Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Birthday for Ursula

It is the birthday of National Book Award-winning author, Ursula Le Guin, born on this day in Berkeley, California, in 1929.

Today’s Writer’s Almanac tells us how the author grew up as the daughter of a famous anthropologist:
But as a kid she was more interested in science fiction. Every so often, she and her brother would pool their pocket change and buy a 25-cent science fiction magazine like Astounding Stories or Thrilling Wonder Stories. Young Ursula thought that she could write quite a bit better than some of the writers in those magazines, so at the age of 11 she wrote a science fiction story about the origin of life and a time machine and sent it off, but it was rejected.
The path, however, had already been laid in and, of course, Le Guin’s assertion had been correct: she really could write quite a bit better than a lot of people. But first, however, there would be education:
She went to Radcliffe, where she studied French, Italian, and Renaissance literature, and went to graduate school at Columbia. From there, she headed off to France to study the poet Pierre de Rosnard, and it was on the boat to Paris that she met the historian Charles Le Guin, and they fell in love and got married a few months later. They have lived in the same house in Portland, Oregon, for more than 50 years.
Le Guin’s stories began to be published in the 1960s, along with “a handful of science fiction novels.”
Then a publisher asked her to write a fantasy novel for kids 11 and older. She didn’t know anything about writing for kids. She said: 'I went home, and thought about kids. Boys. How does a boy learn to be an old guy with a white beard who can do magic? And there was my book.'
The book in question, published in 1968, was A Wizard of Earthsea. Many novels have followed, along with Hugo, Nebula, the Newbery and even the National Book Award.

Photo Copyright © by Marian Wood Kolisch



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