Category Archives: Famous Authors

Which Famous Author Was Born on the Fourth of July?

hNathaniel Hathorne, the American writer best known for penning The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. (And no, I didn’t misspell his name.)


Hathorne’s great-great-grandfather was the only judge during the time of the Salem witch trials, and Nathaniel’s checkered family past haunted him so greatly that he added at “w” to his last name to separate himself from any association with his grandfather.

When in his thirties, Hawthorne helped found an agricultural commune near Boston. Thinking that farm life would provide him with peace, quiet and plenty of time to write, he soon discovered farming is hard work. Nathaniel shoveled manure, milked cows and baled hay. He left the farm after only a few months, hands blistered and explaining that readers couldn’t expect pretty stories from a man who feeds pigs.

The-Old-Manse-Concord-MAHe was no stranger to other legendary authors of his time. Hawthorne attended college with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and he lived in houses once owned by two other famous authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The Old Manse” and also the childhood home of Louisa May Alcott. When Nathaniel and his family moved into “Old Manse” another friend, author Henry David Thoreau, planted a vegetable garden for them.

14_franklin_pierce-1The 14th President of the United States, Franklin Pierce, was also a longtime friend. The two met in college and remained friends for the rest of Hawthorne’s life. In fact, it was Pierce who found the author dead in 1864.

Nathaniel was in the final stage of what might have been stomach cancer when the former President suggested the two of them take a trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Pierce thought the mountain air might help Nathaniel feel better. On their first night in New Hampshire, Hawthorne ate a light supper of tea and toast and went to bed early. Pierce checked on his friend during the night and discovered that he had died in his sleep.

NHawthorneGraveLongfellow and Emerson were among those who served as pallbearers at Nathaniel Hawthorne’s burial in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (Concord, Massachusetts). His wife, Sophia, and their three adult children survived the author: Julian Hawthorne, like his father, worked as a writer. Nathaniel’s daughters, Una and Rose, both became Catholic nuns. Rose Hawthorne was a leader in her order and took the name Mother Mary Alphonsa. She dedicated her service to helping patients with incurable cancers. She died in 1926 and was buried on the grounds of her order’s Motherhouse. In 2003 Rose was nominated for sainthood. Julian died in San Francisco in 1934.

After Nathaniel’s death, Sophia and MMD2625-LUna moved to London and were buried there after they died. 142 years passed before the Hawthorne family made news again, in 2006, when the bodies of Sophia and Una were moved from their graves in England and reburied next to the famous author.

us-flags-vectorsSo . . . .
if conversation lags during your Independence Day celebrations,

you can share these facts about
Nathaniel Hawthorne,
American author,
and tell your friends:
“He was born on the Fourth of July!”



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Seven American Children’s Book Authors Who Lived to Be 100


If you write for kids, you might someday join this list of
children’s authors who lived to be 100.



Nan Hayden Agle (1905–2006) died just two months short of her 101st birthday. She published her first children’s book at age 46 (co-authored with her friend, Ellen Wilson). Three Boys and a Lighthouse, became the first in 614YDqAYETL._SL500_SX258_BO1,204,203,200_her series of adventure books about fictional triplets, Abercrombie, Benjamin and Christopher.

Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, winner of the 1933 Newbery medal, was a family friend while Nan Hayden grew up on her family’s farm, “Nancy’s Fancy on Nunnery Lane”. Lewis encouraged Nan to observe the farm animals and write down what they did. That inspiration led Nan to a lifetime interest in writing. She authored more than 20 books, averaging one a year.

DalD9wSWAAA_cWRBeverly Cleary (1916–) Age 102. Who doesn’t recognize her name and celebrate that she’s still with us in 2018? Cleary, a x500children’s librarian turned author, penned her first book, Henry Huggins, in 1950 at age 34. She went on to write many well-known children’s books including her Ramona series, Runaway Ralph, The Mouse and the Motorcycle and others. During her long and prolific career, Cleary wrote more than 35 books, many award-winning, for children and young adults. Praised for her lively, humorous portrayals of problems and events of real-life kids, Beverly Cleary treats children’s concerns with both seriousness and gentle humor.

71fgSFQklsL._SY606_Neta Lohnes Frazier (1890–1990), died at 100, published her first book at age 57 and wrote a total of 14 books between 1947 and 1973. 51rOUm8lPCL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Most of her books were historical fiction set in the Pacific Northwest. Four received Junior Literary Guild Awards.

Her most well-known book, Stout-Hearted Seven, is based on the true story of children orphaned when they lost their adoptive parents, missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, in the Whitman Massacre near what is now Walla Walla, WA.

fritzJean Fritz (1915–2017) Died at 101. Known for her historical nonfiction, Jean Fritz was born in China to American missionary parents. She said in interviews that she felt like “a girl without a country”, so writing about American history paul-revere-233x300was not only a solace, but also an attempt at discovering her roots. Fritz first published at age 39 and wrote more than 45 books always digging deep for facts and approaching her writing like a journalist. She was a Newbery Honor winner, a recipient of the American Book Award, and, in 2003, received a National Humanities Medal from then President George W. Bush.  Readers describe her books as fun, factual and full of adventure. A few of her most well-known titles: And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? ;Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?; and Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May? 

