Laurie Halse Anderson

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Laurie Halse Anderson
BornLaurie Beth Halse
(1961-10-23) October 23, 1961 (age 52)
Potsdam, New York, USA
GenresYoung-adult fiction, historical fiction, picture books for young readers
Notable work(s)
Notable award(s)Margaret Edwards Award
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For the musician, see Laurie Anderson.
Laurie Halse Anderson
BornLaurie Beth Halse
(1961-10-23) October 23, 1961 (age 52)
Potsdam, New York, USA
GenresYoung-adult fiction, historical fiction, picture books for young readers
Notable work(s)
Notable award(s)Margaret Edwards Award

Laurie Halse Anderson (born October 23, 1961)[1] is an American writer best known for children's and young-adult novels. She received the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 2009 for her contribution to young adult literature.[2]

First recognized for her novel Speak, published in 1999, Anderson gained recognition for her artistic dealings with tough topics embedded with honesty. Anderson’s ability to creatively address often avoided issues allows her to be a safe outlet for young readers. The tough themes of her novels including rape, family dysfunctions, body issues and disorders, and high academic pressures often create controversial discussions surrounding her novels. Anderson takes her writing very seriously, though often wishing she could write about lighter topics. She believes in speaking directly to teenagers addressing “their real concerns, fears, and frustrations". Anderson reads every letter, every e-mail message, every post sent to her by teens from around the world and responds by writing about what these young people express as most important to them — even if they want to take her to places dark and painful.”[3]

Early life[edit]

Laurie Beth Halse was born to Rev. Frank A. Halse Jr. and Joyce Holcomb Halse in Northern New York State in Potsdam. She and younger sister Lisa grew up there, near the Canadian border.[1][3] As a student she showed early interest in writing, specifically during the second grade. Anderson loved reading, especially science fiction and fantasy as a teenager, yet she never envisioned herself becoming a writer. Despite struggling with math, she thought she would eventually pursue the occupation of a doctor.[4]

During Anderson’s senior year, she at the age of sixteen, she moved out of her parent’s house and lived as an exchange student for thirteen months on a pig farm in Denmark. After her experience in Denmark, Anderson moved back home to begin working at a clothing store, making minimum wage. This pushed Laurie to decide to attend college.[4]

While attending Onondaga Community College, Laurie worked on dairy farm, milking cows. After graduating, two years later, with her associates, she transferred to Georgetown University in 1981 and graduated in 1984 with her Bachelor’s degree in Languages and Linguistics.[4]


Laurie Halse Anderson married Greg Anderson, and in 1985, they had their first child, Stephanie Holcomb. Two years later, they had their second child, Meredith Lauren. The couple later divorced.[3]

Years later, Anderson moved back to Mexico, New York, and rekindled feelings with her childhood sweetheart, Scot Larrabee. Anderson eventually married, and is still married to Larrabee. Together, they combined their families - Anderson’s two daughters and Larrabee’s two children, Jessica and Christian.[3]


Anderson’s commitment to writing powerful, controversial and intensely serious content within her novels have led her on a journey, acting as a voice for many young readers. “I get amazing letters from readers who tell me that one of my books helped them get through a tough time, and I know this is what I am meant to do.”[3]

Anderson uses her own experience which often intertwines itself into the life of her characters. Because of this blurred line, Anderson often feels the empathy, emotion, and feelings of what her characters experience. With the intensity of encompassing herself in often dark places, Anderson states, “I survive the process of emotional immersion by remembering the kids who write to me, reminding myself how much more difficult it is for the teen readers who are struggling with these issues in real life. At least I have the option of walking away from a story. They do not.”[3]

Early career[edit]

