Sunday, September 22, 2013


     Looking for writing inspiration? Check out our weekly profiles of creative late bloomers who first found success in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s. This week's shot of inspiration comes from a school librarian who this year at 58 won her second Newbery, the most prestigious award in children's literature. She was 52 when she won her first.

CREATIVE LATE BLOOMER: School librarian and two-time Newbery winner Laura Amy Schlitz

AGE: 58


Laura Amy Schlitz in 2008 when she won her first Newbery at age 52 for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Photo by Rob Carr of the Associated Press
HER STORY: Working as a librarian at Park School in Baltimore, Laura Amy Schlitz wrote a series of monologues for the school's 5th grade about life in a medieval English village as told by the local children. In 2008 she published nearly two dozen of these one-person plays in a book called Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! The book won the prestigious Newbery for most distinguished contribution to children's literature. Schlitz was 52. Earlier this year she won another Newbery: The American Library Association chose Spendor and Glooms as one of three Newbery Honor Books. Schlitz calls the gothic thriller her "magnum opus." It took her more than six year to write it.

ON HEARING THE NEWS OF HER SECOND NEWBERY: "Some part of me wanted dreadfully for this book to win something because I worked so hard on it," Schlitz told the Baltimore Sun. "I loved it so much and hated it so much. I hoped, and tried not to hope. Yesterday, I cleaned my whole house. I was up at midnight on my hands and knees scrubbing the top of my trash can. But I thought, 'If I'm going to be disappointed, it's nicer to be disappointed in a clean place.'"

NO ONE EVER SAID IT WAS EASY: "I tried for years to get an agent, because I was told you needed an agent," Schlitz told the Wall Street Journal. "The agent-hunting process was grim indeed. I didn't stop writing, but I did give up on the idea of being published."

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP: In 2001 Schlitz sent unsolicited copies of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! to 11 publishers. The book was turned down by 10. At the 11th publisher -- Candlewick Press -- an editor's assistant discovered the manuscript in the slush pile and showed it to her boss who instantly fell in love with it. It took seven years to publish, however, as problems arose with illustrating the book. Meanwhile, Schlitz kept writing. In 2006 she published a biography for middle-grade children, The Hero Schliemann, a biography of the explorer who discovered ancient Troy. Shortly after, she published a picture book, a little-known story by the Brothers Grimm about a soldier who makes a bet with the Devil. Schlitz collaborated on The Bearskinner with illustrator Max Grafe.

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