Margaret Wise Brown (May 23, 1910 – November 13, 1952) was a prolific American author and editor of children’s books, best known for Goodnight Moon (1947) and The Runaway Bunny (1942). She grew up in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, the middle of three children whose well-to-do parents made no secret of their unhappy marriage. Margaret was an imaginative child who loved adventure and the outdoors.
She had more than one hundred books published during her lifetime and left behind a trove of unpublished works found after her death. The word “prolific” seems almost inadequate to describe Margaret Wise Brown’s output. What she produced was innovative and fresh, making her one of the driving forces behind the mid-twentieth century revolution in children’s book publishing — not only as a writer, but as an editor. Read More→
Betty MacDonald (1907 – 1958) was an American author of humorous memoirs and children’s books. The Egg and I, her bestselling 1945 memoir of running a chicken farm in rural Washington State in the late 1920s, catapulted her to international fame. Her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books for children were also hugely successful. From Paula Becker’s 2016 biography, Looking for Betty MacDonald: The Egg, the Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and I, here’s the story of how Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle came to the page and became a series:
As sales of The Egg and I soared, Lippincott eagerly sought to capitalize on Betty’s success. Accordingly, fifteen months after Egg made its debut, the publisher introduced Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. The book was a collection of children’s stories about a wise, kind, magical woman who gently but firmly assisted errant children and their beleaguered parents. Betty dedicated Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to her daughters, nieces, and nephews, “who are perfect angels and couldn’t possibly have been the inspiration for any of these stories.” Read More→
In a 1928 letter to her friend Virginia Woolf, British author Vita Sackville-West pondered, “Is it better to be extremely ambitious, or rather modest? Probably the latter is safer; but I hate safety, and would rather fail gloriously than dingily succeed.”
Most of us would rather not fail at all, gloriously or otherwise. That’s why we’re content to settle for modest success, instead of taking bold steps needed for resounding success. To fail at that which we most long for seems like a terrible fate. It’s not easy to accept that success and failure for writers are intertwined, and it’s hard to achieve our dreams without taking risks.
Truth be told, I’ve been hedging my bets in the failure and success department. I’ve scrupulously avoided the more risky path of narrative writing in favor of more sure forms of writing for which I knew I’d be paid (I know, not a small thing). But the writing lives of many classic authors demonstrate that failure isn’t the flip side of success, but its occasional, and often necessary companion. Read More→
Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson (1762 – 1824, sometimes known as Susanna Haswell Rowson) was the best-known work by this American-British author. It was also America’s first best-selling novel. First published in England in 1790 as Charlotte: a Tale of Truth, it was retitled Charlotte Temple in 1797. With its classic theme of seduction and remorse, it sparked a great deal of controversy in its time. Yet it remained the most widely read novels of the first half of the nineteenth century.
Other than Charlotte Temple, Susanna Rowson’s prolific body of writings (which also included other novels as well as plays, poems, and school textbooks) has been largely forgotten. Though contemporary readers give this novel mixed reviews, judging from comments on Goodreads, Charlotte Temple has endured as an example of early American literature. Read More→
Dear Literary Ladies,
Is there anything to be gained by reading reviews of one’s books? For most authors, it’s hard to ignore reviews; what with Google alerts, Amazon and Goodreads reviews; everything’s in your face 24/7. What was your experience with reviews, and did you learn anything of value from them?
Talk of reviews! I subscribed to a clipping bureau and they come in shoals every day. So far I have received sixty-six [reviews of Anne of Green Gables ] of which sixty were kind and flattering beyond my highest expectations; of the remaining six two were a mixture of praise and blame, two were contemptuous and positively harsh. Read More→
E. Nesbit (August 15, 1858 – May 4, 1924), born Edith Nesbit, was an English novelist, short story writer, and poet best known for her imaginative books for children. Born in Kennington, Surrey, her father. a chemist, died before she was four. A sister’s poor health compelled the family to move almost continually until she was in her late teens. An imaginative yet nervous child, the family’s peripatetic ways would have an impact on the stories she would later write.
At eighteen, Edith married Hubert Bland. Though the couple had five children, the marriage was an unstable one, marked by Bland’s philandering and inability to make a living. She published under the name E. Nesbit, producing more than 40 books for children, and many more on which she collaborated. She also wrote eleven novels for adults, and many short stories. Read More→