Karen Hesse Awarded MacArthur Fellowship
Hesse Only Second Writer for Young People to Win Award
New York, September 25, 2002--The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced that one of its prestigious "Genius" fellowships has been granted to children's book writer Karen Hesse, author of the forthcoming Aleutian Sparrow (2003) and of Stowaway (2000), published by Margaret K. McElderry Books and Aladdin Paperbacks, both imprints of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
"I can't wrap my head around it," says Karen Hesse. "I was stunned when I heard, and I continue to be stunned. I just hope that this brings recognition to the entire field of children's literature, where such extraordinary work is being done." Hesse is only the second writer for young people to have received a MacArthur fellowship. The late Virginia Hamilton (1936 - 2002), author of M. C. Higgins, the Great (Simon & Schuster, 1974), was the first children's book writer to be awarded a MacArthur grant in 1995.
"I always thought she was a genius," says Brenda Bowen, Executive Vice President & Publisher, Hardcover Books, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. "I'm glad to have it confirmed." Bowen, her longtime editor and publisher, first discovered Hesse's work among a pile of unsolicited manuscripts in 1983.
Karen Hesse is the author of fifteen books for young readers. Her books explore the emotions of young people in extremes, and frequently use ecological and political issues as their backdrop. In Phoenix Rising (Holt, 1994), Hesse looked at the cataclysmic aftermath of a small nuclear accident in New England. The Music of Dolphins (Scholastic, 1996), which Hesse described as "a book about speech development" traces a feral child's journey from the wild to socialization. When Hesse said she was "writing a book about soil erosion," she produced Out of the Dust, an astonishing book of unrhymed verse set in the Oklahoma panhandle during the worst years of the Depression. Out of the Dust (Scholastic, 1997), won the Newbery Medal, children's books' highest honor, in 1998. Hesse's forthcoming Aleutian Sparrow (S&S/McElderry, 2003), also written in unrhymed verse, takes place in Alaska during the Japanese invasion of the remote Aleutian Islands during in World War II.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Hesse is a longtime resident of Vermont, where she lives with her husband and two grown daughters. Hesse is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and has worked as a proofreader, typesetter, waitress, substitute teacher, and a hospice volunteer. "A good portion of my life has been spent piecing together a living," says Hesse. "This is an extraordinary gift from the MacArthur Foundation."
The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows, and does not evaluate recipients' creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a "no strings attached" award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $500,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years. For more information, visit www.macfound.org.
Simon & Schuster, part of the entertainment operation of Viacom Inc., is a global leader in the field of general interest publishing, dedicated to providing the best in fiction and nonfiction for consumers of all ages, across all printed, electronic and multi-media formats. Its divisions include the Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, Simon & Schuster New Media, Simon & Schuster Online, Simon & Schuster U.K., and Simon & Schuster Australia. For more information, visit our website at http://www.simonsays.com
Interview provided by Tracy van Straaten, Director of Publicity
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
To return to the main feature on Karen Hesse, click here.
To stay up to date on new books by this author, consider subscribing to The Children's Literature Comprehensive Database. For your free trial, click here.
If you're interested in reviewing children's and young adult books, then send a resume and writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org.