Photo_of_Edith_Ballinger_PriceEdith Ballinger Price (1897–1997) Died at 100. You might not recognize her name or the books she wrote in the first half of il_570xN.1178843018_ae6ethe 20th century, but you do know the famous American organization which she helped start—the Girl Scouts’ program for younger girls, the “Brownies”. Price wrote their first handbook and many stories for Girl Scouts magazines. She was national chairwoman of the Brownies from 1925–1932 and was known as the “Great Brown Owl”.

DrEllenTarryEllen Tarry (1906–2008) Died at age 101, three days before her 102nd birthday. Tarry was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama during the days of segregation and the Great 51zva9XqJ7L._SX370_BO1,204,203,200_Depression. Her writing career began in the 1920s as a reporter for The Birmingham Truth, an African-American newspaper. After receiving a teaching degree, she taught in the Birmingham schools for African-American children. A friendship with poet Claude McKay led Tarry to a children’s literature fellowship with education reformer, Lucy Sprague Mitchell. By the late 1940s, Ellen Tarry had written three children’s books: Janie BelleHezekiah Horton, and My Dog Rinty. She became the first African-American children’s book author.

5a78adbe34f75.imagePhyllis A. Whitney (1903–2008) Died at 104. If you love mysteries, you’ve likely read a Phyllis Whitney book. This prolific author wrote more than 70 novels, 39 for adults, 14 for young adults, 20 children’s mysteries and several books on writing. Her career spanned more than half a 51wd+aJmgTL._SX301_BO1,204,203,200_century. Whitney published her first book, a young adult novel, A Place for Ann, in 1941 when she was 38 years old She completed her last novel at age 94.

Whitney wrote in her Guide to Fiction Writing “Never mind the rejections, the discouragement, the voices of ridicule (there can be those too). Work and wait and learn, and that train will come by. If you give up, you’ll never have a chance to climb aboard.”

Listen to her advice. Don’t give up.
Who knows, you might live to be 100
(And, along the way, become a published author). 


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A Tour of 12 Famous Authors’ Homes

I’m back after an unexpected blogging hiatus. The holidays and a flurry of writing projects made me put the blog aside for a while. For one of those projects, I’ve been researching where famous authors lived and wrote. Here’s some of what I’ve found.

I love this quaint little house in Austin, Texas, don’t you? This is the place William Sidney Porter (O.Henry) called home. Can you imagine him penning “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief” here? Find out more . . .


If you traveled from there up to Mansfield, Missouri, you could visit Rocky Ridge Farm where Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the “Little House” books. If Laura’s daughter, Rose, hadn’t encouraged Laura to write those beloved stories, we might never have known about her.LauraIngalls

twainHeading over to the East Coast, in Hartford, Connecticut there’s Mark Twain’s estate. Personally, I find the exterior foreboding, but the inside is pure Victorian grandeur. Take a look . . .Mark_Rooms_Conservatory

In Massachusetts, you can tour the homes of Emily Dickinson and Louisa May Alcott.

emily-dickinson-homestead-amherst-massachusettsEmily’s home is in Amherst. She’s often described as being reclusive. Can you imagine her sitting all alone in that turret writing her melancholy poems?

Alcott’s home, in Concord, is where she wrote “Little Women.” The exterior of the house might look familiar. A replica of Orchard House was the setting for all the “Little Women” films. The 1949 film is my favorite. If you’ve never seen the movie, put it on your list. You won’t be disappointed.

Let’s make one last stop in the states before we head across the pond to Europe. Did you know that Edgar Allan Poe had a cottage in the Bronx, New York? This modest little house is where he wrote his poems “Annabel Lee”and “The Bells” and also the short story “The Cask of Amontillado”.

Now, on to Scotland.

You can’t think of George Orwell apart from his novel “1984”. Following the death of his wife, Orwell sought solitude. He found it in a farmhouse on the remote Scottish island, Jura. He arrived with only a cot, chairs, a table and a typewriter. This is where he finished “1984”.


A tour of England wouldn’t be complete without visiting these authors’ homes:

Agatha Christie’s home, Greenway, in Dartmouth, isn’t the sort of home I’d imagined for her. What do you think? The house is set on the banks of the River Dart. Her boathouse inspired the scene of the crime in “Dead Man’s Folly”.

Agatha Christiec3e80a879af7a6b354bd167a3f2554be

I love Dylan Thomas’ boathouse in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire. I want to write there!

Dylan Thomas

Frances Hodgson Burnett was the J.K. Rowling of her time. She lived in Kent in this huge house, Great Maytham Hall. Burnett described it “a charming place with a nicely finished park and a beautiful old walled kitchen garden. The house is excellent, paneled square hall, library, billiard room, morning room, smoking room, drawing and dining rooms, seventeen or eighteen bedrooms, stables, two entrance lodges to the park, and a square tower on the roof from which one can see the English Channel.” The gardens there inspired her classic book, “The Secret Garden”. Read more . . .


Thomas Hardy wrote “Under the Greenwood Tree” and “Far From the Madding Crowd” in this lovely thatched-roofed cottage in Dorset. It was also his childhood home. Take the tour!

Thomas Hardy

I wonder how many Easter baskets have held copies of Beatrix Potter’s books. Her Hill Top home , Near Sawrey, Ambleside, has a similar ambiance to Thomas Hardy’s, don’t you agree?

Do you wonder what goes on behind the scenes to maintain houses like hers? Click here.


If you haven’t already, click on the links in this post to see more and learn about the lives of these amazing writers.


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