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Author biographies

  1. 1. Author BiographiesShort Story Unit 8th Ites Angelou, Maya 1928 -- Writer, poet, performer, and director. Born Marguerite Johnson, on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. After her parents’ marriage broke up, Angelou and her older brother, who gave her the nickname “Maya,” moved to the rural town of Stamps, Arkansas to live with their paternal grandmother. In the mid-1930s, after the two children had returned to St. Louis to live with their mother, her mother’s boyfriend raped the seven-year-old Angelou. A few days after she was forced to testify at his trial, her rapist was found beaten to death in an alley, apparently murdered by some of Angelou’s uncles. Traumatized by the whole experience, Angelou stopped speaking altogether, and she andher brother moved back to Arkansas. Through her study of writing, literature, and music, Angelou gained the will to speak again, and by theage of 12, she became known in the town of Stamps for her precocious intelligence. She moved to SanFrancisco in 1940 to live with her mother, who had remarried. While attending high school, she won ascholarship in dance and drama to the California Labor School. In addition to her studies, Angelou worked toearn extra money, becoming San Francisco’s first African-American and first female streetcar conductor. Justafter she graduated from high school in 1945, her son, Clyde “Guy” Johnson, was born. She held a successionof jobs in San Francisco and San Diego—where she worked as a nightclub waitress and as a madam for twoprostitutes—and was turned down for enlistment in the United States Army after her background checkrevealed that the California Labor School was in fact suspected by the House Un-American ActivitiesCommittee as a training ground for future Communists. In the early 1950s, Angelou was married for three years to a Greek-born former sailor, Tosh Angelos;she took a variation of his name as her stage name for her debut appearance as a dancer and singer of WestIndian calypso music in a San Francisco cabaret. She also worked as a dancer in a touring production of GeorgeGershwin’s Porgy and Bess, with which she toured 22 countries in Europe and Asia. In 1955, Angelou returnedto California and began touring with her cabaret act on the West Coast and Hawaii. Angelou moved to New York in the late 1950s to pursue her acting and singing careers, appearing in anoff-Broadway play Calypso Heatwave (1957) and recording an album of calypso music. She also attendedmeetings of the Harlem Writers Guild and began to develop an interest in politics and civil rights. In 1960,Angelou wrote a revue called Freedom Cabaret, which she and her friend Godfrey Cambridge produced,directed, and starred in, in order to raise money for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian LeadershipConference (SCLC). She became the northern coordinator of the SCLC in 1961. Angelou later moved to Egypt with her new husband, the South African dissident lawyer VusumziMake; in Cairo, she worked as an editor at an English-language publication, the Arab Observer. Her marriage toMake ended in 1963, and Angelou moved to the newly independent African nation of Ghana, where her sonwas attending college. There, she worked as a teacher at the University of Ghana’s music and drama school andas a writer and editor for the African Review and the Ghanaian Times. She returned to Los Angeles in 1966,where she wrote a two-act play, The Least of These, and a ten-part television series, Black, Blues, Black(broadcast by National Educational Television in1968), that dealt with the role of African culture in Americanlife. Encouraged by such prominent writers as James Baldwin and Jules Feiffer to write the story of her ownlife in the same lilting, powerful style in which she performed, Angelou published her first book, I Know Whythe Caged Bird Sings, in 1970. The story of the first 17 years of her life, up until the birth of her son, thememoir met with astonishing critical acclaim and popular success. Since then, Angelou has become one of themost celebrated writers in America and a distinctive voice of African-American culture in particular. Even as IKnow Why the Caged Bird Sings remained a bestseller well into the late 1990s, Angelou published four more
  2. 2. volumes of autobiography: Gather Together in My Name (1974), Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry LikeChristmas (1976), The Heart of a Woman (1981), and All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986). Herperforming career also continued, most notably in her debut performance on Broadway in Look Away (1975),for which she was nominated for a Tony Award, and her Emmy-nominated supporting turn in the hugelypopular 1977 TV miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley’s best-selling book. Angelou also gained worldwide renown as a poet. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1971 forher first volume of verse, entitled Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Die. Her other books of poetryinclude And Still I Rise (1978), Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987), and I Shall Not Be Moved (1990). Herpoetry became phenomenally popular, especially such favorites as “Phenomenal Woman,” and “Still I Rise.” InJanuary 1993, Angelou became the first poet since Robert Frost, in 1961, to take part in a presidentialinauguration ceremony when she wrote and read “On the Pulse of Morning,” at President Bill Clinton’sinauguration. The poem was later published in 1994’s The Complete Poems of Maya Angelou; her recording ofthe poem won Angelou a Grammy Award for Best Nonmusical Album. Angelou also read her poem, “A Braveand Startling Truth,” for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995. In 1997, Angelou published a collection of essays, Even the Stars Look Lonesome. That year, she hadthree books on the New York Times bestseller lists for 10 consecutive weeks, with I Know How the Caged BirdSings, The Heart of a Woman, and Even the Stars Look Lonesome. After directing some short films for PBS,she made her feature film directing debut with the mildly