Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Laurie was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.”
Laurie Halse Anderson was born on October 23, 1961 in Potsdam, New York. It was (and still is) close to the border of Canada, which pleased her more than it did her parents, Frank and Joyce, who now live in Florida.
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.
After being born, Laurie went on to be a child, and she did a pretty good job. Her second grade teacher showed her how cool writing was during a haiku lesson. She read all the time. She was awful at math, but then, lots of creative people are, and she has gotten over it. Historical fiction was her favorite when she was little, and as a teenager she most enjoyed science fiction and fantasy. Despite the haiku, Laurie didn't think she would be a writer, but a doctor. While her biology teacher may have found this to be plausible, her chemistry teacher probably would have laughed—and so would you if you could have seen her grades in that class. Throughout all of this, she remained absolutely fascinated by foreign cultures and languages.
Laurie was mostly well-behaved. For her senior year of high school, she did what every kid dreams of and got the heck out of her parents' house. Of course, she wound up living on a pig farm, but you take what you can get when you are sixteen years old. The pig farm was in Denmark where she lived as an exchange student for thirteen months. She still enjoys open-faced sandwiches and pickled herring. She came home and worked for minimum wage at a clothing store, which quickly convinced her to go to college. She attended Onondaga Community College for two years and is a proud graduate. She worked on a dairy farm, milking cows, while at OCC. This experience and living on a pig farm are the reasons she is not a vegetarian and never will be.
She transferred to Georgetown University in 1981. She graduated from there in 1984 with a B.S.L.L. in Languages and Linguistics, which was useless when it came to getting a real job. She was also a passionate fan of college basketball, but employers did not consider this a job skill, either.
For years, Laurie had loved writing, but had considered it little more than a hobby. It eventually dawned on her that people would pay her to write and she became a freelance reporter. She also began to write all types of books and accumulated several inches of rejections letters. In 1996, her first book, Ndito Runs, was published. Later that year, Turkey Pox came out. Ndito was inspired by an NPR story about Kenyan Olympic marathon runners who grew up running miles to and from school every day. Turkey Pox was inspired by Meredith, who actually came down with chicken pox on Thanksgiving, though no snow plow drivers came to the family's rescue. In 1998, No Time For Mother's Day was published, featuring the same characters as Turkey Pox.
Laurie also wrote some nonfiction for extra cash. The first project was a book about Saudi Arabia for children. She loved working with the people at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, and learning about another faith and culture. She also co-authored a book with Dr. Ward Swallow about parenting shy children. She had plenty of experience with her older daughter, Stephanie.
Since 1993, Laurie had been researching and constantly rewriting Fever 1793 (originally titled Bitter Drops — don't ask). She took a break and wrote Speak (pub. 1999), which turned out to be a great idea. Speak won award after award — it was a National Book Award Finalist, a Printz Honor book, a Booklist Top10 First Novels of 1999, and lots more. People loved it. And no, it's not about her or her teenage daughters (thank God).
After allowing her head a chance to return to normal, Laurie finished Fever 1793 and saw it published in 2000. She also started the Wild at Heart series, the twelfth book of which was published in March 2003. In 2001, she published The Big Cheese on Third Street, a salute to her adopted hometown of Philadelphia. Yo!
In 2002, the YA novel Catalyst was published. It is set in the same high school as Speak, and features a few cameo appearances from the earlier book's characters. Thank You, Sarah! was published in 2002 as well. It is the story of Sarah Josepha Hale, a distant relation of Laurie's who lived by the guiding principal that a person can change the world with her pen. Prom, (guess what it's about) came out in 2005.
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.
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.