Laura C. Stevenson
Laura has been a writer since she was eight, the age at which she became inspired by the example of Noel Bastable in E. Nesbit's Treasure Seekers and began to write poetry. Gradually, however, she turned to prose, and after being given a second-hand typewriter for Christmas when she was eleven, she started her first novel, a murder mystery which combined elements of Walter Farley and Agatha Christie - and which remained forever unfinished, as she could not decide which of her beloved characters was the murderer. At the University of Michigan High School, she wrote many stories, a few of which received local state awards. Active on the literary magazine, she would have become its editor, but both fiction and editorial work came to a halt with her mother's death and two unhappy years at boarding school. She returned to fiction at the University of Michigan, where she wrote some amusing stories for creative writing classes. Gradually, however, she realized that while she could turn out a Dorothy Parker tale with some success, she had very little to say. Nobody told her - as nobody tells many young writers today - that having little to say was a factor of being nineteen.
Laura soon found that writing about history gave her a great deal to say, and she graduated from the University of Michigan as co-winner of the prize for the best senior honors thesis in history. She continued writing history at Yale, and taught Elizabethan History at UC Santa Barbara for a year before completing her doctoral dissertation.
At about the time Laura received her doctorate, two discoveries altered her projected life as a writer. The first was that despite the Mediterranean beauty of Santa Barbara, California, where she lived with her husband and two little girls, the landscape and lush summer green of Vermont remained the center of her imaginative existence. From the time she was five to the time she was twenty-four, Laura had lived two lives: a school-year life at various academic levels, and an alternate, rural life in the old Vermont farm that had been her family's summer place since 1951. The result was a pastoral consciousness that came to affect nearly everything that Laura wrote. As a cultural historian, she studied the literary power of Elizabethan pastoral in her book Praise and Paradox, and later followed the pastoral thread in her studies of the Golden Age of Children's Literature. As a novelist, she juxtaposed Vermont and California in her young adult book Happily After All, and she used many themes of Elizabethan pastoral romance in her young adult fantasy The Island and the Ring. In her novel Return in Kind, and her collection of linked stories, Liar from Vermont, she has portrayed the world of Vermont summers.
The second discovery was that Laura was going deaf. At first, the loss was simply an inconvenience, and when Laura and her husband divorced, she got a teaching job in the East and an Andrew Mellon Faculty Fellowship in the Humanities at Harvard that enabled her to finish Praise and Paradox. By the time the book was published, however, Laura had become a deaf person in the hearing world. Facing the difficulties of the adjustment, she withdrew to the old summer place in Vermont, where for two years she cleaned houses (an experience she later gave to Eleanor in Return In Kind). In 1986, however, a job teaching writing at Marlboro College made her rejoin the world. At Marlboro, Laura taught many promising young writers, but she also taught students deeply frustrated by learning disabilities. Her experiences with disability, coming at a time when her escalating deafness necessitated first microphones, then transcribers, shaped her two later children's books, All the King's Horses and A Castle in the Window.