well-received 1998 Showtime movie Down in theDelta, starring Alfre Woodard, Wesley Snipes, and Esther Rolle. With some 50 honorary degrees at different institutions, Angelou reportedly commands $15,000 forspeaking engagements. In 1981, she accepted a special lifetime appointment as a professor of American Studiesat Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Angelou is fluent in French, Spanish, Italian,Arabic, and the West African language of Fanti. She now lives in Winston-Salem, and has a great-granddaughter, Caylin Johnson, born in February 1998. Buck, Pearl 1892 -- 1973 Writer. Born June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia, Pearl Buck won acclaim as the author of The Good Earth and as an advocate for mixed-race children and other causes. The daughter of Presbyterian missionaries Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker, Pearl Buck was born in West Virginia but spent virtually the entire first half of her life in China. Unlike most missionary families, the Sydenstrickers made their home among the Chinese rather than with the other Westerners in the isolated foreign compound, so young Pearl was able to immerse herself totally in the language and culture of her adopted land.In later years, she would often say that growing up in such an environment had left her "mentally bifocal"—ableto appreciate and love two very different cultures, each on its own terms. After graduating in 1914 from Randolph-Macon Womens College in Lynchburg, Virginia, Pearlreturned to China and taught at a missionary school for Chinese boys until her 1917 marriage to Americanagriculturalist Lossing Buck. She often accompanied her husband into the countryside, where she learned aboutthe peasants and their customs. She also tried her hand at writing and sold some nonfiction articles on China toAmerican magazines. In 1921, Buck gave birth to a daughter, Carol. Complications following the pregnancy left her unable tobear more children, a situation worsened by the realization that Carol was retarded and probably would need tobe institutionalized some day. In the hope that their daughter might benefit from having a playmate, the Bucksadopted a little girl, Janice. It soon became obvious, however, that Carol was not going to improve, and caringfor her began to drain Buck emotionally and physically. Desperate for free time to work on her novel, Buck journeyed to the United States in 1929 andconvinced the Presbyterian Mission Board to lend her the money she needed to institutionalize Carol at a NewJersey training school for two years. In January 1930, she returned to China and immediately started writingwhat she referred to as her "Wang Lung" novel, the epic tale of a Chinese peasants relationship to his family
  3. 3. and the land that sustains them. Upon its publication in 1931, The Good Earth met with critical and popularacclaim, zooming to the top of the best-seller lists and staying there longer than any book had before. In 1932, itreceived the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It was not until she visited New York City later in the year, however, that Buck realized she had becomea celebrity. At a series of events held in her honor, she met numerous writers, editors, artists, and musicianswho--unlike her husband and most other members of the missionary community--shared her interests inliterature, history, and current events. By 1935, she had permanently relocated to the United States, divorcedLossing Buck, and married Richard Walsh the head of the John Day Company, which had published her novel.They quickly settled into family life together, adopting three baby boys and a baby girl in the first two years oftheir marriage. (During the 1950s, they adopted four older biracial children.) Buck continued writing throughout the 1930s, producing additional novels, articles, stories, speeches,and pamphlets as well as two highly acclaimed biographies, one of her mother (The Exile) and a companionvolume on her father (Fighting Angel). By the end of the decade, she was one of the most popular and widelytranslated authors in the world. Her fame and prestige were further enhanced when she received the 1938 NobelPrize for literature. By this time in her career, however, Bucks interests had begun to shift elsewhere, and whileshe remained a best-selling writer for the rest of her life, she never again matched the critical success sheenjoyed with The Good Earth, The Exile, and Fighting Angel. More and more, she felt compelled to write andspeak out on behalf of various humanitarian concerns--racism, the betterment of international relations, theproblems of retarded and handicapped children, and the treatment of orphans. Buck first became aware of racisms influence in American society during a visit to Harlem shortly afterThe Good Earth was published. Invited to meet with a group of Black-American professionals, Buck describedher own experiences as a member of the white minority in China and then attended an exhibit featuringpaintings by local artists. The scenes of lynchings, poverty, and despair horrified her; never had she imaginedthat such cruelty existed in her native country. Following this painful realization, Buck made a point ofeducating herself about African-Americans, reading everything she could find and then using her knowledge tofocus national attention on their plight. During World War II, her concerns about racism intensified as she watched the United States formexceptionally close ties with European allies and virtually ignore China, then embroiled in not only a civil warbut also a brutal war against Japan. On the home front, she was appalled by the internment of Japanese-Americans and spoke out against the racist attitudes that tolerated such treatment. These convictions were at theheart of her speeches and articles calling for an end to discrimination and colonial rule throughout the entireworld. Since the United States had assumed a leadership position among democracies, she was especiallycritical of its failure to back up words with deeds. As she wrote in a 1958 letter to Philippine leader Carlos P.Romulo: "Can we be surprised if we are mocked as we deserve to be when we