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Laurie Halse Anderson was born on October 23, 1961 in Potsdam, a very cold, cold place in Northern New York State. It was (and still is) close to the border of Canada.
She was born Laurie Beth Halse. This would be a good place to clear up the matter of the pronunciation of her name, because it is, after all, her name, and she is weary of hearing it mangled by well-meaning people. Halse rhymes with waltz. Not hal-see. No, no, no, no. Halt-z. If she could have anything she wanted, it would be world peace. But if she could have a second thing, it would be having people say her name correctly.
Want to hear Laurie pronounce her name? Go to TeachingBooks.net
Breaking Into Writing
Laurie has loved writing since second grade. She began as a freelance reporter for newspapers and magazines, but she had a lot to learn about writing. She earned hundreds of discouraging rejections letters when she started submitting her books to publishers. She joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and found a supportive critique group. That made all the difference.
Becoming Published – Picture Books
Laurie started her career as a picture book writer and still enjoys writing them. Her newest picture book, The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School, illustrated by Ard Hoyt, was released in 2009. Soon after its debut, this picture book became a New York Times bestseller! Laurie dedicated this book to her daughter, who became a teacher that year.
Librarians, teachers and parents love her fun, fact-filled picture books about American history: Independent Dames; What You Never Knew about the Woman and Girls of the American Revolution and Thank You , Sarah; the Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. Her next project is a picture book about her hero, Abigail Adams.
Laurie is probably best known for her Young Adult novels. Her debut novel, Speak, was a National Book Award Finalist, a New York Times bestseller, and a Printz Honor book. Even more thrilling, Speak was quickly placed into curriculum at hundreds of middle schools, high schools, and colleges around the country. (The film version of Speak features Twilight star, Kristen Stewart, as Melinda!)
Her second YA novel, Catalyst; which received many state awards and was the American Library Association’s Best Book for Young Adults, followed three years later.
In 2005, Prom was published; this novel has a lighter subject matter than Laurie’s first two YA novels. Prom spent the spring of 2005 swishing its skirts on the New York Times bestseller list, was nominated for ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and received many state awards.
Twisted, a YA novel told from a male perspective, was published in 2007. This became Laurie’s third novel to appear on the New York Times bestseller list. It received the ALA Best Book for Young Adults award, was named to the International Reading Association’s Young Adults’ Choices List, and was voted a Teen Top Ten.
Wintergirls is Laurie’s most recent YA novel. Wintergirls debuted on the New York Times bestseller list and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist, and Kirkus, and was the focus of much media attention for its unflinching and raw perspective on eating disorders.
American history has been a life-long passion for Laurie. If she were to become a teacher, it is what she’d teach. Like Speak, her first historical fiction novel, Fever 1793, published in 2000, is used in schools all over the country. After receiving multiple national and state awards, Fever 1793 was adapted into a stage play in May of 2004 and performed at the Gifford Family Theater in Syracuse, New York.
In 2008 Chains was released, the first in a trilogy set in the Revolutionary War time period. Laurie was blessed and honored when the book was named a National Book Award finalist, her second. Chains also received the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the ALA Best Book for Young Adults award, together with multiple media and bookseller recognitions. Forge, the sequel to Chains, will be published in the fall of 2010.
Laurie has also written an elementary chapter book series Vet Volunteers. Laurie gets the best fan mail in the world about these books. Kids send her pictures and drawings of their pets.
On the Horizon
Laurie will be alternating between contemporary YA novels and historical fiction for the next decade. In addition, she has a few picture books up her sleeve and there is a book about the writing process simmering on the back burner.
On July 11, 2009, the Young Adult Library Services Association presented Laurie with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award for Catalyst, Fever 1793, and Speak. In doing so, YALSA “recognizes an iconic and classic storyteller who in her character development has created for teens a body of work that continues to be widely read and cherished by a diverse audience.” In 2008, Laurie received the ALAN Award from the high school English teachers of America for her “outstanding contributions to the field of adolescent literature.” The American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) chose Laurie to be their School Library Month spokesperson for April of 2010.
Laurie lives in Northern New York, with her childhood sweetheart, now husband, Scot. She has four wonderful children and a neurotic dog, all of whom she dearly loves. When not enjoying her family and her large garden, she spends countless hours writing in a woodland cottage designed and built just for that purpose by her Beloved Husband. She also likes to train for marathons, hike in the mountains, and try to coax tomatoes out of the rocky soil in her backyard.
She is quite sure that she leads a charmed life and is deeply grateful for it.
Copyright 2004, 2008 and 2009, S. H. Anderson and Queen Louise
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