Friday, May 30, 2008

Author Spotlight: E. L Konigsburg

E. L. Konigsburg never set out to be a writer. Though as a child and throughout her life she loved books, and loved to draw, she did not set out to be a writer. That realization came to her later - following a career in chemistry, then teaching, and during her time as a stay-at-home mom.

The second of three daughters, she was born February 10, 1930, in New York, and grew up in small towns in Pennsylvania. She was an excellent student. After high school graduation, she took a job as a bookkeeper for a wholesale meat plant in order to earn money for college. It was while working there that Elaine Lobl met David Konigsburg.

Elaine Lobl was the first in her family to attend college. She graduated with honors from Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in chemistry, earning scholarships and working her way through in order to stay enrolled continuously. She saw chemistry as a sensible choice, and one that would afford her a solid career with good pay. None of her friends at CMU suspected she wrote, and loved to draw and create, as her chosen field was all about facts and study and experimentation and systematic application of knowledge.

She married David after graduation and began graduate school at the University of Pittsburg, again pursuing a chemistry degree. Once her husband earned his doctorate, they moved to Florida, where Mrs. Konigsburg taught science at a private girls' school. 

Leaving teaching in 1955 to become a stay-at-home mom, she began to think of new career directions to take in life. She said that she became more interested in what was going on inside her students than in what was going on inside their test tubes. So, she started taking art lessons, and then when the youngest of her three children went off to Kindergarten, she finally began to write. She worked out a system of devoting her mornings to writing, and saving housework and other things for afternoons.

The family moved to New York in 1962, and her daughter's challenges and experiences in dealing with the move inspired her first book, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. Her second book, published only months after the first, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, was inspired by her children's behavior during a family picnic. In fact, most of the 21 books she's written (so far) come from the author's life experiences, and deal with the emotional growth children go through.

E. L. Konigsburg is the only author ever to win both a Newbery Medal (for The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler) and a Newbery Honor (for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth) in the same year (1968). She made history again 29 years later when she won a Newbery Medal in 1997 for The View From Saturday, because that is the longest span between any two Newberys awarded to one author, ever.

Her advice to children:

Before you can be anything, you have to be yourself. That's the hardest thing to find.

E(laine) L(obl) Konigsburg

*This article was originally posted May 30, 2008. Sadly, I must now in April 2013 add this edit:

E.L. Konigsburg has died: Friday, April 19th, 2013, at age 83.


  1. I love your blog. I am an avid reader so esp. like your reviews.

  2. Thanks, Ava! I'm glad to have to as a reader, and I'm happy you like the blog. Your blog is a riot - I can't believe one person has so much excitement in her life ;-)


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