declare all men free and equaland then deny the affirmation every day of our lives in the way we behave toward our own minorities?... Canwe be surprised [when] nations doubt the validity of our ideals?" Bucks interest in the problems of retarded and handicapped children sprang directly from her ownexperiences with her daughter Carol. She knew that having such a child often led to feelings of shame anddespair, which parents hesitated to discuss with others. After hearing the heartwarming story of a young couplewho decided to keep a baby girl they had adopted and then learned was retarded, Buck decided to write aboutCarol for the very first time. Appearing initially as an article in Ladies Home Journal and later in book form,"The Child Who Never Grew" generated an outpouring of letters from parents of retarded children expressingrelief that they were not alone in their struggle. At about this same time Buck became interested in yet another cause--the treatment of orphans,especially those of mixed race. As a well-known advocate of adoption, people seeking homes for orphans oftenapproached her. In late 1948, she received word about two half-Asian infants considered "unadoptable" becausethe strict laws of the time required a child to match the adoptive couple in religion, race, and physicalappearance. Buck agreed to help find an agency that would place them. But every agency she called turned herdown, citing the need to match babies with parents. Angry and frustrated, she resolved to start her own agencyspecializing in mixed-race children. Together with some friends who shared her belief that it was more important for a child to have apermanent home than parents who "matched," Buck launched the Welcome House concept and established a
  4. 4. foster care facility near her Pennsylvania farm. The immediate goal of Welcome House was to find adoptivehomes for American-born biracial children, but long-range plans included changing restrictive adoption lawsand fighting the racial prejudice of judges and social workers. Welcome House eventually expanded to dozensof homes where mixed-race children lived in a family-type atmosphere until adoptions could be arranged. Later,Buck turned her attention to the biracial offspring of American servicemen stationed overseas, particularly inAsia. Established during the early 1960s and still active, the Pearl S. Buck Foundation clothes, feeds, educates,and seeks employment for these often-abandoned children in their native countries. As she approached her eightieth birthday in June, 1972, Buck looked forward to another year full ofbook projects, articles, and television appearances (many inspired by the re-opening of China followingPresident Richard Nixons visit early that year); she even made plans for a trip to the country she had not seen innearly forty years. At the last minute, however, she received word from the Chinese Embassy in Canada that herrequest for a visa had been denied due to the "attitude of distortion, smear and vilification" she had longdisplayed toward the people of China and its leaders. Several months later, Buck fell ill with what was laterdiagnosed as cancer. She died on March 6, 1973, at her home in Danby, Vermont, and was buried on thegrounds of her Pennsylvania farmhouse, now the headquarters of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan 1859 -- 1930 Writer, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, born in Edinburgh, EC Scotland, UK. He studied medicine at Edinburgh, but poverty as a medical practitioner made him turn to writing. His first book, A Study in Scarlet (1887), introduced the super-observant, deductive Sherlock Holmes, his good-natured question-raising friend, Dr Watson, and the whole apparatus of detection mythology associated with Baker Street, Holmess fictitious home. After The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was serialized in the Strand Magazine (1891-- 1893), the author tired of his popular creation, and tried to kill off his hero, but was compelled in 1903 to revive him. Conan Doyle himself set greater stock byhis historical romances, such as The White Company (1890). He served as a physician in the Boer War(1899--1902), and his pamphlet, The War in South Africa (1902), earned him a knighthood (1902). He alsowrote on spiritualism, to which he became a convert in later life. Faulkner, William 1897 -- 1962 Writer. Born William Cuthbert Falkner (he changed the spelling of his last name upon the publication of his first book), on September 25, 1897, in New Albany, Mississippi. Faulkners father was the business manager of the University of Mississippi in the town of Oxford, and his mother was a literary woman who encouraged Faulkner and his three brothers to read. Faulkner was a good student, but lost interest in studies during high school. He dropped out in his sophomore year, and took a series of odd jobs while writing poetry. In 1918, his high school girlfriend, Estelle Oldham, married another man, and Faulkner leftMississippi. He joined the British Royal Flying Corps, but World War I ended before he finished his training inCanada, and he returned to Mississippi. A neighbor funded the publication of his first book of poems, TheMarble Faun (1924). His first novel, Soldiers Pay, was published two years later. In 1929, Faulkner finally married Estelle Oldham Franklin, who had divorced her first husband afterhaving two children. The couple bought a ruined mansion near Oxford and began restoring it while Faulknerfinished The Sound and the Fury, published in October, 1929. The book opens with the interior monologue of adevelopmentally disabled mute character. His next book, As I Lay Dying (1930) featured 59 different interiormonologues. Light in August (1932) and Absalom, Absalom (1936) also challenged traditional forms of fiction.Faulkners difficult novels did not earn him enough money to support his family, so he supplemented hisincome selling short stories to magazines and working as a Hollywood screenwriter. He wrote two criticallyacclaimed films, both starring Humphrey Bogart. To Have and Have Not was based on an Ernest Hemingwaynovel, and The Big Sleep was based on a mystery by Raymond Chandler.
