Today in YA History: October 23, 1961 – Laurie Halse Anderson born!

October 23, 1961: American author Laurie Halse Anderson is born in Potsdam, New York. Her most famous YA work, Speak, has been translated into 16 languages. You can read about Speak‘s day in YA History here!

Born Laurie Beth Halse (pronounced Halt-z, like waltz), she knew she wanted to be a writer by the time she was in second grade. She had spent time playing with her Methodist minster father’s typewriter, and had been taught how to write haiku by her second grade teacher. According to Anderson, “The giant light bulb clicked on over my head: ‘Oh, my goodness! I can do this!’ I hope every second grader learns how to write haiku.”

From 2nd grade haikus, she kept writing, eventually beginning her career as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines. For a time, she worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

She began writing novels and, after hundreds of “discouraging rejection letters” from publishers, joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators where she found a supportive critique group. Anderson says they “made all the difference.” She published 3 picture books for young readers.

Finally, in 1999, Farrar Straus & Giroux published what would go on to be Mrs. Anderson’s most famous novel to date, Speak, a young adult novel of a fourteen-year-old girl who becomes mute after a sexual assault. The novel, critically acclaimed and part of middle school curriculums around the country, was made into a film in 2004. The novels that followed include Fever, 1793 (2000), Catalyst (2002), Twisted (2007), and her most recent Wintergirls (2009).

Laurie, living in Northern New York with her husband (childhood sweetheart Scot, father of their four children), now writes both contemporary Young Adult and Historical Fiction books (including picture books for early readers). History has been a life-long love for Laurie, and she has written several novels involving Colonial and Revolutionary America. Over the next decade, be on the look out for more books for Laurie as she alternates between these two genres!

When she’s not writing, Laurie enjoys spending time with her family, working in her garden, training for marathons, or hiking in the nearby mountains of her home. While she has taken time away from visiting schools–to write all those books we’re waiting for!–Laurie does sometimes set up Skype visits. Learn all about it!

A few parting words of advice from Laurie’s website:

    “Any career in the arts has a simple truth attached to it: you have to do the work every day. That is how you get better. It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve published. I have never before written the book I am writing now.” ~Laurie Halse Anderson

Visit her on twitter @asklaurie and say happy birthday! Or purchase her books at your local Independent bookstore today!

[[All quotes are from Laurie’s website! Check it out, it’s pretty fascinating and totally huge. Laurie even has a whole page where she talks about Censorship!]]


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