Laurie Halse Anderson was born on October 23, 1961 in Potsdam, New York. Anderson is a current American author, who writes for children and young adults. 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 take her to places dark and painful.”
As a student growing up in New York, near the border of Canada, under her parents, Reverend Frank and Joyce Halse, with younger sister, Lisa, Laurie Halse Anderson showed early interest in writing, specifically during the second grade. Laurie 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.
During Anderson’s senior year, 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.
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.
Laurie Halse Anderson married her first husband, Greg Anderson, and in 1985, they had their first child, Stephanie Holcomb. Two years later, they had their second child, Meredith Lauren. Her marriage to Greg did not last, but they remain on good terms with Greg still editing her manuscripts today.
Years later, with Laurie Anderson’s move back to Mexico, New York, she rekindled feelings with her childhood sweetheart, Scot Larrabee. Anderson eventually married, and is still married to, Larrabee. Together, they blended their families of Anderson’s two daughters and Larrabee’s two children, Jessica and Christian. Anderson states that the blended family is the “greatest thing that has ever happened to her.”
Other than writing and spending time with her family, Laurie loves to run for therapeutic release. She finds that running assists in her career and personal life stating, "My writing goes better, I sleep better, I eat better, and I'm a nicer person. My husband is very supportive of this endeavor." Anderson has competed in several local races with Scot now that her children are grown.
Anderson’s commitment to writing powerful, controversial and intensely serious content within her novel have led Anderson 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.”
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.”
Laurie Halse Anderson began her career as a freelance journalist and worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer in the early years of her career. 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, based on Kenyan Olympic marathon runners who ran to and from school each day. 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. Two years later in 1998, No Time For Mother’s Day, featuring the same characters as Turkey Pox was published.
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.
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.Speak was adapted into film in 2004, starring Kristen Stewart as Melinda Sordino. 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.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.
In 2005, Anderson published Prom, which appeared on The New York Times best seller list during early 2005.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.
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.
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, and debuted on The New York Times Best Seller list.Wintergirls has been published in over 15 different countries.
The following year, 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. In May 2004, the Gifford Family Theatre, in Syracuse, New York, premiered a stage play adapted from the novel.
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.
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.
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.
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.” 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.”
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. Surprisingly, Anderson 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.”
Laurie Halse Anderson has been nominated and won multiple honorary awards over her literary work. Among her earlier work Anderson was honored for her children’s picture books which received numerous awards and were placed on the recommended reading lists. For the masterpiece Speak, Anderson won the Printz Honor Book Award, a National Book Award nomination, Golden Kite award, the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Along with Speak her awards have also encompassed the book Fever 1793, which she won the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults selection and the Junior Library Guild selection. In 2008, Chains was selected for the National Book Award Finalist and in 2009 was awarded for its Historical Fiction the Scott O’Dell Award.