Laurie Halse Anderson began her career as a freelance journalist and worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer in the early years of her career.[5] During this time, Anderson also began to write children’s and young adult novels. Despite receiving stacks of rejection letters, in 1996 Anderson released her first children’s novel Ndito Runs,[6] based on Kenyan Olympic marathon runners who ran to and from school each day.[4] Later that same year, Anderson also had her story Turkey Pox published. This story was inspired by her daughter Meredith who on Thanksgiving broke out with chicken pox. Most would consider her a Major in Life Functioning(M.I.L.F). Two years later in 1998, No Time For Mother’s Day, featuring the same characters as Turkey Pox was published.[4]

During her early career, Anderson also wrote a few pieces of non-fiction. The first of her non-fiction projects was a book featuring Saudi Arabia written for children. Anderson received the unique experience of working directly with the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington. Within this time, Anderson gained the unique perspective of learning significantly about another culture and faith. Anderson also co-authored a book about parenting shy children with Dr. Ward Swallow, bringing the genuine experiences she received with her own daughter Stephanie.[4]

Young adult novels[edit]

In 1999, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published what is arguably Anderson's most famous novel to date, Speak. It won numerous awards and was a New York Times best seller.[7] Speak was adapted into film in 2004, starring Kristen Stewart as Melinda Sordino.[8] Anderson's novel, Speak, became a finalist for the prestigious National Book Award. The 1999 novel won Anderson an array of honors for its searing portrayal of a thirteen-year-old girl who becomes mute after a sexual assault. The paperback version was published in 2001 by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing. Speak has been translated into 16 languages.

In 2002, after the publication of Fever, 1793, Catalyst was published by Penguin under the Viking imprint.[9] Catalyst takes place in the same high school as Speak and features cameo appearances by some of its characters. Catalyst became a Barnes & Noble Best Teen Book of 2002, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, and was nominated for many state awards.[10]

In 2005, Anderson published Prom, which appeared on The New York Times best seller list during early 2005.[7] Prom received three starred reviews, was nominated for several state awards, and received national recognition from the American Library Association and the International Reading Association.[11]

Anderson's fourth YA novel, Twisted, was released in the spring of 2007 by Viking. It has awards, such as the ALA Best Book for Young Adults 2008, ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults 2008, International Reading Association Top Ten of 2007, and New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age, and became a The New York Times best seller.[12]

Anderson's most recent young adult novel, Wintergirls, was released in March 2009. The novel tells the story of two girls, one of whom is dead at the beginning, suffering from (bulimia and anorexia). Wintergirls received five-star reviews and many nominations for state awards, was named an ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults, was a Junior Library Guild Selection,[13] and debuted on The New York Times Best Seller list.[14] Wintergirls has been published in over 15 different countries.

Historical novels[edit]

In 2000, Anderson's Fever, 1793, a historical fiction novel set in Philadelphia during the Yellow Fever epidemic, was published by Simon and Schuster. Fever, 1793 received two starred reviews, many state and national awards, and was a Publishers Weekly Bestseller.[15] In May 2004, the Gifford Family Theatre, in Syracuse, New York, premiered a stage play adapted from the novel.[16]

Anderson's historical fiction picture book, Thank You, Sarah! The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving was also published in 2002. Thank You, Sarah received two starred reviews, several state award nominations, and was named in the ALA Amelia Bloomer List and the Junior Library Guild Selection.[17]

In 2008, Anderson published another historical fiction novel, entitled Chains, a narrative about a teenage Revolutionary War-era slave. The novel, the first in a trilogy dubbed Seeds of America, was awarded the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.[18]

The second novel in the Seeds of America trilogy, Forge, was released in October, 2010, by Simon and Schuster. In the short time since its release, Forge has received three-starred reviews and has become a Junior Library Guild Selection, a Kirkus Best Book for Teens: Historical Novels 2010, The Horn Book Fanfare List Best Book of 2010 and a YALSA 2011 Best Books for Young Adults.[19]

Writing inspirations[edit]

In a culture where Anderson believes teenagers and young adults are poorly depicted she states that, “I have a lot of material to work with.”[3] Anderson’s lack of fear in tackling tough issues specifically surrounding young adults is what provides the credibility in many young adults confiding their story in her. When choosing to write a historical novel, Anderson states that she must be “overwhelmingly curious about a time period or situation, or she will not touch it. I need to be on fire about something,” states Anderson, “in order to commit to research and the challenge of writing.”[3]

