In her own words...thoughts from the author

On Writing:  

"I was seven years old when I wrote a letter to the San Diego Union-Tribune pleading the cause of poor children of migrant workers in California’s Central Valley need for shoes.  It appeared on the front page of the newspaper’s Sunday edition and, it seems, I’ve been expressing an opinion on something ever since!  I left a tenured academic position early to devote my time to writing something other than social science. I hired on writing editorials, feature stories and a column on women’s issues for a small newspaper syndicate, which proved to be more fun than any job I’ve ever had.  Being the only bleeding-heart liberal among staunch conservatives led to really great arguments at the editorial staff meetings!

I’ve particularly enjoyed the writing opportunities that found me.  I was asked to write the script for “Choices,” a Hospice video production about death that won a Telly Awards Bronze Medal.  That led to co-authoring a self-help book on loss and grieving and writing the novel that had been floating around in my head for twenty years, which led to a sequence novel. Ultimately I found my way back to what I love most: writing non-fiction chronicles of other people’s lives and telling other people’s stories…Often it feels as though these stories are just floating out there in space looking for someone to tell them – until eventually they find me."  

On Poverty Research:

"I feel strongly that those of us who are born luckier than others owe something to the less fortunate, which led me to using a very good education and writing ability to research and write about a very stubborn and difficult social condition.  I didn’t realistically expect to solve the poverty problem but it was discouraging to finally realize, after 25 years of trying, that poverty really is not fixable and the “War on Poverty” isn’t winnable .…nevertheless, I seem to need to keep writing about it anyway. Working on Women and Poverty in 21st Century America was deeply rewarding because it says lot of things about the plight of poor women that really need saying.  The poor women I interviewed wrote it – I just showed up and listened to them tell their stories. I could not have helped these women give voice to their lives while I was still an active academic because writing their truths would’ve risked jeopardizing my research funding.  Almost immediately the book won two major literary awards – and I was very pleased the topic received that level of attention, b/c the women deserve it. Hard Living in America’s Heartland: Rural Poverty in the 21st Century Midwest was a great book to work on because it forced me to look at poverty a different way and to point out the remarkable strength, tenacity, and enviable common sense the rural poor possess – qualities I’ve never been forced to acquire, and truly envy."

On What’s Next:

"I'm currently working on a very exciting book about the 2017 women's movement: 'RESIST: 2017 WOMEN'S VOICES SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER' (something I love to do!) together with Betty Wells. McFarland Publishers will be publishing this book.  To find out more, email  

In the 2019 pipeline, as a follow-up to 'Mother Nature's Daughters: 21st Century Women Farmers' I am working on a book about women and the food system. Tentative title: 'The Hand that Stirs the Pot Rules the World: Women Fix the Food System.  McFarland Publishers will also be publishing this book."  


On the Writing Life:

"Many serious writers live apart from the world in order to maintain uncluttered psychic space to write, and I’m no exception.  I’m very protective of my time, and crave stability, simplicity and quiet, which lots of people I know think is a crazy way to live.  It works well because my husband is also a writer and craves quiet too. Most of the time we don’t even answer the telephone! I garden in summer and knit all year round – and get a lot of things figured out while pulling weeds and winding yarn. I’m never not writing something, so I guess I’m leading a writer’s life." 


PAULA DÁIL has authored more than 250 scholarly publications and presentations, mostly on aspects of poverty.  She was founding director of the Center for the Study of Poverty at Virginia Tech and, as a research professor of social welfare and public policy, directed the Child Welfare Research Project at Iowa State University.  During her career she successfully procured more than $4 million in research funding by writing what reviewers often labeled “poetic social science research” proposals. She has served on the editorial review boards of several professional academic publications and her scholarship earned her a publication award from the Groves Conference, early tenure from Virginia Tech, and a graduate faculty teaching award from Iowa State University. A native of Southern California, she received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Research Scholar

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