Zoa Sherburne was born in Seattle and raised in Ballard, Washington. She began writing while in elementary school. In 1940, she published a column of light version in the Ballard Tribune. She entered a limerick-writing contest on the radio and won the $250 first prize, which she invested in a course on short story writing. Over the next 15 years, she published more than 300 short stories in national magazines such as Women's Day, Seventeen, Collier's and others.
She then began writing books, and produced 13 novels for children and young adults. All of her fiction featured young girls in some kind of crisis. One of them, Stranger in the House (1971), was adapted into a movie for television. She and her husband of 30 years, Herbert Sherburne, had eight children. At age 65, she completed work for a GED certificate and attended Western Washington University.