“I always dreamed of being a writer,” confesses Lois Lowry, an award-winning author of literature for young people. That dream, however, was placed on hold as she, like so many others at the time, married young and had children. “I had four children before I was 25, and I had not finished college. That threw a monkey wrench into the writing career that I had envisioned.”
For years, Lowry concentrated on raising her family. But when her youngest went to kindergarten, she knew it was time for her to return to the classroom. “I went back to college, finished, and went to graduate school. When I was in my 30s, I set aside my master’s thesis, dropped out of graduate school, and began writing professionally.”
While in graduate school, Lowry launched her career by writing high school textbooks about Black American literature and American Revolution literature. After leaving school, she began a freelance career writing and submitting journalistic, nonfiction pieces to magazines. Eventually Lowry built relationships with several of the magazines’ editors, and they assigned her pieces to write.
However, writing fiction was the true desire of her heart; so Lowry wrote stories and sent them off to magazines while keeping up with her paid writing assignments. Finally, in 1976, her first short story was published in a magazine. Though geared toward adult readers, the story was about a child. A children’s book editor at Houghton Mifflin happened to read the story and immediately contacted Lowry about writing a book for young people. “My first book was published in 1977 almost simultaneously with my 40th birthday. That’s when I began writing for kids and very quickly realized that it was a good fit for me.”
“Reading aloud or listing to audiobooks on car trips is a very easy way to rope kids into stories—even if they said they weren’t interested. Parents have a captive audience, and the kids are soon swept into the story.”
Since that time, Lowry has written more than 40 books, including the highly acclaimed Giver books. In 1993, The Giver was unlike anything that was being or had been published. It was no wonder that it received accolades and awards—including the Newbery Medal—and a devoted audience. “I wanted to give readers a sense that young people can accomplish things to make the world a better place. I think young readers deserve to understand they can make a difference in the world. Kids today are facing such an uncertain and difficult world that it is not surprising that they are interested in thinking about what the future may be like and how they can affect it.”
Lowry recently published the fourth book in the Giver series making it a quartet that includes The Giver (Houghton Mifflin, 1993), Gathering Blue (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), Messenger (Houghton Mifflin, 2004), and Son (Houghton Mifflin, 2012). “I had gotten a lot of mail over the years asking what had happened to the baby in the end of the first book. Eventually I became more interested in that boy’s life, too. So I decided to write about him as a teenager. But as I wrote, I realized that I was even more curious about who his birth mother was. These young mothers were described in the first book but never mentioned again. I set aside what I had already written and began writing about the 14-year-old mother who had her child taken from her.”
The Giver Quartet is now complete; there will be no additional books added to that series. However, Lowry has no intentions to stop writing. In January 2014, the next installment of Gooney Bird Greene’s adventures continues with Gooney Bird and All Her Charms (Houghton Mifflin). And she is currently working on a novel that focuses on the relationship between a child and an elderly person. “It seems to be a theme that hovers in my consciousness, so I’ll return there.”