  5. 5. Faulkners reputation received a significant boost with the publication of The Portable Faulkner (1946),which included his many stories set in Yoknapatawpha county. Three years later, in 1949, he won the NobelPrize for literature. His Collected Stories (1950) won the National Book Award, and A Fable (1954) won aNational Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize in 1955. He was writer in residence at the University of Virginiafrom 1957-58 and lectured frequently on university campuses. Faulkners later works included The Town(1957), The Mansion (1959), and The Reivers (1962). He died of a heart attack in Mississippi at age 55. Herriot, James (pseudonym of James Alfred Wight) 1916 -- 1995 Veterinary surgeon and writer, born in Glasgow, W Scotland, UK. Beginning in the 1970s, he brought the vets world to the notice of the public with a number of best- selling books, such as It Shouldnt Happen to a Vet and Vet in a Spin, as well as several compilations and childrens books. In the United States, his most popular works are from the All Creatures Great and Small Series, spinning off into numerous children’s books. Feature films and television series made his work known all over the world, especially the television series All Creatures Great and Small (1977--80). The stories prompted athriving tourist industry based on "Herriot country, and transformed the public image of his profession, makingveterinary medicine one of the most competitive university subjects. In 1992 he was the first recipient of theChiron Award, created by the British Veterinary Association for exceptional service to the profession. Hughes, (James Mercer) Langston 1902 -- 1967 Writer. Born in Joplin, Missouri, on February 1, 1902. His parents soon separated, and Hughes was reared mainly by his mother, his maternal grandmother, and a childless couple named Reed. He attended public schools in Kansas and Illinois, graduating from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1920. His high school companions, most of whom were white, remembered him as a handsome "Indian-looking" youth whom everyone liked and respected for his quiet, natural ways and his abilities. He won an athletic letter in track and held offices in the student council and the American Civic Association. In his senior year he was chosen class poet and yearbook editor. Hughes spent the next year in Mexico with his father, who tried to discourage him from writing. ButHughess poetry and prose were beginning to appear in the Brownies Book, a publication for children edited byW. E. B. Du Bois, and he was starting work on more ambitious material dealing with adult realities. The poem"A Negro Speaks of River," which marked this development, appeared in the Crisis in 1921. Hughes returned to America and enrolled at Columbia University; meanwhile, the Crisis printed severalmore of his poems. Finding the atmosphere at Columbia uncongenial, Hughes left after a year. He did odd jobsin New York. In 1923 he signed on as steward on a freighter. His first voyage took him down the western coastof Africa; his second took him to Spain. In 1924 he spent 6 months in Paris. He was relatively happy, producedsome prose, and experimented with what he called "racial rhythms" in poetry. Most of this verse appeared inAfrican American publications, but Vanity Fair, a magazine popular among middle and upper class women,published three poems. Later in 1924 Hughes went to live with his mother in Washington, D.C. He hoped to earn enough moneyto return to college, but work as a hotel busboy paid very little, and life in the nations capital, where classdistinctions among African Americans were quite rigid, made him unhappy. He wrote many poems. "TheWeary Blues" won first prize in 1925 in a literary competition sponsored by Opportunity, a magazine publishedby the National Urban League. That summer one of his essays and another poem won prizes in the Crisisliterary contest. Meanwhile, Hughes had come to the attention of Carl Van Vechten, a white novelist and critic,who arranged publication of Hughess first volume of verse, The Weary Blues (1926). This book projected Hughess enduring themes, established his style, and suggested the wide range ofhis poetic talent. It showed him committed to racial themes—pride in blackness and in his African heritage, thetragic mulatto, the everyday life of African Americans—and democracy and patriotism. Hughes transformed the
  6. 6. bitterness that such themes generated in many of his African American contemporaries into sharp irony, gentlesatire, and humor. His casual-seeming, folk-like style, reflecting the simplicity and the earthy sincerity of hispeople, was strengthened in his second book, Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927). Hughes had resumed his education in 1925 and graduated from Lincoln University in 1929. Not WithoutLaughter (1930) was his first novel. The story deals with an African American boy, Sandy, caught between twoworlds and two attitudes. The boys hardworking, respectability-seeking mother provides a counterpoint to hishigh-spirited, easy-laughing, footloose father. The mother is oriented to the middle-class values of the whiteworld; the father believes that fun and laughter are the only virtues worth pursuing. Though the boys characteris blurred, Hughess attention to details that reveal African American culture in America gives the novelstrength. The relative commercial success of his novel inspired Hughes to try making his living as an author. In1931 he made the first of what became annual lecture tours. He took a trip to Soviet Union the next year.Meanwhile, he turned out poems, essays, book reviews, song lyrics, plays, and short stories. He edited fiveanthologies of African American