Resuming Biography Teasers With Lloyd Alexander
Posted April 27, 2012on:
Time to resume my posting routine!
The past two weeks, I’ve been happily rediscovering The Pydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. Expect a review of the series on Saturday.
I’ve been collecting biographical notes on Lloyd Alexander. Because I missed posting yesterday, I’ll run my four author teasers right through until Saturday. Next week, I’ll start surprising you again with a mix of mid-week news, questions, or quick reviews.
Regards my biographical notes, I’m changing up their structure. In school, my fourth-grade students just finished writing biographies. They divided their notes into four categories: childhood, education and jobs, accomplishments, and other interesting facts. That seems like a good format to follow. So, from now on, I’ll post author info according to those categories with a couple differences. Because these are authors, I’ll focus on their writing life instead of their general accomplishments. Also, my interesting facts will center on info about the author’s books and perhaps include links to long interviews.
Daily Teaser Archives
Without further ado, let me turn to Lloyd Alexander. Him being one of my favorite authors, it was especially fun to research his life. A stockbroker’s son, Alexander was born in January of 1924. He grew up in the western suburbs of Drexel Hill in Philadelphia, which I had forgotten. I read a biography of him years ago but because his Prydain Chronicles are entrenched in Welsh mythology, I tricked myself into remembering him as being British.
Although his parents read mostly newspapers, the family had lots of books. According to a quote in the Washington Post article “Lloyd Alexander: Fantasy and Adventure Writer,” his parents bought books at the Salvation Army to fill up empty shelves. As for what books Alexander most enjoyed, like me, he felt that he’d need a book to list them all. It should come as no surprise to those familiar with his books that he loved Arthurian legends and world myths. To my delight, he also loved an unabridged dictionary.
EDUCATION & JOBS
Finding pleasure in reading classics, Alexander vowed in high school to be a writer. Although he had no idea how to proceed, he did his best to educate himself. First though he had to appease his horrified parents, who urged him to pursue a more practical job. Alexander accepted a bank messenger job, despite having to use his fingers to add. When he could finally afford it, he attended a local college. He stayed only for one term. Dissatisfied with not having learned enough to be a writer, Alexander joined the army believing that the adventure might better serve his writing education.
The United States had already entered World War II. Alexander was shipped to Texas where he served as an artilleryman, a cymbal player in the band, an organist in the post chapel, and a first-aid man. Eventually, he was assigned to a military intelligence center in Maryland. There he trained as a member of a combat team to be parachuted into France to work with the Resistance, but instead the team ended up sailing to Wales to finish their training. Years later, Alexander drew on the beauty of Wales to create the enchanted kingdom of Pyrdain.
After World War II, Alexander was discharged to attend the University of Paris. There, he married and for a while felt content living abroad. Yet he grew to feel that if he were to write anything worthwhile, he’d have to be closer to his own roots. With his wife, Alexander returned to Philadelphia where he earned a living working for a small magazine. On the side, he wrote novel after novel. Alexander experienced seven years of constant rejection before his first novel was at last published. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about his life as a writer.
Alexander didn’t start out a children’s writer. Instead, he wrote for adults about subjects he knew well, including his wife (“Janine Is French”) and cats (“My Five Tigers”).
After ten years of writing for adults, Alexander turned to writing for young people. He called it, “the most creative and liberating experience of my life. I was able to express my own deepest feelings far more than I ever could when writing for adults.”
Alexander relied on extensive outlines. Although those outlines regularly changed, they served as a blueprint and gave him some sense of how small or big his project would be.
Despite this being a childhood love, Alexander also didn’t start out being a fantasy writer. While doing historical research for Time Cat, he stumbled across Welsh mythology and enjoyed remembering all the hero tales, games, and imaginings of my childhood. The material inspired him to write his Newbery award-winning fantasy series The Prydain Chronicles.
Regarding fantasy, Alexander felt it served as great nourishment for imagination. He told Encountering Enchantment that he believed that imagination to be at the heart of everything we do. It leads people to ask “What if?” and helps develop intelligence. Alexander encouraged everyone to read fairy tales, and then read more, and to keep reading them. He believed that “If we nourish imagination, we nourish everything else.
MISCELLANY & INTERVIEWS
Time for other interesting facts! Did you know that Lloyd Alexander was one of the creators of the children’s literary magazine? He wrote over forty books, including his most famous work which I’ll review on Saturday, a set of five high fantasy novels called The Prydain Chronicles. Its conclusion The High King received the 1969 Newbery Medal.
Alexander played Mozart on his violin, drew cartoons, and fed squirrels in his back yard. In the Washington Post article “Lloyd Alexander: Fantasy and Adventure Writer, he admitted to a weakness for doughnuts and wafers before bedtime. His daughter, Madeline Khalil, died in 1990. He died two May 17, 2007, two weeks after the death of his wife of sixty-one years.
To learn more about Alexander’s life, read: Lloyd Alexander Interview Transcript.
To learn more about the creation of The Prydain Chronicles, read: Welsh Mythological Underpinnings of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Cycle.
Unless otherwise noted, the main source for the above information comes from: Kids Read: Lloyd Alexander.
- Book Review (Past Due): Time Cat (theliteraryphoenix.wordpress.com)