two stories Picoult wrote as class assignments were bought by Seventeen magazine and appeared in 1987. She soon found a literary agent to represent her work. Picoult’s senior thesis, a novel, sparked interest among publishers but was not sold. Her first published novel was Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992), followed by a new book nearly every year. With its provocative themes and controversial ending, My Sister’s Keeper (2004) drew enormous attention and a vast new readership. Picoult’s first #1 bestseller was Nineteen Minutes (2007), which took as its subject a high school shooting and its aftermath. Since then, Picoult’s novels regularly debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Research is fundamental to Picoult’s fiction, informing how she conceives and shapes her plots and develops her characters. Not only does she address the complexities of a range of topics, often medical, legal, or social—eugenics, school violence, teen suicide, spousal abuse, the legal rights of minors, childhood cancer, gay rights, the death penalty, war criminals, vengeance, justice, faith, and the value of life have all featured in her work—but she also delves into history, myth and lore, religions and cultures, jobs and vocations, to enrich her stories. In addition to spending countless hours reading and interviewing, Picoult has lived with an Amish family, gone ghost hunting, joined police officers on patrol, worked with graphic artists, been fingerprinted, learned to bake bread, and more. But what is perhaps most striking about Picoult’s fiction is the intensity of her characters and the determination with which they wrestle with their situations and seek answers. Depicting their vivid inner lives, their deepest memories, and their often complex relationships with other characters, Picoult allows them both to expose their vulnerabilities and to tap unexpected strengths.

Picoult has contributed to anthologies edited by Neil Gaiman, the Chicken Soup for the Soul team, and others. She co-founded Trumbull Hall Troupe, a Hanover, N.H.,-based musical theater group for teens that raises money for local and international charities through annual productions, and has written or co-written all of the original shows, the first of which was staged in 2004.

Picoult’s work has been praised by fellow novelists Stephen King, Ann Hood, Elizabeth George, and Jacquelyn Mitchard, and by publications as diverse as The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, and Ms. Five of Picoult’s novels have been dramatized: four (The Pact, Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle, and Salem Falls) as television movies and one (My Sister’s Keeper) as a feature film. Picoult tours internationally promoting her books and is a sought-after speaker. Among her awards and honors are two honorary degrees (Dartmouth College, 2010, and University of New Haven, 2012); a New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) New England Book Award for Fiction (2003); and a Young Adult Library Services Association Alex Award (2005).

Jodi Picoult and her husband, Tim van Leer, whom she met while at Princeton and married in 1989, have three grown children and live in Hanover, N.H.

List of published works:

  • Novels
    • Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992)
    • Harvesting the Heart (1994)
    • Picture Perfect (1995)
    • Mercy (1996)
    • The Pact (1998)
    • Keeping Faith (1999)
    • Plain Truth (2000)
    • Salem Falls (2001)
    • Perfect Match (2002)
    • Second Glance (2003)
    • My Sister’s Keeper (2004)
    • Vanishing Acts (2005)
    • The Tenth Circle (2006)
    • Nineteen Minutes (2007)
    • Change of Heart (2008)
    • Handle With Care (2009)
    • House Rules (2010)
    • Sing You Home (2011)
    • Lone Wolf (2012)
    • The Storyteller (2013)
    • Leaving Time (2014)
    • Small Great Things (2016)
  • Collaborations and other works
    • “Keeping Count,” published in Seventeen magazine (February 1987)
    • “Road Stop,” published in Seventeen magazine (August 1987)
    • Leaving Home: Short Pieces (e- and audiobook) (2012)
    • Between the Lines (young adult novel, with Samantha van Leer) (2012)
    • Over the Moon (musical play, with Jake van Leer and Ellen Wilber) (2011)
    • Wonder Woman (five issues published separately, #6-10) (2007)
    • Wonder Woman: Love and Murder (one-volume edition of the five issues) (2007)
    • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Penguin Classics edition: contributed introduction)
    • Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms – 101 Stories Celebrating the Power of Choice for Stay-at-Home and Work-from-Home Moms by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Wendy Walker (contributed essay)
    • Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self, ed. Joseph Galliano (contributed essay) (2011)
    • Stories: All-New Tales, ed. Neil Gaiman (contributed story) (2011)
    • The Color War (e-book) (2013)
    • Where There’s Smoke (e-book) (2014)
    • Larger Than Life (e-book) (2014)
    • Off the Page (young adult novel, with Samantha van Leer) (2015)
    • Shine (e-book) (2016)

