Friday, October 2, 2009

Author Spotlight: Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson was introduced to how fun writing could be through a haiku lesson from her second grade teacher. Even though she enjoyed it, she thought she would grow up to be a doctor, not a writer. Happily, for the many folks who've read her books, she was wrong.

Growing up, Ms Anderson read all the time - historical fiction was a favorite when she was a child, and science fiction and fantasy overtook that favorite spot in her teen years. She also had a love of foreign cultures and languages, which eventually led her to spend her senior year as an exchange student in Denmark, where she lived on a pig farm. When she returned to the States, she tried working in retail for a while, then enrolled in Onondaga Community College. She worked on a dairy farm milking cows while at OCC, and graduated with an AA degree in 1981. She then transferred to Georgetown University, where she earned a BSLL in Language and Linguistics in 1984. She married Greg Anderson in 1983, and the couple had two daughters.

Though, for years, she had loved to write, Ms Anderson saw it as little more than a hobby, until finding work as a freelance reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She also began writing books...and receiving lots of rejections. After joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and finding a critique group, things began looking up: her first book, Ndito Runs, was published in 1996, followed thereafter by several more. She also wrote non-fiction.

Then, during the time she had been writing Fever 1793, she took a break from that story to write Speak, which was published in 1999 and is the book for which she is most well-known. Fever 1793 was then published in 2000. The success of Speak garnered her the full attention of the writing world, and of agents. Though she published her first seven books on her own, she now is represented by agent Amy Berkower of Writer's House.

From 2000- 2006, in addition to writing, Ms Anderson traveled the country, speaking to conferences and schools and universities, doing workshops, and critiquing manuscripts. Since then, demands on her writing time have limited her appearances to just conferences and book tours.

Ms Anderson has written a variety of work: freelance reporting, non-fiction, picture books, historical fiction, young adult novels, and a chapter book series. Now, she alternates between contemporary young adult and historical fiction, as well as some picture books, and possibly a book about the writing process. She has won numerous awards for her work - too numerous to mention in this article, in fact. But here is a link to a curriculum vitae of Laurie Halse Anderson - complete with honors and awards her work has received.

In addition to changes in her professional life, there have been some in her personal life, as well. She and first husband Greg have divorced, but remain friends. Both are now remarried: Greg to pediatrician Dr. Susan Kressly, and Laurie to childhood sweetheart Scott Larrabee.

In her non-writing time, she enjoys running, hiking, and gardening. She and husband Scott live in New York state, where she writes in her newly completed and much anticipated writing cottage, situated just steps from her home.

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