writing and collaborated with Arna Bontemps on another and on a book forchildren. He wrote some 20 plays, including Mulatto, Simply Heavenly, and Tambourines to Glory. Hetranslated Federico Garcia Lorca, the Spanish poet, and Gabriela Mistral, the Latin American Nobel laureatepoet, and wrote two long autobiographical works. As a newspaper columnist, Hughes created "Simple," probably his most enduring character, brought hisstyle to perfection, and solidified his reputation as the "most eloquent spokesman" for African Americans. TheSimple sketches, collected in five volumes, are presented as conversations between an uneducated, AfricanAmerican city dweller, Jesse B. Semple (Simple), and an educated but less sensitive African Americanacquaintance. The sketches, which ran in the Chicago Defender for 25 years, are too varied in subject, toorelevant to the universal human condition, and too remarkable in their display of Hughess best writing for anyquick summary. That Simple is a universal man, even though his language, habits, and personality are the resultof his particular experiences as an African American man, is a measure of Hughess genius. Hughes received numerous fellowships, awards, and honorary degrees, including the Anisfield-WolfAward (1953) for a book on improving race relations. He taught creative writing at two universities; had hisplays produced on four continents; and made recordings of African American history, music commentary, andhis own poetry. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the National Institute ofArts and Letters. His work, some of which was translated into a dozen languages, earned him an internationalreputation unlike any other African American writer except Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. Forty-sevenvolumes bear Hughess name. He died in New York City on May 22, 1967. Jackson, Shirley 1919 -- 1965 Writer; born in San Francisco. She studied at the University of Rochester (1934--36), and Syracuse University (B.A. 1940). Based in North Bennington, VT, she wrote novels, short stories, and radio and television scripts. She became famous for her haunting fiction after the publication of her disturbing short story, "The Lottery" (1948). She was known for her ability to write humorous domestic works as well as horror novels, such as The Haunting of Hill House (1959). Greatly unappreciated in her time, Jackson’s works are gaining a new audience within the United States today. King, Stephen 1947 -- Writer. Born September 21, 1947, in Portland, Maine. King’s father, Donald, disappeared when he was only three years old; with his mother, Ruth, and older brother, David, King moved around a good deal, finally returning to Maine in 1958. He wrote his first short story at the age of seven, and was a devoted fan of 1950s horror movies. In high school, King played football and joined a local band; he also began contributing a number of stories to mystery magazines and other publications. He graduated from the University
  7. 7. of Maine in 1970 with a degree in English; in the fall of 1971, he began teaching at a high school calledHampden Academy. After his first two attempts at a novel were rejected, King became frustrated and reportedly threw awayhis next manuscript. His wife, Tabitha Spruce (whom he met in college and married in early 1971), rescued itand persuaded him to continue—in 1974, Doubleday published Carrie, which became a bestseller and a hit 1976movie, directed by Brian De Palma and starring Sissy Spacek. Sale of the paperback rights proved to be enoughfor King to quit teaching and embark on a full-time writing career. King followed up on the success of Carrie with an astonishing run of bestselling short stories and novels.He published a good deal of work under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, which he used from 1977 to 1984.This disguised the true extent of his prolific output, until the ruse became public knowledge and he abandonedit. King’s own name became synonymous with blockbuster novels blending horror, fantasy, and sciencefiction into a consistently creepy mix. He soon earned the title “King of Horror” for his continuing mastery ofthe macabre. All together, King has sold well over 100 million copies of his books worldwide and has becomethe richest writer of all time. He consistently ranks among America’s highest-paid entertainers, according toForbes magazine. Some of his bestselling novels include Salems Lot (1975), The Stand (1978), The Dead Zone(1979), Pet Sematary (1983), Needful Things (1991), Geralds Game (1992), and the Dark Tower series.An astonishing number of King’s works have been made into movies, many of which were box-office hits. The1980 film version of his 1977 novel The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson,became an all-time horror classic. A few other notable films made from his stories and novels include 1983’sChristine (from the 1983 novel); 1986’s Stand By Me (from a story entitled “The Body”); 1990’s Misery (fromthe 1987 novel), starring Kathy Bates and James Caan; 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption (from a 1983 storyin the collection Different Seasons), starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman; and 1999’s The Green Mile(from a six-part serial novel published in 1996), starring Tom Hanks. King has appeared in minor roles in anumber of film versions of his works, including Knightriders (1981), Creepshow (1982), Pet Sematary (1989),Sleepwalkers (1992), and the TV movie The Stand (1994). On June 19, 1999, King was seriously injured when he was struck by a minivan on a road near hissummer home in Lovell, Maine. The driver who hit King, a disabled man named Bryan Smith, lost control ofhis vehicle after being distracted