Sandi Sonnenfeld was born in Queens, New York and grew up on Long Island. Drawn to the arts at a very early age, Sonnenfeld studied ballet for more than 15 years, ultimately attending classes at the Joffrey Ballet School in Manhattan. She attended Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she majored in English (and minored in dance), graduating magna cum laude. After a brief stint performing with a professional dance troupe in Boston, Sonnenfeld enrolled in the MFA program in fiction writing at the University of Washington, where she studied under National Book Award winner Charles Johnson. While at the UW, Sandi won the Loren D. Milliman Writing Award, a graduate fellowship awarded to just one MFA candidate each year based on the quality of their work. Since that time, Sonnenfeld has published a memoir and more than 30 short stories, essays, and journalism pieces in a variety of publications.
Her first full-length book, This Is How I Speak, a memoir in diary form that explores Sonnenfeld’s struggle to come to terms with the end of her dance career even as she embarks on a new one as a writer, was published by Seattle’s Impassio Press in June 2002. This is How I Speak was a BookSense 76 finalist for July/August 2002, and in September 2002, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association named her a Celebration Author, one of a select group of writers whose work merits special notice.
Other writing awards include The David Dornstein Memorial Creative Writing Award for Young Writers (1998) sponsored by the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education. She was also named a finalist for the 41st Annual New Millennium Writing Awards for Flash Fiction (2017), the 39th Annual New Millennium Writing Awards for Fiction (2015), Rosebud Magazine’s X.J. Kennedy Award for Creative Nonfiction (2001), Greensboro Review Literary Awards (2001) and the Serpentine Fiction Award (2000).
Whether writing from the imagination or drawing on true life experiences, Sonnenfeld’s work is profoundly literary, with a strong emphasis on character development and theme. Her work tends to explore urban situations, where different cultures collide or characters experience deep isolation in the midst of chaos. Her stories and essays deal with a wide variety of themes and issues, including racism, betrayal and sexual violence. More recently, she has begun writing historical fiction, and is currently working on a novel set in 17th-century Moscow.
Sonnenfeld has taught college writing, business writing, fiction writing, the art of the memoir and American literature at numerous colleges and universities, including Mount Holyoke College, Pierce College, Marist College and Western Connecticut State University.
A proud member of The Authors Guild, the ACLU, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Counsel and Planned Parenthood, Sonnenfeld currently resides in Poughkeepsie, NY with husband Warren Berry and Sasha and Shadow, the world’s two most perfect cats.