Friday, October 19, 2018

Champions of Creativity

Ursula K. Le Guin

This Sunday would have been the eighty-ninth birthday of the iconic author, Ursula Le Guin. I was lucky enough to hear her speak at the Wordstock Book Festival in November of 2015, in Portland, Oregon.

Since Ms. Le Guin and her husband, Charles, moved to Portland, Oregon in 1958, her legion of Pacific Northwest fans consider her their own. However, the truth is, Ursula had a colorful tapestry of places where she resided and experienced life. She was born on October 21, 1929 in Berkeley, California. Her father was an anthropologist and her mother a writer. Consequently, she grew up in an intellectual environment that included family friends that included: scientists, writers, Native Americans, and college students. Ursula had stated that her dynamic childhood was something for which she was extremely grateful. She wrote her first fantasy story at the tender age of nine!

After graduating from Berkeley High School, she studied at Radcliffe, Columbia, and then won a Fulbright grant to continue her education in France. From 1951 to 1961 she wrote five novels - all of which were rejected by publishers! During that time she also wrote poetry and short stories, some of those stories were published. It wasn't until 1964 that she had the first story of her Earthsea fantasy series published: "The Word of Unbinding." She went on to write and publish numerous fantasy works, becoming an iconic fantasy children's book author.

When she was asked about what had influenced her writing, she responded: "Once I learned to read, I read everything. I read all the famous fantasies - Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, and Kipling....this stuff is so beautiful, and so strange, and I want to do something like that."

Indeed she did just that.

Ms. Le Guin's literary works often blended fantasy with science fiction, but she always bristled at being pigeon-holed into any one genre. She was a tough-minded feminist whose works often included themes of environmentalism and anarchism. She wrote numerous titles during her long life, not only for children, but for adults as well. Ursula won numerous awards during her illustrious career - too many to mention.

Ursula Le Guin died on January 22, 2018, in Portland, Oregon.

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