A Look at the Life of Karen Hesse
As children, we all had magnificent dreams and aspirations. Whether they were to walk on the moon or to discover a new plant species, dreams were the things that kept us going; kept us striving towards obtaining what we wanted. For Karen Hesse, many dreams came and went throughout her life, but the idea of becoming a published author was always instilled in her mind.
Karen Hesse was born August 29, 1952 and was raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Not much is mentioned about her childhood or her family, but one source states that Hesse basically enjoyed participating in normal childhood activities such as catching lightning bugs, taking part in talent shows, and swimming (Wilson 1). Meanwhile, Karen always had a passion for writing. She’d sit in her small closet and write poetry for hours. In regard to her family, Hesse stated they were always supportive of her passion and encouraged creativity (Wilson 2). This is one source of her inspiration. Mainly, however, it was Karen’s fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Datnoff, who truly encouraged her to follow her dream and really believed in her (Scholastic 1).
Hesse attended college at Towson State and later transferred to the University of Maryland, from which she graduated in 1975. She majored in theater, anthropology, psychology, and even English (Wilson 1,2). She earned a BA in English with double minors in psychology and anthropology. During college, Hesse found herself to be quite “good with words” and began writing a lot more (Scholastic 1). After graduating, Hesse took a trip across country with her future husband on which she visited many national parks and became very in touch with nature and learned how much she loved life and loved meeting people (Wilson 1).
Before becoming an author, Karen had many, many jobs. Many of these jobs helped to enrich her chances of making it as a successful author. The rest, however, helped Karen to find herself and earn wages while being an aspiring writer. A few jobs which helped to enrich her future career were as a proofreader, typesetter, librarian, and a book reviewer. Her other jobs were as an advertising secretary, actress, waitress, nanny, personnel officer, agricultural laborer, mental-health care provider, substitute teacher, and a member of the school board. As a child, Hesse hoped to become an archeologist, an ambassador, or an actress (Scholastic 1,2 ; Conant 1).
Throughout her writing career, Karen Hesse has won many awards. She won the Newberry Medal and Scott O’Dell Award for Out of the Dust. She was honored by the ALA for the best book for young adults and has won the Christopher Award as well (Scholastic 1,2). Many organizations and periodicals have honored her for her excellent writing for young adults. Hesse says she basically writes based on memories, experiences, people or things she’s met or encountered, and relationships (Conant 1).
Hesse currently resides in Brattleboro, Vermont with her husband and her two daughters. She studies, reads, and observes as much as she can on a daily basis. Karen enjoys public radio, public television, and learning and absorbing as much new information as possible (Wilson 1,2).
These dreams we have all surely had can sometimes appear to be so very unobtainable, however they are always worth following and can be very rewarding. Karen Hesse found this to be true and to be the story of her life. Obviously, the most satisfaction will come from doing what one truly wants. Karen Hesse is one to be admired for her persistence in obtaining her goal of becoming a writer, which she stubbornly held onto for 30 years. With a little hard work and determination, succeeding in what one wants to do is a much less trying task, as proven by Hesse.
Conant Audrey. “Author Questionnaire.” January 30, 2001.
“Meet Karen Hesse.” Scholastic. January 20, 2001.
Wilson, HW. “Hesse,Karen.”January26,2001
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