Presented by Della Mae Wood, to the Calgary Women’s Literary Club, Oct. 11, 2016
Long before she became a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling novelist, Anna Quindlen was a voracious reader. She became a writer because of her love for reading. In books, she learned who she was and who she wanted to be and what she could aspire to.
She was born and raised in a large Catholic family, the oldest of five. She attended Catholic schools, including two years at Mount de Chantal Academy, a boarding school from which she was permanently expelled for sneaking out after hours with a friend. The nuns blamed Quindlen because of her feisty attitude; her friend, on the other hand, went on to become May Queen. Quindlen moved on to a coeducational high school where her “mouthy combative nature” worked better for her than it had in convent school. She went on to attend and graduate from Barnard College. In that single-sex environment, she found a place that valued, as the convent school had not, opinion, opposition, argument and innovation. She credits her undergraduate experience for the making of her as a human being.
She began her career as a writer when she was hired by The New York Times in 1977, first as a copy girl, then as a general assignment reporter. Six years later she became the newspaper’s deputy Metropolitan editor, then a columnist. Her New York Times column “Public and Private” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Her work has appeared in some of America’s most influential magazines, including “The Last Word” column for Newsweek magazine. Her columns have been published in book collections: Living Out Loud, Thinking Out Loud and Loud and Clear. She has never been afraid to speak her mind.
In 1995 she left journalism to become a full-time novelist. To date she has written eight novels of literary distinction: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, Every Last One, Still Life With Bread Crumbs and Miller’s Valley.
Quindlen has also written a memoir: Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake. Other non-fiction books include: Being Perfect, A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Good Dog Stay and How Reading Changed My Life. She has written as well two books for children: The Tree That Came to Stay and Happily Ever After.
The unusual breadth of her literary achievements is indicated by a remarkable fact: she became the first person ever to have books appear on the fiction, non-fiction and self-help best-seller lists of the New York Times. In her own words: “I wrote fiction in college, and then for many years I wrote fact, as best I could gather, discern and describe it, as a newspaper reporter, then I wrote fiction again. Reading taught me to do it all.”
Anna Quindlen is married to Gerald Krovatin and is the mother of three children. She lives in New York City.