Anderson finds inspiration in short conversations overheard while running errands, ideas through what she is reading, and the events she witnesses surrounding her life. With a plethora of ideas, Anderson must limit herself to the ideas which she feels can be nurtured and are worth investing time into. She looks more to the community and the outside world for inspiration in bringing her character, themes, and motifs to life. After looking externally, Anderson then internally crafts the rest of the pieces to her novel. Laurie uses her own lens of life experience and feelings to depict the emotions her characters experience. “As a person, as a Mother, as a girlfriend, she gathers her life experiences that transfer to her storytelling in nonliteral, more emotional ways. As she explains, “I know what it feels like to fall in love, fall out of love, be starry- eyed, have a jealous fit. Whatever the emotional tenor of the scene requires, I have been there. So even if I make up every single detail of the scene, the emotions probably echo something I have lived through.”[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

The ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work "for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature". Anderson won the annual award in 2009 citing three novels published from 1999 to 2002: Speak, Fever, 1793, and Catalyst. The ALA called the novels "gripping and exceptionally well-written" and the panel chair observed that "Laurie Halse Anderson masterfully gives voice to teen characters undergoing transformations in their lives through their honesty and perseverance while finding the courage to be true to themselves."[2]

Several of Anderson's early children's picture books were placed on recommended reading lists and some won awards. For the novel Speak, Anderson won the Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and she was a runner-up for the Michael L. Printz Award and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Fever 1793 was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults selection and a Junior Library Guild selection. Chains was a National Book Award finalist in 2008 and it won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction in 2009.[20]


Young adult novels[edit]

Historical novels[edit]

  1. Chains (2008)
  2. Forge (2010)
  3. Ashes (Expected Publication: January 6th 2015)

Children's books[edit]

  1. Fight for Life: Maggie (2000)
  2. Homeless: Sunita (2000)
  3. Trickster: David (2000)
  4. Manatee Blues: Brenna (2000)
  5. Say Good-Bye: Zoe (2001)
  6. Storm Rescue: Sunita (2001)
  7. Teacher's Pet: Maggie (2001)
  8. Trapped: Brenna (2001)
  9. Fear of Falling: David (2001, forthcoming)
  10. Time to Fly (2002, forthcoming)
  11. Masks (2002)
  12. End of the Race (2003)
  13. New Beginnings (2012)
  14. Acting Out (2012)
  15. Helping Hands (2013)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "About Me". Laurie Halse Anderson.
  2. ^ a b "2009 Winner: Laurie Halse Anderson". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). American Library Association (ALA). With acceptance speech by Anderson.
      "Edwards Award". YALSA. ALA. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Glenn, Wendy (2010). Laurie Halse Anderson: Speaking in Tongues. Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 12–13. ISBN 9780810872813. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Laurie Halse Anderson". Scholastic. Retrieved April 15, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Laurie Halse Anderson". Macmillan Books. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  6. ^ Patricia Newman (March 2005). "Who Wrote That? Featuring Laurie Halse Anderson". Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  7. ^ a b "Children's Books". The New York Times. April 17, 2005. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  8. ^ "imdb". 
  9. ^ "catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson". 
  10. ^ "catalyst". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  11. ^ "Prom". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  12. ^ "NY times booklist". 
  13. ^ "Wintergirls". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  14. ^ "Children's Books". The New York Times. 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  15. ^ "Fever I793". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  16. ^ [1] ([dead link]
  17. ^ "Thank You, Sarah! The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  18. ^ "Scott O'Dell Award". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  19. ^ "Forge". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  20. ^ Criswell, Mandy (Summer 2002). "Pennsylvania Author: Anderson, Laurie Halse". Pennsylvania Center for the Book ( Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  21. ^ Books by Laurie Halse Anderson on Retrieved 2012-03-05.

External links[edit]