by his Rottweiler, which was loose in the minivan; he was indicted foraggravated assault but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of driving to endanger, allowing him to avoid servingany jail time. (In an eerie twist, Smith was found dead in bed at his locked home in September 2000, and anautopsy failed to reveal a cause of death.) After undergoing extensive surgery on his leg and hip, King spentmonths on major rehabilitation and physical therapy before he was able to walk. In the summer of 2000, King opened new doors in publishing when he released a first installment of ThePlant on his official Web site, asking readers to pay $1.00 to download the chapter. The venture was extremelysuccessful, with many faithful readers paying far more than the required dollar to read Kings work. He releaseda second chapter in late August 2000, and plans to continue such exclusively online ventures in the future. Hislatest novel, Dreamcatcher, was published in early 2001. King and his wife live near Bangor, Maine, and have three children: Joe, Owen, and Naomi. London, Jack 1876 -- 1916 Writer. Born John Griffith Chaney, on January 12, 1876, in San Francisco, California. The son of a spiritualist mother and an astrologer father, who abandoned his family early in his son’s life, Jack later assumed his stepfather’s surname, London. From a young age, Jack London struggled to make a living, working in a cannery and as a sailor, oyster pirate, and fish patroller. He left school at age 13 to work odd jobs and also spent time as a hobo, riding trains. During the national economic crisis of 1893, London joined a march of unemployed workers and later spent a month in jail for vagrancy. After his prison term, the 17-year-old London resolved to further his education. He completed an entirehigh school equivalency course in one year and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, where he
  8. 8. read voraciously for a year, including works by Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Marx, andbecame a militant socialist. He dropped out of Berkeley to join the Alaskan Klondike gold rush in 1897. While in Alaska, London began writing stories about the stark but beautiful region. He returned toCalifornia after a year, and in 1900 published his first collection of stories, The Son of the Wolf. The bookfound a wide audience, but it was his next story, The Call of the Wild (1903), that made him famous around thecountry. London continued to write stories of adventure amid the harsh natural elements, including theautobiographical novels Martin Eden (1909); the Alaskan stories White Fang (1906) and Burning Daylight(1910); and the more philosophical and politically-tinged The Sea Wolf (1904) and The Iron Heel (1907). In his 17-year career, London wrote 50 fiction and nonfiction books. He settled in Northern Californiaabout 1911, having already written most of his best work. A heavy drinker, London died in 1916; many scholarsbelieve he committed suicide. The enduring popularity of his work has continued throughout the twentiethcentury, and he is one of the most widely translated of American authors. Paulsen, Gary 1939 -- A chance visit to a library on a cold day was the turning point in young Gary Paulsens life. A librarian gave him a library card and a book, and the teenaged Paulsen discovered that books could provide excellent companionship. His resulting passion for literature has stimulated a wealth of published works for both children and adults. The product of a difficult childhood, Paulsen ran away from home at the age of fourteen. Years later he would write about his troubled childhood in the semi- autobiographical Harris and Me. His experience in diverse jobs and a wide range of interests have provided the basis for much of his written work. His stories are woven from his personal experiences, and many of them feature outdoor settings and theharmony of nature. Several of his books deal with the theme of survival and human endurance. Hatchet, whichhas become a modern-day classic, won him the Newbery Honor Award. He has written three other novelsdealing with the character of Brian Robeson. Paulsens interest in dog sledding led to his participation in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The impact ofthis experience on his life is brought to life in several of his outstanding books, including Woodsong andDogsong, another Newbery Honor Award winner. His close relationship with his dogs and all of nature isdelicately blended into his stories about the race, allowing the reader to experience the true feeling of being outon the trail. Paulsen lives in New Mexico with his wife, artist Ruth Wright Paulsen, who has illustrated several of hisbooks. Poe, Edgar Allan 1809 -- 1849 Edgar Allan Poe was best known to his own generation as an editor and critic; his poems and short stories commanded only a small audience. But to some extent in his poems, and to an impressive degree in his tales, he pioneered in opening up areas of human experience for artistic treatment at which his contemporaries only hinted. His vision asserts that reality for the human being is essentially subterranean, contradictory to surface reality, and profoundly irrational in character. Two generations later he was hailed by the symbolist movement as the prophet of the modern sensibility. Poe was born in Boston on January 19, 1809, the son of professional actors. Bythe time he was three, Edgar, his older brother, and younger sister had lost their mother to consumption andtheir father through desertion. The children were split up, going to various families to live. Edgar went to thecharitable Richmond, Virginia, home of John and Frances Allan, whose name Poe was to take later as his ownmiddle name.
