Category Archives: Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates (June 16, 1938) is nothing short of amazing.  Highly prolific (she has published OVER 50 books since 1969), she has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including:

  • National Book Award winner for Them in 1970
  • PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction
  • Winner of the 2005 Prix Femina Etranger for The Falls
  • Finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Blonde
  • She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities @ Princeton University
  • Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (since 1973)
  • 2003 recipient of the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature
  • Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement
  • 2006 recipient of the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2009 recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2011 Honorary Doctorate of Arts awarded by the University of Pennsylvania
  • 2012 recipient of the Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement from Oregon State University
 
Her writing is often disturbing, displaying some of the horror in our modern society as well as the trials and tribulations that everyday people struggle with.  Her writing is always beautiful and unique.  Oates successfully captures the voice of her characters, seamlessly slipping into their mannerisms, dialects, and psyches.
 
In addition to her novels, Oates has also published under two pseudonyms (Rosalind Smith and Lauren Kelly), essays, poetry, drama, fiction for young adults, as well as children’s books.  I feel as though nothing that I can manage to write here will do justice to her skill and career.  As someone who admires her deeply, all that I can hope for is that by highlighting her here, perhaps someone else will try out one of her novels.
 
Check out her page on the HarperCollins website for more information on upcoming releases.  Or the JCO official page via the University of San Francisco, also an excellent reference for a full bibliography.  This website also has a blog – Crossing the Border.
 
Joyce Carol Oates reads The Knife:
 

 

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Author Spotlight: Philippa Gregory

While I have (so far) only read one novel by her (The Other Boleyn Girl), I’m fascinated by anyone who successfully writes engaging, and even relatively believable, historical fiction.  In an effort to familiarize myself more with her work and background, I would like to focus on Philippa Gregory for this week’s author spotlight.

Biography

Philippa Gregory was born, and spent the first two years of her life, in Kenya.  She received a BA in History at the University of Sussex and went on to receive a PhD. in 18th century literature at the University of Edinburgh.  In addition to writing novels, she contributes to newspapers and magazines.  Additionally, she has taught at the University of Durham, University of Teesside, the Open University, and she was made a fellow at Kingston University.

She has written many books, mostly all historical fiction (listed below), and contests that her novels are completely historically accurate, but there has been controversy surrounding this claim.  Historically accurate or not, her novels are well-written and well-loved.

Gregory also does charity work – Gardens for Gambia.  Formed in 1993, the aim of Gardens for Gambia is to provide water for wells located at rural schools in Gambia.  This water helps the schools maintain gardens, which produce vegetables for the schoolchildren to eat and the surplus is sold to raise money for school equipment.  The link brings you to the information provided on Gregory’s official website.

She lives in Yorkshire with her family where she keeps horses and ducks.

Bibliography

Wideacre Trilogy

  1. Wideacre (1987)
  2. The Favoured Child (1989)
  3. Meridon (1990)

Earthly Joys

  1. Earthly Joys (1998)
  2. Virgin Earth (1999)

Tudor Novels – in historical chronological order

  1. The Constant Princess (2005)
  2. The Other Boleyn Girl (2001)
  3. The Boleyn Inheritance (2006)
  4. The Queen’s Fool (2003)
  5. The Virgin’s Lover (2004)
  6. The Other Queen (2008)

The Cousins’ War

  1. The White Queen (2009)
  2. The Red Queen (2010)
  3. The Lady of the Rivers (2011)
Non-Series

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Author Spotlight: Barbara Kingsolver

When you’re a bookworm, your teenage years can be very exciting – well, outside of all the awkward bits.  Through school, you are exposed to an entire world of literature (good literature) that you never knew existed.  Thanks to my high school and college education, I found countless favorites and stories (and characters) that will forever be dear to me.  Barbara Kingsolver is one of those authors – The Bean Trees, was part of our required summer reading list.

After reading The Bean Trees (and falling in love with Turtle), I knew that Kingsolver was an author that I would have to follow. While, as of today, I’ve only read about 3 or 4 of her novels, the rest are all on my “must-read” list.  But outside of her writing, Kingsolver is just a fascinating woman.

Born in 1955, she grew up in Nicholas County, Kentucky.  At various times throughout her childhood, her family traveled to areas of the world in need of the services of a physician (her father volunteered) and, as reported in her brief autobiography on her website, the most memorable of these journeys was to a remote village in the Republic of the Congo.  They always returned home to Kentucky, however, and she grew up surrounded by nature, animals, art, books, and writing in her journal.

She received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from DePauw University in Indiana.  Upon graduation, she traveled throughout Europe and spent most of her time in France and England working on archaeological digs.  The expiration of her visa brought her back to the US – specifically Tucson, AZ – where she acquired a Master’s Degree studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  During this time, she also started writing as a scientific writer for the University of Arizona.

She met and married Joe Hoffman and together they did a lot of work with organizations investigating human rights violations and assisting Latin American refugees seeking asylum.  It wasn’t until the 1980s that Kingsolver began writing, and publishing, fiction.  From there, she’s enjoyed a successful career of bringing these amazing stories to her readers, who have fallen in love not only with her characters, but her beautiful descriptions of the landscapes, cultures, and environments.

Reading each of her novels will truly take you to places that you possibly never dreamt that you’d ever see.  You’ll learn things that you didn’t go into the novel believing that you would pick up.  She’s far more than “just” another author, Barbara Kingsolver is truly an educator.

An overview of some of her achievements and honors, shared from her official website:

Kingsolver was named one the most important writers of the 20th Century by Writers Digest. Critical acclaim for her books includes multiple awards from the American Booksellers Association and the American Library Association, among many others. The Poisonwood Bible was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the Orange Prize, and won the national book award of South Africa, before being named an Oprah Book Club selection. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle won numerous prizes including the James Beard award. In 2000 Kingsolver received the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts. In 1998 she established the Bellwether Prize for fiction.

I learned all of the biographical details from her official website (http://www.kingsolver.com), which I highly recommend visiting if you’re interested in learning more.  There is a brief autobiography featured there, which includes pictures and much more details about her fascinating life, from childhood to present.

Bibliography:

  1. The Bean Trees (1988)
  2. Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 (1989)
  3. Homeland and Other Stories  (1989)
  4. Animal Dreams  (1990)
  5. Another America/Otra America  (1992)
  6. Pigs in Heaven (1993)
  7. High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never (1995)
  8. The Poisonwood Bible (1998)
  9. Prodigal Summer (2000)
  10. Last Stand: America’s Virgin Lands (2002)
  11. Small Wonder (2002)
  12. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (2007)
  13. The Lacuna (2009)

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