This post originally appeared on the Books for Teens Facebook page during ALA Annual. We’re reposting a modified version here.
I attended the 2012 Margaret A. Edwards Award luncheon on Sunday at ALA Annual, held to honor MAE winner Susan Cooper for her Dark is Rising epic fantasy sequence. She was wonderful — so beautifully articulate, yet humble at the same time. Our standing ovation moved her to tears.
She joked that, similarly to when Hume Cronin and Jessica Tandy were honored for an event, she was receiving a prize for “being vertical.” Not so! She looked wonderful and spoke movingly about YALSA being her peer group, although she hasn’t come to terms with the YA label. She said that there’s an overlap period when a 13-year-old can be taking out books in both the juvenile/children’s collection and the YA collection. She said she “thinks my imagination lives in that overlap.” She also said, “I write the books; other people decide who they are for.”
She recounted that writing a story is a kind of magic, and I’m not talking about fantasy — whether it’s about a town next door or Mars. In writing the first book in the Dark is Rising sequence, she said that she was living in the US in 1970 and had been here from England for seven years with two small children, and she was homesick and put her longing for home into her book. A lot of the setting is based on places from her childhood. The fourth book in the sequence, The Grey King, won the Newbery Medal, and that “changed [her] life forever.”
She spoke a bit about her latest novel, which she said she just finished after four years. She described it as “place haunted,” based on her house that she had built on a salt marsh off coast of Massachusetts on a causeway — the only way out is by kayak. “Sky changes the color of the marsh and the moonrise is beautiful,” she said. “Some pretty weird things can happen to your head if you live alone on a salt marsh.”
Everyone laughed as she recounted what her writing process is: “We spend time staring at the ceiling, and recounting the story of James Thurber staring at the wall, and his wife coming up and saying ‘Thurber, stop writing.'” All of us who love her books hope, that like Thurber, that she never stops writing. She’s one of the greats.
â€¨â€¨– Sharon Rawlins
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