  9. 9. A New Family The Allans were wealthy then and were to become more so later, and though they never adopted Poe, formany years it appeared that he was to be their heir. They treated him like an adopted son, saw to his educationin private academies, and took him to England for a five-year stay; and at least Mrs. Allan bestowedconsiderable affection upon him. As Edgar entered adolescence, however, bad feelings developed between him and John Allan. Allandisapproved of his wards literary inclinations, thought him surly and ungrateful, and gradually seems to havedecided Poe was not to be his heir after all. When, in 1826, Poe entered the newly opened University ofVirginia, Allans allowance was so meager Poe turned to gambling to supplement his income. In eight monthshe lost $2,000. Allans refusal to help him led to total estrangement and in March 1827, Poe left home to live onhis own. He managed to get to Boston, where he signed up for a five-year enlistment in the U.S. Army. In 1827,as well, he had his Tamerlane and Other Poems published at his own expense, but the book failed to attractnotice. By January 1829, serving under the name of Edgar A. Perry, Poe rose to the highest noncommissionedrank in the Army, sergeant major. He was reluctant to serve out the full enlistment, however, and he arranged tobe discharged from the Army on the understanding he would seek an appointment at West Point. He thoughtsuch a move might cause a reconciliation with his guardian. That same year Al Araaf, Tamerlane and MinorPoems was published in Baltimore and received a highly favorable notice from the novelist and critic JohnNeal. Armed with these new credentials, Poe visited Allan in Richmond, but another violent quarrel forced himto leave in May 1830. The West Point appointment came through the next month, but, since Poe no longer hadany use for it, he did not last long as a cadet. Lacking Allans permission to resign, Poe sought and received adismissal for "gross neglect of duty" and "disobedience of orders." His guardian, long widowed, had taken ayoung wife who might well give him an heir, and Poe realized his hopes of a legacy were without foundation.Marriage and the Search for a Place During his early years of exile Poe lived in Baltimore for a while with his aunt Maria Clemm and herseven-year-old daughter, Virginia. He returned to his aunts home in 1831, publishing Poems by Edgar AllanPoe and beginning to place short stories in magazines. In 1833 he received a prize for "MS. Found in a Bottle,"and John Pendleton Kennedy got him a job on the Southern Literary Messenger. In 1836 Poe married his cousinVirginia--now 13 years old--and moved to Richmond with his bride and mother-in-law. Excessive drinking losthim his job in 1837, but he had produced prolifically for the journal. He had contributed his Politian, as well as83 reviews, six poems, four essays, and three short stories. He had also quintupled the magazines circulation.Rejection in the face of such accomplishment was extremely distressing to him, and his state of mind from thenon, as one biographer put it, "was never very far from panic." The panic accelerated after 1837. Poe moved with Virginia and her mother to New York, where he didhack work and managed to publish The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838). Then they moved toPhiladelphia, where Poe served as coeditor of Burtons Gentlemans Magazine. In two years he boosted itscirculation from 5,000 to 20,000 and contributed some of his best fiction to its pages, including "The Fall of theHouse of Usher." In 1840, furthermore, he published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. But there wastrouble at Burtons, and in 1841 Poe left for the literary editorship of Grahams Magazine. Though hecontributed skillfully wrought fiction and unquestionably developed as a critic, his endless literary feuding, hisalcoholism, and his inability to get along very well with people caused him to leave after 1842.Illness and Crisis The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Man That Was Used Up emerged in 1843, and a Philadelphianewspaper offered a $100 prize for his "The Gold Bug", but Poe was now facing a kind of psychologicaladversity against which he was virtually helpless. His wife, who had been an absolutely crucial source ofcomfort and support to him, began showing signs of the consumption which would eventually kill her. Whenhis burden became too great, he tried to relieve it with alcohol, which made him ill. After great struggle Poe got a job on the New York Mirror in 1844. He lasted, characteristically, into1845, switching then to the editorship of the Broadway Journal. Although he was now deep in public literaryfeuds, things seemed to be breaking in his favor. The 1844 publication of the poem The Raven finally brought