Contents of Collection

The Picoult Papers document the author’s work process, with extensive notes and correspondence concerning plot ideas, character development, and the intersection of fiction and realism. Her early career is represented by handwritten and typed pages and drafts from stories Picoult wrote as a college student, including two stories accepted by Seventeen magazine for publication during her senior year, along with correspondence with her editor and copies of the issues in which they appeared. Showing the range and depth of Picoult’s research are files containing plot notes, background reading, and other materials—often annotated—on the variety of subjects covered in her novels, as well as extensive correspondence and interviews with people whose expertise and/or experiences she taps, often for more than one book. There are partial and complete drafts of several of the novels, including sets of pages with comments from the author’s experts and other consultants, and pages marked with Picoult’s own notes. Smaller parts of the collection include scrapbooks assembled by Picoult containing clippings and other mementoes from some of the author’s early novels, and promotional materials, book reviews, and published profiles.

Books that Picoult used for research are also held in SCUA. Picoult’s own publications are represented by a comprehensive collection of American and foreign-language editions of her novels; her earliest published work, which appeared while she was still in college; the five Wonder Woman stories she wrote for DC Comics, and more.

Series descriptions

The correspondence in this series is of a general nature and not connected to Picoult’s work on individual novels, although some of it pertains to author events and publicity. It is arranged chronologically. Correspondents include editors, publicists, and other publishing colleagues, readers, and fellow writers including Chris Bohjalian and Picoult’s mentor, Mary Morris. A few assorted, unidentified notes round out this series.


Organized by work according to first publication date, and comprising the greater part of the collection, this series includes a range of material related to Picoult’s creative process: plotting and research notes, correspondence with her wide network of experts and friends, files of research materials on an array of topics, transcripts of interviews with her consultants, and drafts and partial drafts of her novels. Most of the correspondence is in the form of printed emails, often with notes written by hand on the page. Also here are drafts of stories Picoult wrote for college fiction-writing classes, including multiple drafts and editorial notes and correspondence, the report from her readers on her creative senior thesis, and the early published stories that started her career. Several of Picoult’s novels are not represented here.

The works represented in this series by a small miscellany of material are those for which Picoult served as a co-creator or contributor. These include two musical plays for teenagers for which Picoult wrote or co-wrote the book and lyrics; the young adult novel Between the Lines, written with her daughter, Samantha van Leer; and some essays written for other publications.

This series consists chiefly of articles and clippings—book reviews, feature stories, and profiles of Picoult—from a vast assortment of local, national, and international publications. There are also some promotional materials such as press kits, press releases, and marketing items for bookstores. A small amount of movie publicity material is also included, as are a few memorabilia. Most of this material is arranged chronologically, followed by the memorabilia, and then by a smattering of hardback and paperback book covers, mainly in proof versions, organized alphabetically by title.

Arranged chronologically, the photographs include publicity photographs from various stages of Picoult’s career, including contact sheets from a photo shoot for the cover of her first novel; photographs taken during author appearances; and snapshots taken by Picoult herself in the course of her research. A few photographs are also found with correspondence in Series 1. Audiovisual material consists of materials connected to Picoult’s research, most notably numerous microcassette recordings of interviews Picoult conducted (also represented in Series 2 by transcripts). There are also, on various formats, some interviews with Picoult. Finally, there are four scrapbooks, assembled by Picoult, containing material such as clippings, letters, and mementoes related to several of the author’s early novels.


Fiction and realityFiction--20th century--Stories, plots, etcFiction--21st century--Stories, plots, etc


Picoult, Jodi, 1966-