  10. 10. him some fame, and in 1845 the publication of two volumes, The Raven and Other Poems and Tales, bothcontaining some of his best work, did in fact move him into fashionable literary society. But his wifes healthcontinued to deteriorate, and he was not earning enough money to support her and Clemm. Poes next job waswith Godeys Ladys Book, but he was unable to sustain steady employment, and amid the din of plagiarismcharges and libel suits, his fortunes sank to the point that he and his family almost starved in their Fordhamcottage in the winter of 1846. Then, on January 30, 1847, Virginia Poe died. The wonder is not that Poe began totally to disintegrate but that he nevertheless continued to producework of very high caliber. In 1848 he published the brilliantly ambitious Eureka, and he was even to make afinal, heart-wrenching attempt at rehabilitation. He returned to Richmond in 1849, there to court a now-widowed friend of his youth, Mrs. Shelton. They were to be married, and Poe left for New York at the end ofSeptember to bring Clemm back for the wedding. On the way he stopped off in Baltimore. Nobody knowsexactly what happened, and there is no real proof that he was picked up by a gang who used him to "repeat"votes, but he was found on October 3 in a stupor near a saloon that had been used as a polling place. He died ina hospital four days later. Twain, Mark 1835 -- 1910 Writer. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. Clemens was apprenticed to a printer at age 13 and later worked for his older brother, who established the Hannibal Journal. In 1857, the Keokuk Daily Post commissioned him to write a series of comic travel letters, but after writing five he decided to become a steamboat captain instead. He signed on as a pilot’s apprentice in 1857 and received his pilot’s license in 1859, when he was 23. Clemens piloted boats for two years, until the Civil War halted steamboat traffic. During his time as a pilot, he picked up the term “Mark Twain,” a boatman’s call notingthat the river was only two fathoms deep, the minimum depth for safe navigation. When Clemens returned towriting in 1861, after a few unhappy months as a volunteer soldier in the Confederate army, he began workingfor the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. After writing a humorous travel letter signed by “Mark Twain” forthe paper, he continued to use the pseudonym for nearly 50 years.In 1864, Twain moved to San Francisco to work as a reporter. There, he wrote the story that first made himfamous: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” In 1866, he traveled to Hawaii as acorrespondent for the Sacramento Union. He subsequently traveled the world writing accounts for papers inCalifornia and New York, which he later published as the popular book The Innocents Abroad (1869). In 1870, Twain married Olivia Langdon, the daughter of a wealthy New York coal merchant. Theysettled in Hartford, Connecticut, where he continued to write travel accounts and lecture. His novel, TheAdventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, followed by The Prince and the Pauper (1882), Life on theMississippi (1883), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court (1889), and Twains masterpiece TheAdventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Bad investments left Twain bankrupt after the publication ofHuckleberry Finn, but he won back his financial standing with his next three books. In 1903, Twain and hisfamily moved to Italy, where his wife died. Her death left him sad and bitter, and his work, while stillhumorous, grew distinctly darker, reflected in such works as What is Man? (1906) and The Mysterious Stranger(1916). He died in April 1910. Updike, John (Hoyer) 1932 -- 2009 Writer, poet, and critic, born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, USA. He studied at Harvard (BA 1954) and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts, Oxford (1954--5); although he would not develop his youthful talents as an artist, he never lost his interest in art. He worked on the staff of the New Yorker for two years; while maintaining his relationship with that periodical, he became, over the years, a highly successful novelist, short story writer, poet, and essayist, eventually settling in Georgetown, Mass. His first
  11. 11. novel, The Poorhouse Fair (1957), initiated the critical dispute about his writing: some critics would praise hiswit, style, use of language, and his affinity for the middle class and their spiritual and sexual angst; otherscomplain about his plots, the sexual content of his work, and the alleged lack of substance. For most readers,Updike became associated with such popular works as The Witches of Eastwick (1989) and his contemporaryAmerican Everyman, Harry "Rabbit Angstron in Rabbit Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit is Rich(1981), and Rabbit at Rest (1990). Some readers and critics feel that The Centaur (1963), an early mythic novelabout a teacher in a small town, is his best work. He is also admired for his many reviews and essays on a widerange of writers, artists, and cultural issues Walker, Alice (Malsenior) 1944 -- Writer, poet. Born February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. Walker studied at Spelman College (1961--63) and Sarah Lawrence (BA 1965). She worked in Georgia registering voters, with the Head Start program in Mississippi, and the welfare department in New York City. She settled in San Francisco, but taught at many institutions. Walker won wide acclaim for her poetry and fiction, notably The Color Purple (1982), a novel that explores the experience of American black women. This work won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 and was made into a successful movie, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, in 1985. Her later novels include The Temple of My Familiar (1989) andPossessing the Secret of Joy (1992).All information taken from,, and supplemental information provided by ColleenItes, 2009.